Some of Socrates’ and Plato’s ideas.

Socrates was an ancient greek philosopher who is well known by many people in modern times. Socrates had an interest in morality and in interpersonal relations. Socrates was greatly opposed to a group of people known as the Sophists. The Sophists taught public speaking and rhetoric and believed that there is no absolute truth or that it cannot be known. Therefore, you should not worry about doing right or wrong, but that you should do what is best for yourself. Socrates argued that there is indeed absolute truth and that Protagoras (A leading Sophist) could not even say that he was right by his own logic. He argued that absolute standards do exist and that human reason can discover them. Socrates sought to find morality by his reason and one way he did this was to ask people questions and to seek definitions for things. Socrates taught his teachings in marketplaces, workshops, and other places where the Greeks would congregate.

Plato was a pupil of Socrates and recorded a lot of his teachings. Plato had a teaching called “The Doctrine of the forms”. One example of this teaching is that there are many different dogs with many different colors, sizes etc., but we recognize them all as dogs by a particular “dogness”. Plato believed that if you take away all the things that are not essential to being a dog, then you get the essence of what a dog is, the form of a dog. Plato applied this to virtues such as justice, temperance, and the like, but argued that the greatest form was the form of the good.

Plato illustrated what a philosopher is by his “Allegory of the Cave”. In the allegory, many people are chained in a cave and look at shadows on the wall caused by a fire. The philosopher, said Plato, is the one who escapes the cave and sees the real things, not shadows of real things. The real things are the forms, while the shadows are just examples of the forms.


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