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Puzzles from Plato’s Work
Plato’s philosophical work aims at distinguishing between observable things that appear beautiful and those that are beautiful. According to him, unified, big and equal things appear beautiful while truly beautiful things are characterized by features such as goodness, justice and unity. Plato argues that man should transform his values by understanding the forms and defects of the physical world. From his work, Plato advocates that man should recognize that the soul is different from the rest of the body and its functioning does not rely on the body. The soul is capable of controlling all forms of nature especially when not burdened with connection to physical things. From his work, we learn that the soul has the ability to remember what it once had even after being disembodied. The life that man lives is to an extent a reward or punishment resulting from choices made in the past.
Although Plato’s propositions can be identified as the foundations of his philosophy, we can accurately say that few of his works can be taken in whole without question. This paper will discuss puzzles that are identifiable in Plato’s philosophical work.
Plato uses dialogue to convey his message to the audience and readers. Although, this device is widely used in drama, Plato’s dialogue is quite different when compared to that of his philosophical colleagues. He uses dialogue to invoke primordial mythical realms such as the development of Euripides. His dialogues are characterized by philosophical discussions that convey his view of the world. One of his major interlocutors is Socrates and Plato uses him to justify his reasoning and view of the world.
Plato, as seen in his philosophical work, never addresses his audience directly, but uses characters to convey his messages. He does this indirectly and this leads to the question of whether people can really understand Plato’s mind, since he never affirms anything that is said or done in the dialogues. It is easy to place a philosophical doctrine on his characters, but it is hard to place this on him. Questions on whether Plato really had philosophical convictions and if people can really tell what they were have arose. Research shows that if people attributed any of the philosophical views portrayed by his characters, then they would be violating his purpose of writing the dialogues (Robert 12).
Other issues such as why Socrates is one of the prominent characters in Plato’s dialogues and whether he holds the same opinions as Plato have also arose. Research shows that Plato’s intentions in involving Socrates in his dialogues were to show a sense of neutrality. For instance, Plato’s definition of justice is similar to Socrates definition. This is evident in the republic where both state that justice is composed of every part of the soul carrying out its own functions. The fact that we can understand what the characters in the dialogue are trying to put across does not mean that we can understand Plato’s intentions and way of reasoning. It is confusing as to whether Plato’s use of dialogue is meant to express his philosophical opinions or is a way of illustrating the foolishness of the characters involved.
It is clear that Plato in his philosophical work he was trying to confuse the audience. He effectively achieved this by indirectly addressing the audience through the use of dialogue. One of the best examples of Plato’s dialogue is “The Euthyphro”, a dialogue between Socrates and Euthyphro. Euthyphro is torn between his responsibility as a son and a prosecutor. During the dialogue, Socrates never tells Euthyphro what to do, but he asks him questions that ultimately affect his final decision.
From the discussion above, it is clear that for one to understand Plato’s philosophical view, he needs to interpret what his characters say. Plato fails to effectively convey his philosophical views because he does not directly address the crowd but uses characters in his dialogues. We are thus left to draw our own conclusions about what he might have believed in, and the only evidence we have is the dialogues. Therefore, to conclusively draw his philosophical views, it is paramount that we take what the characters say to represent Plato’s stance and view of the world.
To understand the philosophical views of Plato, and what the characters mean by what they say in the dialogues, we should take both endeavors as one task and not two. This is because we might not gain anything from the readings if we take both to be different. Plato’s dialogues were made to provoke the audience to reflect and accept the views of the characters from their arguments. This is seen in the fact that one can understand what the characters in the dialogue are trying to put across but cannot understand Plato’s intentions and ways of reasoning.
Robert, Mulvaney. Classical Philosophical Questions. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall. 2009. Print.