The Utopia of Plato
Plato, who is known as the father of the idealism today, was born in 427 BC in Athens but the actual date of birth is unknown. Plato’s real name was Aristoles but he earned his nicked name ‘Plato’, meaning broad, from one of his instructor because he had a well body-figure. His family had a strong connection to the politic. Oppose to the uncertainty of his birth, it is certain that he was son of a wealthy family with his father, Ariston, related to Codrus who was the king of Athens in early days and his mother whose name is Peritione related to Solon who was the famous lawmaker of Athens and had a strong family connection to her. She was sister of Charmides and niece of Critias who played a big role in the Thrity Tyrants. Briefly it is about an oligarchic regime which led to the collapse of Athens at the end of the Peloponnesian War. Plato had two brothers, Adeimantus and Glaucon, who later became students of the Academy which is the institution he made to teach higher education.
Plato was the greatest disciple of Socrates. Nowadays, the direct work of Socrates does not exist because he was a sort of street philosopher so that he did not keep up with his work. We should thank Plato for it because instead of Socrates himself writing about his work, Plato kept up with his teacher’s thoughts and he published it in a 35 books of series in a form of Dialogue. For that reason, still now, it is hard to say which is Socrates’ idea and Plato’s. It does not mean that Plato simply copied the work of his teacher but rather it means that back in the times, they shared the same or similar sources to their own philosophy. So that it is no surprise that Socrates’ death had a big influence on Plato. After Socrates’ death, Plato was shocked and eventually it led him to step out of the politic and focused more on his work in philosophy.
Plato tried to complete the belief of him which is the metaphysical world does exist. This world includes ‘The Ideas’. For Plato, those ideas are the reason why the reality exists. They are not intangible but rather they take a big role in one human’s mentality and so they appear as a material object around us. The contradictory to ‘The Idea’ is ‘The Chaos’. To able to make the world visible with those two elements, there are demiurge and souls working together for it and making the world followed by Heraclitus’ world which describes that every elements of world comes and goes. There is also important finding of Plato which the basic idea of the finding was from the Socrates. It shows that the philosophy is from the practical order. Once a philosophy is found of the practical order then it should be used to solve the practical problems. This philosophy will make people morally and mentally better. This is a great influence on Plato’s philosophy and still has a great influence as well on us.
The utopia of Plato can be found in one of his book called The Republic. In the book he described the ideal republic of his and he claimed that the state should be based on human nature. However the most priority of the ideal republic does not focus on the individual freedom but rather the authority and the concrete law. In the utopia, not every person has enough abilities to live alone so that each needs to cooperate with others to fulfill their missing abilities in order to preserve the state as a utopia as he described. Plato expressed that his republic is aristocratic. As for the human being, he believed that the four virtues of individual. The four virtues are wisdom, courage, temperance and justice when those first three virtues are harmonized perfectly then people can achieve the ultimate virtue, the justice. Plato believed in souls and each person gets one of those virtues when he/she is born. It means that a person might show excellence in wisdom or some will have a strong ability in courage or in temperance. So that, in Plato’s republic, one would rule who has strong ‘wisdom’ as a guardian, one would protect the state of the ‘courage’ as a warrior and one would produce things of the ‘temperance’ virtue as a worker.
Firstly, the role of guardian is to inhibit the group of warriors to not to put their impulse decision into an action and encourage them to persevere. That perseverance will eventually lead the warriors to raise one of the fundamental virtues, the temperance. Secondly, the duty of the warrior group is to defend the state against any possible enemies. They are trained in military services when they are young. Finally, the workers farms in the republic to feed people. Since each person has difference specialty in the field of the virtues, each would work with enthusiasm in their specialty. When those virtues harmonize in the republic, it is full of justice around at the end. Plato insisted that only the person, a philosopher, who has strength in the wisdom, should rule as a leader of a republic. The reason for this statement of his is that in his Politeia, it says that ruling followed by the wisdom is the only way to make the republic full of true justice. Therefore the only person who can truly understand about the world with Politeia is someone who can rule well. In order to keep producing leaders of the republic, it needed to keep up with the educational system. The education is strictly forbidden to warrior group and, of course, the philosophers are the heads of the educational institutions. The working class is not even considered to educate. The education system of the republic includes two big parts; music and gymnastics. In the music class, the students not only learn about the music but also the history, poetry and many other elements within the music. In the gymnastic class helps student to develop not only the physically healthy body but also mentally healthy person.Also he allowed having a friendship between different sexes in his republic. Despite the fact, he was extremely strict about not only the ages to mate but also the level of procreation which should be controlled by the government. The legally allowed age of men is above 30 and below 45 and women above 20 and below 40 is only permitted to have children and if they violate the law to have children, the new born will be exiled from the republic.
I will concentrate one of many important theories of his, the theory of forms. It is originally expressed by Socrates and Plato put it in the Dialogue. The theory shows that the real world is hidden under the material world where people live in nowadays. The material world is illustrated as a duplication of the real world. The forms in the theory add up with the solutions to the problems of universal. Also according to Socrates that everything we see and feel exists for a reason. So he defines a world in two ways which are a definite world with constant changes in it. The other world is rather contradictory to the definite world. It is a world with unchanged and forms which were useable but can be a cause of the world to be a definite.
The theory of forms is related to the philosophy of Plato’s represented in the book. It is the parable of cave. Those two concepts share the same ideas but the parable of cave, I think, is more elaborated than the theory of forms. It was a metaphor he made to express the impotency of education. He says that people live the world without seeing the genuine truth of life. Instead of seeing the genuine truth, they live with seeing the delusion. This concept is much easier to explain with the picture. In the picture, the delusion is the shadow on the wall but usually people believe that the shadow is the world’s genuine truth and continues to have strong faith towards to the shadow. Eventually, this faith will lead them to only recognize the delusion as a truth so that they will not have any suspicious that their faith is nothing but a delusion which they made. Here, Plato stresses that the importance of philosophy which can lead them to acknowledge their faith is delusion. He says that people are capable of seeing the genuine truth that why the role of philosopher is very essential because a philosopher can get people out of the delusion and lead them to the truth of the world. After he talked about the parable of the cave, he emphasizes the true education which is the only way to direct people to the right direction to see the truth.
It was not easy to analyze the book and still there are many parts I have trouble understanding because since he wrote in the form of dialogue it was hard to separate who says this line. Hence there is a variety of interpretations because of the open structure which opens many different angles to understand. My interpretation of the book is that the human nature, he describes, can be implemented in the present. Mostly, I like the parable of the cave. After reading the book and writing this paper, I gave myself a question to think. Does the delusion exist today? I think that people might pursue the delusion in a word of dream. Personally I thought that people say that they pursue the dream including myself but if you ask them what they pursue, what the dream is exactly then many will mumble. For me, I pursue my dream but I cannot explain my dreams in details. I gave myself a question to ask; do I not just packet many ambiguous thought of mind beautifully in a word of dream? Do I not pursue the delusion? As he said, he is more important for me to see what is really under the delusion, my special virtue. This book was hard to understand but it gave me lots of questions to answer but so far I have no answers.