The Philosophy of Plato: The Idealist and the Teacher - Seeker's Thoughts

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The Philosophy of Plato: The Idealist and the Teacher

 Plato believed that critical evaluation of beliefs and political orders was key to living an ethical life, opposing any actions by sophists that eschewed justice to satisfy their interests alone. He took particular note of their denial of justice as any more than mere self-interest on their part.

He asserts that one should cultivate their rational or wisdom part of their soul with fine words and learning in order to overshadow and free emotional aspects from vice.


Plato is widely considered the founder of Western idealism. He believed that reality did not reside solely within physical objects but also encompassed ideas or forms which existed beyond this material realm. Plato developed his philosophical approach through dialogues and his Academy school he established in 387 BCE. His influence can be found among numerous great philosophers such as Aristotle.

Plato emphasized the value of education like Socrates did, writing that only those who have been properly instructed will grasp the true nature of reality and contribute to improving human society through it. His political works such as The Republic and Laws seek ways to achieve this aim.

Plato believed the primary role of rulers should be to ensure their subjects receive adequate education, which will prevent war and partisan strife. He believed the ideal ruler is one who could discern truth - similar to how shadows on walls reflect forms cast upon them but don't always match up exactly with what lies beyond.

Plato also emphasizes the role of philosophy and science in education. He believed that all other subjects should be taught within this framework, believing knowledge was key to attaining a better life; for this reason he advocated paideia education or "education for the whole person".

Plato advocated that children be removed from their homes and placed into state-operated schools, where they would receive training in music, mathematics, writing and athletics. He believed in lifetime learning - meaning people should continue their studies even as they grow old - as he believed it was the government's obligation to offer all citizens this opportunity; similarly to Rousseau who shared similar idealistic beliefs regarding quality of life as well as education's importance and progress.


Plato's Academy was an educational system that combined philosophical thought with practical application. Students engaged in the Socratic method of questioning and analyzing to question concepts and presumptions raised by his lectures; often this led to confrontation with "Platonic forms", untouchable idealized models (truth, beauty or what a chair should look like) which people used as measuring rods when judging objects and experiences.

Plato's dialogues center around this theory; Socrates often interrogated those claiming they know the meaning of something when they claimed they knew; he would then criticize those for emphasizing particular examples instead of looking at how all things share similar qualities. Plato also created "Platonism", or the theory of Forms; an alternative view to ancient materialist philosophy which postulated an immaterial world filled with ideas (forms) reflecting back into reality as material objects.

Under Plato's theory, physical objects like tables, chairs and cars are copies of their perfect counterparts in the immaterial world; similarly, ideal forms such as justice, truth and beauty exist as ideal copies in this realm; these concepts cannot be directly observed thus it remains difficult for us to grasp them even now; hence why his works have often been seen as dealing with metaphysics rather than natural sciences.

Plato asserted that in order for any society to flourish, transcendence was key - providing an avenue of communication with divinity while encouraging reflection on what it truly means to be human. He further suggested that democracy was not always the most appropriate form of government as people's lives can be affected by popular beliefs which lead them away from truthful ones and into false ones. He advocated instead a political community led by philosophers capable of assessing these beliefs in the population and leading them away from destructive ones.

Plato is often associated with idealistic thought; however, his view that most people were motivated by appetites and egoistic passions rather than rational consideration was deeply pessimistic. Therefore, many social and moral problems seemed intractable for him and hoped to achieve justice and peace by appealing to the consciences of some wise individuals.


Plato's writings have often been divided into three periods-early, middle, and late. Although this appears arbitrary at best, this distinction cannot accurately represent how they were composed: instead it shows more the gradual development of his philosophy over time. His early works serve as preparatory steps toward more complex philosophical works to follow later.

Plato applies his earlier works' pedagogical and philosophical questions to formulate the core tenets of his system, applying these tenets in real world scenarios such as how humans should live their lives or interact with one another.

Plato's ability to apply his philosophy directly to everyday life was what distinguished him from many other philosophers, both ancient and modern, making him one of the most distinguished literary authors from Western literary tradition and one of the most profound thinkers in intellectual history.

Plato is distinguished from most philosophers of his era by not writing didactically - his dialogues commonly considered his philosophy do not contain set propositions that can be unchallenged without question; instead, they force interlocutors to both accept and challenge everything he says (Frede 1992).

However, we should not read these dialogues as though they were entirely devoid of political or philosophical context. Plato's dialogues offer vivid portraits of society at large and often comment on his characters' lives and the philosophical theories they espouse.

Socrates's dialogues in The Phaedo and Symposium provide important lessons about his disbelief of pagan city gods, and on a lack of respect among fellow citizens. His discussion of love offers us another warning against romantic desires overriding truth-seeking; finally, Plato's Republic makes clear his awareness of corruption within modern political life.


While Plato does not identify himself as a political philosopher, he explores various cosmological and philosophical topics with political implications. For instance, Socrates warns in The Phaedrus that philosophical writing should serve primarily to stimulate discussions among readers while any deepest issues must be brought before wise leaders directly for consideration (Phaedrus 274e-276d).

Plato's Republic outlines Socrates' assertion that in order for humans to enjoy happiness or virtue, their soul must be united as one single entity (580a-c). For this to occur, reason must reign supreme and rule over emotion or spirit and rhythm in music and rhythm and move the volitional part toward its divine goal while freeing greed lust and other vices that might degrade its spirit; only then can people experience true freedom.

Plato believed that humans' rational minds were better equipped than emotions and desires to govern society, hence his preference for an aristocracy ruled by a philosopher king as the ideal form of government; all other forms of governance (timocracy, oligarchy and democracy) led inevitably to individual decline and eventually led to tyranny.

Plato believed the goal of philosophy was to help individuals and societies develop into more virtue-filled and joyful entities. He believed it possible to build a world in which everyone can find happiness and fulfilment; for this goal he developed beliefs and philosophies which would guide human action.

Contrasting his contemporaries like Aristotle and Aquinas who wrote mostly abstract works, Plato instead used concrete examples in his dialogues and used coherent arguments that made sense to his audience. Even though he believed in an orderly universe with mathematical structures at its foundations, Plato grappled with ethical concerns related to evil that were more complex.

Plato's dialogues present puzzles and problems designed to provoke readers into engaging their own thinking processes. He never offers fully developed doctrines that can be taken as authoritative, rather showing his readers that philosophy should always be explored further and refined further.

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