Chapter 13: The Sources of Plato's Opinions

*this blogpost is a summary series of History of Western Philosophy. For chapter 12, you can read here.

Book 1: Ancient Philosophy
Part 2: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle
Chapter 13: The Sources of Plato's Opinions

The most important matters in Plato's philosophy are: first, Utopia; second, his theory of ideas; third, his arguments on immortality; fourth, his cosmogony; fifth, his conception of knowledge as reminiscence rather than perception. Russell will discuss all five of them in upcoming chapters. Now, we will learn about Plato's life and his inspirations.

Plato was born in 428-427 B.C. He was an aristocrat. He was still young when Athens was defeated. He was a pupil of Socrates whom he had profound affection and respect. After Socrates was put to death by democracy, he turned to Sparta for his ideal commonwealth. His philosophical influences were Pythagoras, Parmenides, Heraclitus, and Socrates.

From Pythagoras, Plato derived the Orphic elements in his philosophy: the religious trend, the belief in immortality, the other-wordliness, the priestly tone, his respects for mathematics, and his intimate intermingling of intellect and mysticism. 
From Parmenides, he derived the belief that reality is eternal and timeless, and that, on logical grounds, all change must be illusory. 
From Heraclitus, he derived the negative doctrine that there is nothing permanent in the sensible world. This, combined with the doctrine of Parmenides, led to the conclusion that knowledge is not to be derived from the senses but is only to be achieved by the intellect. 
From Socrates, he probably learnt his preoccupation with ethical problems, and his tendency to seek teleological rather than mechanical explanations of the world. (p. 109)

How is all this connected with authoritarianism in politics? Russell continues:

In the first place: Goodness and Reality being timeless, the best State will be the one which most nearly copies the heavenly model, by having a minimum of change and a maximum of static perfection, and its rulers should be those who best understand the eternal Good. 
In the second place: Plato, like all mystics, has, in his beliefs, a core of certainty which is essentially incommunicable except by a way of life. The Pythagoreans had endeavoured to set up a rule of the initiate, and this is, at bottom what Plato desires. If a man is to be a good statesman, he must know the Good; this he can only do by a combination of intellectual and moral discipline. If those who have not gone through this discipline are allowed a share in the government, they will inevitably corrupt it. 
In the third place: much education is needed to make a good ruler on Plato's principles. 
In the fourth place: Plato took the view that leisure is essential to wisdom, which will therefore not be found among those who have to work for their living, but only among those who have independent means or who relieved by the State from anxieties as to their subsistence. (p. 110)

About "Wisdom", it wouldn't be a specialized skill. It would be more generalized thing and it consists in knowledge of the good. Bottom line is all of these are needed if you want to be a leader in politics. 

So, that's all from Chapter 13. Next on chapter 14 we will examine Plato's utopia. Stay tuned! \m/


  1. Hello! Lama tak jumpa. ^^b


    ....ini postingan berseri? Fantastic! :D

    BTW, serius...

    "How is all this connected with authoritarianism in politics?"

    This is one quirky thing about Plato. He didn't believe in democracy because common people (he thought) won't be able to grasp philosophy and ethics. Rather than giving power to people it's better to entrust power to one enlightened figure... supposedly called, "The Philosopher King".

    Unfortunately, though, it assumes that the "Philosopher King" figure won't be tempted, corrupted, etc... Plato wanted man not to be a man, but to be saint. Which is an impossible task.

    Because, well, nobody's perfect...

    1. Aaaaaa.... Ada Soraaaa! *lompat2 jejingkrakan* Btw, apa kabar, Sora? Lama tak berjumpa. :D Halah, malah jadi ngobrol geje.

      Kembali ke soal Plato, kenapa kamu bisa menjelaskannya dengan begitu mudah hanya dalam.. 2 paragraf? Sementara Bertrand Russell menulis dalam 3 halaman dan tetap saja sulit dimengerti bagi (otak) saya (yang sudah tumpul ini)? :(

  2. Kabar baik, alhamdulillah. :)

    "kenapa kamu bisa menjelaskannya dengan begitu mudah hanya dalam.. 2 paragraf?"

    Saya... semacam punya bakat, kayaknya. Orangnya gampang menyederhanakan masalah. (LOL)

    /that sounds wrong...


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