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  • Athens, 2400 years ago. It’s a compact place: only about a quarter of a million people live here.

  • There are fine baths, theatres, temples, shopping arcades and gymnasiums

  • It’s warm for more than half the year.

  • This is also home to the world’s first trueand probably greatestphilosopher:

  • Plato

  • Born into a prominent and wealthy family in the city,

  • Plato devoted his life to one goal: helping people to reach a state of what he termed:

  • εὐδαιμονία (Eudaimonia) or fulfilment.

  • Plato is often confused with Socrates

  • Socrates was an older friend, who taught Plato a lot but didn’t write any books.

  • Plato wrote lots of them: 36, all dialogues: beautifully crafted scripts of

  • imaginary discussions in which Socrates is always alotted a starring role - among them:

  • The Republic The Symposium

  • The Laws The Meno

  • and The Apology

  • Plato had four big ideas for making life more fulfilled.

  • First big idea: Think more

  • We rarely give ourselves time to think carefully and logically about our lives and how to live

  • them.

  • Sometimes we just go along with what the the Greeks calleddoxa’: ‘popular opinions’.

  • In the the 36 books he wrote, Plato showed thiscommon-senseto be riddled with

  • errors, prejudice and superstition.

  • Fame is great

  • Follow your heart

  • Money is the key to a good life

  • The problem is, popular opinions edge us towards the wrong values, careers and relationships.

  • Plato’s answer is

  • Know yourself.’

  • It means doing a special kind of therapy, philosophy:

  • Subjecting your ideas to examination rather than acting on impulse.

  • If you strengthen your self-knowledge, you don’t get so pulled around by feelings.

  • Plato compared the role of our feelings to being

  • dragged dangerously along by a group of wild horses.

  • In honour of his mentor and friend, Socrates, this kind of examination is called a Socratic discussion.

  • You can have it with yourself or ideally, with another person who isn’t

  • trying to catch you out but wants to help you clarify your own ideas.

  • Second Big idea: Let your lover change you.

  • That sounds weird, if you think that love means

  • finding someone who wants you just the way you are.

  • In The Symposium , Plato’s play about a dinner party where a group of friends drink

  • too much and get talking about love, sex and relationships,

  • Plato says: “True love is admiration.”

  • In other words, the person you need to get together with should have very good qualities

  • which you yourself lack.

  • Let’s say, they should be really brave

  • Or organised.

  • Or warm and sincere

  • By getting close to this person, you can become a little like they are.

  • The right person for us helps us grow to our full potential.

  • For Plato, in a good relationship, a couple shouldn’t love each other exactly as they

  • are right now.

  • They should be committed to educating each otherand to enduring the stormy passages

  • this inevitably involves.

  • Each person should want to seduce the other into becoming a better version of themselves.

  • Three: decode the message of beauty.

  • Everyonepretty muchlikes beautiful things

  • Plato was the first to ask why do we like them?

  • He found a fascinating reason:

  • Beautiful objects are whispering important truths to us about the good life

  • We find things beautiful when we unconsciously sense in them qualities we need

  • but are missing in our lives.

  • gentleness

  • harmony

  • balance

  • peace

  • strength

  • Beautiful objects therefore have a really important function.

  • They help to educate our souls.

  • Ugliness is a serious matter too. it parades dangerous and damaged characteristics in front

  • of us. It makes it harder to be wise, kind and calm.

  • Plato sees art as therapeutic: it is the duty of poets and painters (and nowadays, novelists,

  • television producers and designers) to help us live good lives.

  • Four: Reform society.

  • Plato spent a lot of time thinking how the government and society should ideally be.

  • He was the world’s first utopian thinker.

  • In this, he was inspired by Athens’s great rival: Sparta.

  • This was a city-sized machine for turning out great soldiers

  • Everything the Spartans didhow they raised their children, how their economy was organised,

  • whom they admired, how they had sex, what they atewas tailored to that one goal.

  • And Sparta was hugely successful, from a military point of view.

  • But that wasn’t Plato’s concern. He wanted to know: how could a society get better at

  • producing not military power but fulfilled people?

  • In his book, The Republic, Plato identifies a number of changes that should be made:

  • Athenian society was very focused on the rich, like the louche aristocrat Alcibiades, and

  • sports celebrities, like the boxer Milo of Croton.

  • Plato wasn’t impressed: it really matters who we admire, because celebrities influence our

  • outlook, ideas and conduct. And bad heroes give glamour to flaws of character.

  • Plato therefore wanted to give Athens new celebrities, replacing the current crop with

  • ideally wise and good people he called Guardians

  • models for everyone’s good development. These people

  • would be distinguished by their record of public service, their modesty and simple habits,

  • their dislike of the limelight and their wide and deep experience.

  • They would be the most honoured and admired people in society.

  • He also wanted to end democracy in Athens. He wasn’t crazy. He just observed how few

  • people think properly before they vote and therefore we get very substandard rulers.

  • He didn’t want to replace democracy with horrid dictatorship;

  • but wanted to prevent people from voting until they had started to think rationally. Until

  • they had become philosophers. Otherwise, government would just be a kind of mob rule [back to

  • those horses].

  • To help the process, Plato started a school, The Academy, in Athens, which lasted a good

  • 300 years. There, pupils learnt not just maths and spelling, but also how to be good and

  • kind.

  • His ultimate goal was that politicians should become philosophers: ‘The world will not

  • be right,’ he said, ‘until kings become philosophers or philosophers kings.’ [show

  • Hollande, Merkel, Cameron all trooping into a uni- then coming out as philosophers]

  • Plato’s ideas remain deeply provocative and fascinating. What unites them is their

  • ambition and their idealism. He wanted philosophy to be a tool to help us change the world.

  • We should continue to be inspired by his example.

Athens, 2400 years ago. It’s a compact place: only about a quarter of a million people live here.

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PHILOSOPHY - プラトン (PHILOSOPHY - Plato)

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    楊主群 に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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