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Neverland1247
12-31-2005, 11:14 PM
Being a Christian, I naturally have some moral problems with Platoís idea of communal wives and children (to say the least), but I also think that his scheme is faulty on logical grounds.

The family unit is the building block of society. Think of the father as the president of the family unit, and the mother as the vice-president. This structured family system paves the way for the larger system of government. The headship of the father is reflected in every level of government Ė city, state, country. I donít believe Platoís City, lacking this basic pattern of leadership, would hold together. You canít build a brick wall if you smash the bricks.

I could say more, but first Iíll give people a chance to disagree. Please let me know if you think otherwise and why; Iíd be glad for the chance to flesh out my ideas and see how well they hold up.

Virgil
01-01-2006, 02:49 AM
I hope I don't disappoint you, but I too think that Plato's ideas are for the birds. Plato was a great writer, but frankly I have problems with many of his ideas. Aristotle was the better thinker, albeit a boring writer.

Neverland1247
01-01-2006, 11:08 PM
No disappointment here. Any response at all makes me happy. :D I find Platoís main ideas to be well thought through Ė after all, they do say the whole of western philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato Ė but some of his side points (like this one) less worthy. But I have yet to fault Aristotle with anything, although Iíve read fewer of his works. I donít think heís boring either; I just have to read slower.

Virgil
01-02-2006, 12:05 AM
I find Platoís main ideas to be well thought through Ė after all, they do say the whole of western philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato Ė but some of his side points (like this one) less worthy. But I have yet to fault Aristotle with anything, although Iíve read fewer of his works. I donít think heís boring either; I just have to read slower.

Oh, yes they are thought out. But if you step back and think through them, I find them problematic. You point out his ideas on family. How about his belief that artists should be banished from society? How about his political beliefs of philosophical dictator as the best ruler? How about his whole concept of the perfect idea (I forget his terminology; forgive me I was not a philosophy major) resting in heaven while reality is deficient of perfection, which implies all sorts of things?

Yes, it's conventional thinking that all of western philosophy is a footnote to Plato. I disagree. Perhaps Plato was the dominant thinker up through the early middle ages. But from about 1200 and beyond, once Aristotle was rediscovered, western thought for the most part rejects Plato and shifts to Aristotle. Aristotle is the root of what brings us into the modern world. His systematic thinking ultimately leads to empiricism.

As for the writing, Aristotle writes in a dry scientific style. But very systematically and logical. Plato writes with dialogues, charcters, imagery, spectacular metaphors, and emotion. He really is a fine writer.

mlmorgan
01-02-2006, 02:39 AM
First, I would like to state that I have never been a big fan of Plato. His use of the dialetic always seemed to be a construction of a one dimensional yes man to fall before the logic of the great Socrates. David Hume's attempts at this form always seemed more sucessful to me. I also disagree with most of the ideas presented within the Republic, including the whole man - boy relation being the highest form of love(which I am kind of suprised no one has brought up). Yes, I will admit Socrates (the character that usually reflects Plato's oppinions) didn't suggest this particular idea, but you will note Socrates didn't exactly condemn it.

With that said, I would like to throw out a few ideas in Plato's defence. He was a product of his times. Ancient Greece was composed of many city states that were always at war with each other. Thus the man(father) of the house was usually in battle, not at home. The two strongest city states were Athens and Sparta. Sparta was a completely militarilitstic society in which boys were separted from their families at a really young age. They were placed under the appreticeship of an older soldier and from what I understand they were to fufill ALL of his needs. Athens, on the otherhand, was a more democratic society except for all the slaves. But as mentioned before the fathers were seldom around, since they were either fighting or drinking with all there soldier friends and the young boys that would become Socrates pupils.

What I am trying to suggest with the above history is not that Plato was right. Just that the family constructs of his time was not that different from what he suggested. True love was not possible between a man and a woman since they were not equals(not my idea at all). Women were merely a way of propagating the race. So why not just have a commune? (Again not my idea, once again product of his times not mine).

