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Thread: Plato, how to take him

  1. #1 Plato, how to take him 
    Forum Masters Degree organic god's Avatar
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    In my own time i like to read a bit of philosophy, i don't have a thorough education in the classics but it is an area that fascinates me.
    I rcently read some of the ideas put forward by plato and i am confused by his beliefs.
    It seems to me that in a lot of his work he mocks the gods or questions there existence, almost in a condescending manner.
    However in other pieces of his literature he seems to portray total faith and belief and it is like plato has been swept into a mythical dimension.
    So i am really unsure how to take his work, could someone help me with this


    everything is mathematical.
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  3. #2  
    Time Lord
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    I get the feeling concept of God in Plato's time was very different from the modern Western sense. Plato may be talking from a "headspace" totally alien to us. I suggest you take it fast & loose, rather than project your own assumptions.

    I stumble similarly on Japanese religion. You can buy a little packet at a temple, with a God in it, dangle that God from the rear view mirror beside an air freshener. Meanwhile the suggestion of Gods having any bearing on a person's spirit is like, huh? does not compute. Better play it fast & loose!


    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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  4. #3  
    Forum Masters Degree organic god's Avatar
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    well yeh the gods he refers to are the greek deities. zeus, aphrodite etc.

    and it is odd how in some documents he is disdainful of them and at some times he is totally lost in the mythical spirit
    everything is mathematical.
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  5. #4  
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
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    Like you I'm just a casual reader and haven't studied philosophy. The Closing of the Western Mind by Charles Freeman is one book I enjoyed, that discussed the relationship between philosophy and religion. You'll probably get a much better response from sunshinewarrior or others, but for what it's worth, here's my two cents.

    Plato believed in absolutes, perfect forms of not only everyday objects such as chairs but of abstracts like beauty, justice, good and evil. He thought that these exist as an objective reality and that they could be accessed by reason. At the top of the hierarchy was the "Good". Only the best thinkers would be capable of being trained to access the Forms and these best thinkers should be appointed as the rulers of society. Anyone opposing them should be punished, even by death.

    It's not too hard to see a direct link to ideas of a supreme God, a priestly ruling class, and an intolerant theocracy, is it?
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  6. #5  
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    Without knowing which particular works you are referring to it might not be possible to know, but one possibility worth considering is that he has adopted a particular stance for the purposes of demonstration.

    For example, in mathematics we frequently make an explicit assumption and then show that this leads to a logical contradiction, thus demonstrating that the original assumption is incorrect.

    It might be that Plato is doing the same; assume God is so and so, then write the essay on that basis. The reader then has to decide whether he agrees with the conclusions and if he does this says something about the original assumption, and therefore about God.

    Just my 2 cents.
    Everything the laws of the universe do not prohibit must finally happen.
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  7. #6  
    Forum Professor sunshinewarrior's Avatar
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    Also worth considering the historical context: Plato was part of the new wave in Greek thinking, the beginnings of Western philosophy. By the time they came to do their work, the Iliad and Odyssey were some 600 years old, as was Hesiod's work.

    The Greeks had, therefore, spent 600 years or thereabouts simply playing with their myth-kitty until, about contemporaneously with Plato et al, the great Greek dramatists too took on various nuggets from their myth-kitty and created (literally making up stories in some instances) variants of the famous tales: the Seven against Thebes, Oedipus, Orestes, the fall-out from the Trojan war and so on.

    To me this indicates that the Greeks had already reached the stage where they viewed their 'gods' (the names Olympians) as useful source material, but not true divinities (ie, no 'thinking' man would actually give credence to the notion of a physical Zeus or Apollo).

    Instead, as Plato seems to indicate, their thoughts were turning to the idea of non-humanised transcendence. The gods, or god-like ideas were not to be personified, but to be thought of as abstractions, a sort of straining for the ideal. In this, of course, it was possible to be as mystical as one wanted, without actually invoking the idea of a particular god.

    And that's what I think accounts for Plato's contempt for, or scepticism of, the personified gods of Olympus, whilst nevertheless having a deep sense of the mystical or transcendent.

    I don't know if this helps resolve the apparent conflict you see, but it's my tuppence...
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  8. #7  
    Forum Masters Degree organic god's Avatar
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    sunshine warrior...brilliant i can actually see this as a valid reason for my problem
    everything is mathematical.
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  9. #8  
    Forum Professor sunshinewarrior's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by organic god
    sunshine warrior...brilliant i can actually see this as a valid reason for my problem
    Glad to have helped. You see - we mods aren't just pretty faces.
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