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Plato, a commendable adherent of Socrates philosophy is the prized delight with the sole aim of discovering knowledge, by filtering through the facts of universal being to establish reality. As far as the great philosopher was concerned, reality cannot be deciphered through sense-perception, senses only give reality’s face value.
True knowledge is perfectly aware of itself, based on reasons and it’s certain of its ground (De Crescenzo, 1992.p.112) unmistakably, Plato brings out knowledge as a tenet independent of its contents and peripheral objects which match up the ideal perception of the reality.
In Plato’s dialogues coalesced in the Republic, he brings out the metaphysical makeup of reality and how humanity relates to it. Plato’s philosophy is inundated with religious overtone, gods, as it were, play a massive role to curve his perception and views extended forth. This study will elucidate the critical role gods and the concept of divinity play right through the entirety of Plato’s Republic Dialogues.
As Plato recounts the episode “Myth of Er” found in the republic dialogue phaedo and the story of time reversal in the statesman, a clear view of the hierarchical arrangement of the cosmos is illuminated. The analogy known as Timaeus spells in staid detail how a universal god shaped orderly world from a muddled universe (Plato, 2007.p.317)
The creator proceeded to form a world with a soul connotated as she, and the globe which constituted the four elements known as water, fire, earth and water. (Crossman, 1981.p.76) The soul blended both the interior and exterior worlds, and it was centered in the human body integrated with a similitude different from both the bodily and the eternal (De Crescenzo, 1992.p.69)
The human soul has a revolving the soul also had revolving inner and outer spheres analogous to the universal bodily ones (Melling,1987) Afterwards, as Plato’s creation depicts, the single god created time and also brought to being the host of Greek gods. The gods formed by the supreme creator of the world were given instructions by the maker of the world to create human beings and other creatures.
In book x of the Republic the “Myth of Er” is recounted where the author offers more details of the life beyond (614b- 617 621b). The character called Er resurrects and gives an account of the various places that he had visited in the after world. He elaborately, he described a cavern where souls are taken after exiting the mortal world into eternity.
In this corral, souls are elevated to observe both their outer and inner realms “Mr. Er” story, introduces a theory of a transcendent land where human souls discard their old self and reborn as different entities (Lycos, 1986.p.76). Plato believes that the souls that had thoroughly purified themselves through philosophy, they would live without bodies in very habitable beautiful place (Plato, Guardian, 114c)
In relation to the universe, although the philosophers arguments are not supported by impeccable logic, he explains how the inner and outer souls of the universe exhausted their appointed number of births. When their time span elapsed, the pilot of universe released the handle of its rudder and destiny and took charge of the world upturning its revolution (The Statesman, 272d-e).
Immediately, there was shock on the universe and it became disorderly. God noticed its anxiety and took control of the universe once more. (The Statesman, 273d). The significance of this tale in Plato’s cosmology is that it details God’s abandonment of and involvement with the universe; it further validates the subsequent interference of our world’s past, which is currently going through a healing process.
Plato’s Account Of gods
Plato brings in the concept of a supreme god, the universal worker known as demiourgos. This name implies the one who works for the demos, the people. Demiourgos is immortal and in charge of time and the other junior gods responsible for creation of man.
The “worker” is believed to have created other lower gods and the essence of time known as the moving image of eternity (Plato, 2007.p.127) In order to bring into being the other creatures in the kosmos, demiourgos passed on logos, the divine soul to smaller gods so that they could create a man so that he could host the logos.
Plato brings forth incredible philosophical laws tenets which adversely affect his view of the world and his intrinsic valuation for the creator and created beings. In order for demos or the created people to exist in harmony they had to uphold the existence of spirituality. The first reality in regard to divinity was the tenet that god and gods existed and they symbolized absolute, good, truth and justice.
The second tenet extends the view that the world comprises of both visible and invisible forms and its not necessarily a “material thing”(Plato,2007.p.312) Further, Plato noted that demiourgos created the world to bring order, and this created world could never be bought or ruined by men’s effort. No one has the ability to corrupt the fiber of the world, for god, demiourgos is in charge and control of what happens to the created world.
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Plato posits a key principle that gods should be looked upon as good and as the source of what is eternally good. Representing gods in any other way, besides good and pious was a misdemeanor as far as the philosopher was concerned. The positive conception of gods affects Plato’s philosophy in a massive ways, as he pursues the truth which is symbolized in perfect goodness of gods he seeks to find out what is real and, true and just.
Dialogues excerpted from the Republic bring out gods as perfect being endowed with perfect bodies and credulity; they are beautiful and cannot be harmed or killed by the human race. The immortality factor makes gods to stay constant and they do not need to beget child gods to replenish them (Plato,2007 p.614b- 617 621b)
Plato further delved into classifying gods as either visible or invisible; the visible gods were the most recognized by human race. The visible gods acquired the status of deity because people deemed them to be eternal since they appeared on the globe forever. The Greeks called god theos but later with the founding of cities other gods were assimilated into their beliefs including Zeus, Athena, Hera, Olympians amongst other(Lycos,1986.p.112)
Plato called the later gods, civilicized deities who were aware of the human beings and understood that men could distinguish between good and bad. Like the visible sky above, the above named gods lasted in a timeless sphere as immortal beings and they could not be corrupted like the created human race.