The last Plato defense I will present is for his hatred of artist(Also from the Republic). The answer here is that Socrates drank hemlock for opposing a poet(Homer). In greek society, poets were considered to be almost priests. The inspriration for their poems was believed to come from the gods. When his mentor was put to death for opposing a poet, Plato's hatred for all the godly inspired(artist) was sealed.

Finallly, I would like to defend Aristotle's writing ability. Just like Plato, I do not buy into all of Aristotle's beliefs. But as for his written word, I felt compelled to mention a limited defense. Much of what has survived of Aristotle's works is believed to be his lecture notes for classes that he taught. Supposedly, he had written many works that were elegantly written but there print just hasn't existed to this day.

Virgil
01-02-2006, 02:17 PM
Thanks Morgan. Interesting. I still prefer Aristotle over Plato.

Sami
03-03-2006, 08:17 AM
Iíve read some similar views of Platoís ďRepublicĒ in the philosophy section of this site. I canít claim any kind of expertise - Plato is difficult! - but, in his defense, I think that some of the topics that have been mentioned could be taken as examples of Socratic irony. I think that this involves the idea that Socratesí statements could be read in two ways.

On the one hand, they could be read as literal guidelines for how to set up an ideal city. If they are understood in this way then, as these posts have pointed out, the city is very unappealing and, maybe more importantly, involves all sorts of contradictions. For example, as Virgil notes, Socrates proposes that poets are banned from the city. Yet, at the same time, Plato makes this suggestion within a work that includes some very beautiful poetic language. The whole text is a dialogue and its most memorable points are made through poetic techniques such as similes, allegories and so on. So, thereís a contradiction there between poetry being banned, and poetry being used to make philosophical points more vivid to the reader.

On the other hand, if Socratesí statements are seen as having an ironic meaning in addition to the literal meaning, they could be read in a different way, as provocative statements aiming to get the reader thinking through the issues being presented. The critical responses in this thread might be exactly the type of reaction that Plato is hoping to achieve. He could be asking us, the readers, to think through the issues involved and to justify the assumptions we make about them. I donít think that Socratic irony is quite the same thing as Plato lying to us because thereís an element of truth to whatís being said. To take the example raised in this thread, family ties are very strong and important relationships that certainly have the potential to interfere with politics or rulers being able to act in the common interest of the whole community. While we might not agree that totally abolishing them is a good idea, the proposal helps us to work out what role they play in our thoughts, and to check whether the assumptions weíre making can be rationally justified.

I think that Platoís writing is very effective in provoking these sorts of reactions from readers. Itís uncomfortable because heís having a go at the things that are most familiar and important to us, such as knowing who are parents are for instance. Although I also like Aristotle, he doesnít seem provoke the same kind of strong reactions Ė the Aristotle section of this forum is completely empty whereas this is the second time Iíve come across some comments on Plato in a relatively short space of time.

billyjack
03-26-2007, 08:22 PM
The family unit is the building block of society. Think of the father as the president of the family unit, and the mother as the vice-president. This structured family system paves the way for the larger system of government. The headship of the father is reflected in every level of government – city, state, country. I don’t believe Plato’s City, lacking this basic pattern of leadership, would hold together. You can’t build a brick wall if you smash the bricks.

.

how is plato smashing the bricks? good analogy, but please explain?




Oh, yes they are thought out. But if you step back and think through them, I find them problematic. You point out his ideas on family. How about his belief that artists should be banished from society? How about his political beliefs of philosophical dictator as the best ruler? How about his whole concept of the perfect idea (I forget his terminology; forgive me I was not a philosophy major) resting in heaven while reality is deficient of perfection, which implies all sorts of things?
.

haven't artist already banished themselves by becoming artist. its an uconventional life, not that there is anything wrong with that, but by accepting that life as an artist most of em are accepting banishement (metaphorically, not literally).

