Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Plato: an introduction
Reading Plato can be both light and easy, but also dense - kind of like getting hit with a wet sponge. Plato's "Dialogues" are conversations between Socrates and other people, where Socrates searches for "truth" and "wisdom" through a method of questions, inquiries, analogies and a lot of discourse. Plato was a student of Socrates, but Socrates never wrote anything down. Therefore, we only know Socrates's thoughts and words through Plato, and therefore some of Plato's own philosophy surely contributes to what Socrates says.
I have caught myself laughing out loud when I read Plato. Some of his dialogues, especially when Socrates is speaking to the Sophists whom he dispises, can be amusing. Socrates appeals to the persons ego, flattering them, while claiming he only wants to learn what great wisdom they have. They typically oblige him, often in a condensending manner.
When the Sophist has laid enough rope to hang themself, Socrates then uses their own logic against them by pulling the most outlandish example he can think of. The person Socrates is speaking with must agree to support his points since their whole arguement depends on it, but then they find themselves completely disarmed and their arguement undone.
Although reading these dialogues is easier than reading a text book, the material still requires that I pause and reflect on the meaning behind what is being spoken.