Food for Thought July 2013 | Page 9

School of Thought: Platonic

I know everyone has heard of Plato. A wise philosopher with confusing thoughts and statements, but do you even know what he's about? What he actually believed? Well, it's my job to make it easy for you to understand what he did and believed.

Before we jump into Plato, we can't forget to mention his teacher Socrates. Socrates (469-399 BC) along with Plato (427-347 BC) did their best to renounce the teachings of the Sophists. Unfortunately, Socrates met an untimely end at the age of seventy when he was accused of "corrupting the youth of the city". He was forced to drink hemlock and died in a room filled with his admirers (Smith 48).

Similar to every philosopher, Plato sought the answer for what truth and knowledge were and where they came from. Plato believed that truth could be found in a world that was beyond reality, in other words , the noumenal world. This view differs from the Sophists who didn't believe in the transcendent. Within this noumenal world lies "perfect forms that exist permanently". The whole idea behind the noumenal world is that the ideas we have and the objects we experience on Earth are just imitations of perfect forms in the noumenal world.

Plato took it upon himself to be a teacher that helped his students attain true knowledge by guiding their souls back from which they came, the noumenal world. In his mind, rhetoric was an evil that confused souls and tied their soulds down to the physical realm. He abhorred the use of language by the Sophists. He believed that they employed tricks that confused the audience from the truth. Reason is what brings the souls closer to the world beyond reality while the senses distracted the soul. If a speech can play on the senses of the audience then it was tearing their souls away from the transcendent and closer to the physical (Smith 50).

Plato was a great fan of dialiectic. Dialectic is the process of asking and answering questions to allow ones mind to reach the truth their soul learned from the noumenal world. He practiced dialectic through a plethora of dialogues that he wrote. In one of his well-known dialogues, Gorgias, Socrates banters with Gorgias and other philosophers on the corrupt nature of rhetoric.

Another famous work by Plato, is his Allegory of the Cave. In this excerpt from his book The Republic, he explains that the cave is the physical world that we are prisoners in and the shadows cast on the wall are just illusions that rhetoric and our senses allow us to see. The world outside of the cave represents the noumenal world and how outside is the enlightened world and everything is in its perfect, true form.