a philosophical dictator as the head of the polis isnt such a bad idea. philosophy and politics could use some synergism these days. if its the dictatorship you dislike, well, those were different times back then.

perfect idea: "form of the good". yes, crap, it is an in and of itself, not reliant upon anything but itself. nothing like this exist or ever will (except everthing seen as a whole, as one), so i agree the form of the good is no good at all. but nowadays, i can think of a lot of people who think perfection lies outside the realm of the physical universe. so in terms of that, plato wasnt so far off. in fact, maybe he was a forerunner for the idea of heaven.

beakofthoth
06-16-2008, 12:17 PM
Being a Christian, I naturally have some moral problems with Platoís idea of communal wives and children (to say the least), but I also think that his scheme is faulty on logical grounds.

The family unit is the building block of society. Think of the father as the president of the family unit, and the mother as the vice-president.

This was Aristotle's very criticism of Plato, in the Politics, where he says that communism of women and children will destroy natural affection. Plato himself went back on the idea in the Laws.

However, it's important to realize when discussing Plato that his communistic ideals apply to THE GUARDIANS ONLY, not to the State in general. This is shown by the fact that, although the Guardians are to have no property of their own, that the Republic itself has a mercantile/retailing class, and these are to be allowed to persue the happiness proper to them -- making money.

Now, the Guardian class consists of what, today, we would call the Military on the one hand, and the Police on the other; and it is important to realize that Military life is inherently communistic. I don't believe that Plato expected his retailers and farmers to give up their property or children; but that is exactly what is to be expected of the Guardians.

beakofthoth
06-16-2008, 12:27 PM
How about his belief that artists should be banished from society?

In this, you must realize that Plato was speaking of Homer, and of the Athenian tragedians, especially Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. The heroes of these dramas and epics were supposed, by Greek tradition, to be moral exemplars, and their stories had morals to them.

But, if you read the Iliad carefully, with an eye for the ethical action of men and gods, you will see that, in these stories, the heroes -- and the gods -- behave very badly. The childish quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles, for example, over the captured slave-girl Briseis, is not to be emulated. Achilles' mistreatment of the body of Hector is also not to be emulated.

Again, with regard to the actions of the Gods in that story, Aphrodite's rescue of Paris from certain death at the hands of Menelaus (Paris' death would have ended the Trojan war, with victory for the Achaians), along with Pandarus' breaking of the truce between the armies at the instigation of Athena, are examples of Gods Behaving Badly; and it is not to be hoped or prayed that the gods should behave in this way.

This is what Plato is attacking. In modern times -- possibly as a result of Plato's influence in the Republic, poets and artists do not put themselves forward as moral exemplars as the Greeks took Homer to be, and as the tragedians regarded themselves.

In short, like Aristotle's Poetics, Books II and III of Plato's Republic are aimed at the poetry of the Golden Age of Athens -- and, as far as his moral criticisms of Homer are concerned, he is on the money.

Chester
06-16-2008, 01:02 PM
How about his whole concept of the perfect idea (I forget his terminology; forgive me I was not a philosophy major) resting in heaven while reality is deficient of perfection, which implies all sorts of things?

With Plato’s "forms" (from the allegory of the cave) he suggests that concepts of which we can conceive must exist independently, for us to be able to meaningfully comprehend them at all. "Beauty" exists, for example, and we grasp different pieces of it, through those things we can sense. It was A.N. Whitehead who made the famous "footnote" quote and, in fact, essentially started with Plato when he produced his seminal work Process and Reality in 1929. It’s a fascinating concept. One takes it and believes there is an ultimate truth behind things, or one relies merely on empirical means of gathering knowledge from only what one can see. It set the stage for epistemological debates that continue to this day. It just might be the philosophical question, and why every philosopher has to, somewhere along the line, tackle it.

In a sense, it's the tree falling in the forest question.

jgweed
06-16-2008, 01:51 PM
One cannot read the political sections of the Republic without glancing at Sparta, which seemed at the time to have avoided all the internal turmoil found in other Greek city-states at the time; it was through the efforts of Sparta, too, that oriental aggrandizement was held in check. It is not that surprising that Plato borrowed some of the Spartan ways for his perfect state, even though he rejected what we call today "family values."