Both the visible and invisible gods were in complete control of their bodies, their minds, unlike humanity, were fully in charge of their bodies and were not prone to deceit or temptations like people are. The invisible gods were hidden to the physical eye of man but could reveal their forms to mankind as they wished.. The both groups of gods were good to human beings and they always rendered benefits to people.
For example the sun, believed to be a prominent visible god is offers, light and heat to enhance growth and sustain life of living beings; the planets, starts offer light and also tell about times and seasons. The invisible beings were specifically concerned with individuals well being like Zeus and Hera (Eileman, 1985.p.201)
Eternal And Natural Forms
In the Republic Plato explains in staid detail the concept of god and gods, his tacit view does not coincide with religious views and its not equated to the religious interpretation of who or what God is.
In Republic, Plato’s point is not trying to explain the concept of God but he goes deeper to establish what true, good is or just; in his endeavor to unfound the mystery of the truth he brought forth the vague idea of God. From the view of Plato, God is the prerequisite and the source of the forms and the eternal abstract static objects of the understanding. (Plato 412)
In Plato’s view there is the concept of objective good, as far as Plato was concerned wisdom, beauty. Moderation, courage were realities; more real than the visible and touchable things of the world and these realities he called forms. (De Crescenzo, 1992.p. 314) It was the conviction of Plato that the visible world comprises of half real and half vague reality that the outer world was on the middle area between certainty and uncertainty.
The soul of a human being can bridge between the real forms and the level of body,; human beings are tied by the body in this but through reflections the soul is able to raise to a plane of recognizing the forms. Forms are much advanced the real world and they cannot be perceived through the physical eye rather they are perceived through the eye of the human mind.
Forms, in platonic view are treated in a divine way, he expresses their attributes to display their beauty and perfection and their enduring character which makes them eternal. Forms only comprise poor alternatives for gods and the goddesses although they have no life and they are inactive.
Unlike the gods, forms don’t think and neither do they move; they are intelligible since they can be known by the discerning and the wise. The philosopher did not bring out the forms as deities, but he expressed them as a lower form of divinity substituting gods although they are reticent and have neither life nor individual logic.
Role of gods in Plato’s Philosophy
Gods play an implicitly important role in the Platonic philosophical analogy. Being a keen seeker of the truth, he finds the basis and foundation of his pursuits in gods who exemplify piety, perfection, reality and the truth.
Deciphering the concept of god in platonic viewpoint can be is equated to the knowledge of actual truth which is genuine and entombs the essence of all goodness. (Lycos, 1986.p.213) The Plato’s way of comprehending God forms the elementary base and underpinning for all certain knowledge. In consequence, this level of God’s realization provides a demonstration reality in its fullness.
Plato’s view of the world draws its podium from the conception of gods who are perceived as utterly ethereal and above the plane of normal mind conception and can only be deciphered by philosophical wisdom. The ensuing role of this concept necessarily makes gods the plane through which wisdom and realization of reality are standardized. The gods’ standard of what is pure, good and true helps to gauge abstract ideas against the gods attributes backdrop so that all the intangible ideas are determined to be real or unreal.
Therefore, the ideology about gods forms the final stage in all Plato’s pursuit of truth and knowledge, every thing must have a source, and good things must be from a good source. Gods who typify good, wisdom reality must be the truth Plato is determined to find out. God is therefore the final representation through which the complete mechanism and center of theoretical ideologies of intelligible world and physical world is based (Melling, 1987.p.123)
In Plato’s philosophy God is considered as a separator of the physical and mental, as the personification of all created forms; God is also regarded as the highest level of understanding and wisdom (De Crescenzo, 1992.p.145) Everything in the sphere of ideas originates from the embodiment of all forms, simply known as gods and such ideas lead to greater comprehension of form, in other words god.
It’s paramount to note that Plato’s conception of God is too abstract, the philosopher fails to give god attributes because God is neither a thing nor a person, God is an unthinkable entity or state of knowledge which cannot be expressed in words or in any material terms of the ordinary human world.
Gods play a critical role in the world and perspective of Plato’s philosophy. The perpetual being, demiourgos “worker” bring into being the world together with other gods. With remarkable lucidity, Plato expresses the role gods play to bring out the reality through creation. On the republic dialogues, the philosopher utilizes deft allegory to depict the world, gods, eternal and natural forms. The philosopher’s view and expression of god embodies all the Platonic forms, which comprise of good, perfect eternal entities.
When all these forms are put together they exude the essence of god. The role of gods in Plato’s dialogue can thus be tentatively suggested as manifestation and depiction of complete prudence, and perfection. God’s personify full composition of reality, the truth, justice and the right that Plato seeks to unfound, the concept of gods in Plato’s philosophy thus culminate the essence of reality and the truth.
Crossman, R. H. (1981). Exploring Plato Today. London: Unwin Book Publishers.
De Crescenzo, M. (1992). The Greek Philosophy. (Volume Two) London: Pan.
Eileman, J. L (1985). Understanding The Platonic Philosophy. London: Souvenir Press.
Lycos, J. (1986). Plato on Justice and Power: Reading Book I of Plato’s Republic. London: Macmillan.
Melling, D. J. (1987). Understanding Plato. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Plato. (2007). Republic (Translated by Desmond Lee) Penguin Classic: Paperback.