One should also distinguish Sokrates from Plato; in the Republic, a mature work, the Sokrates of the earlier "Sokratic" dialogues (e.g. Apology) becomes the mouthpiece of Plato and not the gadfly questioning commonly held beliefs. In the Statesman, Plato's later work, Sokrates is still there, but was called simply "the Athenian," marking (almost) the break by the student from his esteemed teacher.

It may be that Plato's rejection of "art" can be seen as conforming with his division of the line (Rep. 510-513)between "opinion" and "knowledge," the latter of which was obtained by reason without the use of the senses (true knowledge was knowledge of the Forms, not the individuals that participated in them). Insofar as "art" was sensual and concerned with particulars, then, Plato saw it as opposing true knowledge. If we recall the Myth of the Cave that follows in Book VII, does not art contribute to the production of the shadows on the wall?

I might add here that while we have from Plato his skilled and published dialogues, most of Aristotle's works are either rough drafts or "student's notes" of his lectures and discussions. The Metaphysics, for example, seems to be notes from several different "classes" and perhaps by different hands rather than a planned book. Perhaps if we had Plato's notes and Aristotle's published works, our understanding of both would be different than it is.

As I was writing this at the same time as Chester, I would only add that Whitehead's famous saying perhaps meant that it was Plato who framed most of the important questions in philosophy and first undertook the project of explaining the whole world in an architectonic fashion. Then too, Plato was central to portraying the "patron saint" of philosophy, Sokrates.

Chester
06-16-2008, 04:21 PM
As I was writing this at the same time as Chester, I would only add that Whitehead's famous saying perhaps meant that it was Plato who framed most of the important questions in philosophy
Yes, I think this is fair to say. Most definitely.

jgweed
06-17-2008, 08:42 AM
"The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato. I do not mean the systematic scheme of thought which scholars have doubtfully extracted from his writings. I allude to the wealth of general ideas scattered through them... "

Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality

I was also thinking, sometime after posting, that Plato's portrayal of Sokrates depicts the ideal philosopher: one who constantly questions (philosophy begins in wonder) and if the questions do not result in a definitive answer, the process itself teaches (provides the tools) how to "do" philosophy. So inasmuch as Sokrates is the ideal, all philosophy is actually a footnote to Sokrates.

Returning to the original subject, Plato certainly presents an alternative to the Christian conception of the Norman Rockwell family. Plato evidently thought it was a plausible, given the Spartan example. Under the "wrong" (unphilosophical kings) leadership, it could of course turn into the Hitler Youth or Comsomols; but that could, as well, be said of the traditional family . What Plato was concerned about was, perhaps, less the social structure, than providing the best guidance for the education of the young and social stability for all.

Nurse Catherine
10-31-2008, 08:23 AM
Being a Christian, I naturally have some moral problems with Platoís idea of communal wives and children (to say the least), but I also think that his scheme is faulty on logical grounds.

The family unit is the building block of society. Think of the father as the president of the family unit, and the mother as the vice-president. This structured family system paves the way for the larger system of government. The headship of the father is reflected in every level of government Ė city, state, country. I donít believe Platoís City, lacking this basic pattern of leadership, would hold together. You canít build a brick wall if you smash the bricks.

I could say more, but first Iíll give people a chance to disagree. Please let me know if you think otherwise and why; Iíd be glad for the chance to flesh out my ideas and see how well they hold up.

Christ is the ultimate judge of Plato. Can our higher calling be greater than the flesh? In Gorgias, Plato and Socrates visit a teacher of rhetoric (English teacher) to discuss the responsibilities of teaching art, including violence and the question, "Is the art responsible, or is the individual responsible?" This concern is still hotly debated between liberals and conservatives. Is the philosophy of greater value than the man, or the man greater than the philosphy?