Plato (Πλάτων Plátōn; c. 427 BC – c. 347 BC) was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought and the Academy (Akademia), the first institution of higher learning in the Western world.
He is widely considered a pivotal figure in the history of Ancient Greek and Western philosophy, along with his teacher, Socrates, and his most famous student, Aristotle. Plato has also often been cited as one of the founders of Western religion and spirituality. Plato was an innovator of the written dialogue and dialectic forms in philosophy. Plato is also considered the founder of Western political philosophy. His most famous contribution is the theory of Forms known by pure reason, in which Plato presents a solution to the problem of universals known as Platonism (also ambiguously called either Platonic realism or Platonic idealism). He is also the namesake of Platonic love and the Platonic solids.
- Quotations from Plato are often cited by Stephanus numbers, which are keyed to the original Greek and therefore independent of the translation used.
- I shall assume that your silence gives consent.
- Some say that the body (σῶμα) is the "tomb" (σῆμα) of the soul, their notion being that the soul is buried in the present life; and again, because by its means the soul gives any signs which it gives, it is for this reason also properly called "sign" (σῆμα). But I think it most likely that the Orphic poets gave this name, with the idea that the soul is undergoing punishment for something; they think it has the body as an enclosure to keep it safe, like a prison, and this is, as the name itself denotes, the "safe" (σῶμα) for the soul, until the penalty is paid, and not even a letter needs to be changed.
- If the very essence of knowledge changes, at the moment of the change to another essence of knowledge there would be no knowledge, and if it is always changing, there will always be no knowledge, and by this reasoning there will be neither anyone to know nor anything to be known. But if there is always that which knows and that which is known —if the beautiful, the good, and all the other verities exist— I do not see how there is any likeness between these conditions of which I am now speaking and flux or motion.
- No man of sense can put himself and his soul under the control of names... You must consider courageously and thoroughly and not accept anything carelessly.
- Wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder.
- 155d, The Dialogues of Plato, Volume 3, 1871, p. 377
- Ηow natural it is that those who have spent a long time in the study of philosophy appear ridiculous when they enter the courts of law as speakers… Those who have knocked about in courts and the like from their youth up seem to me, when compared with those who have been brought up in philosophy and similar pursuits, to be as slaves in breeding compared with freemen… The latter always have leisure, and they talk at their leisure in peace;… and they do not care at all whether their talk is long or short, if only they attain the truth. But the men of the other sort are always in a hurry and the other party in the suit does not permit them to talk about anything they please.
- It is impossible that evils should be done away with, for there must always be something opposed to the good; and they… must inevitably hover about mortal nature and this earth. Therefore we ought to try to escape from earth to the dwelling of the gods as quickly as we can; and to escape is to become like God, so far as this is possible… God is in no wise and in no manner unrighteous, but utterly and perfectly righteous, and there is nothing so like him as that one of us who in turn becomes most nearly perfect in righteousness.
- They do not know the penalty of unrighteousness, which is the thing they most ought to know. For it is not what they think it is—scourgings and death, which they sometimes escape entirely when they have done wrong—but a penalty which it is impossible to escape… Two patterns, my friend, are set up in the world, the divine, which is most blessed, and the godless, which is most wretched… and their silliness and extreme foolishness blind them to the fact that through their unrighteous acts they are made like the one and unlike the other. They therefore pay the penalty for this by living a life that conforms to the pattern they resemble.
- Perception and knowledge could never be the same.
- Neither perception nor true opinion, nor reason or explanation combined with true opinion could be knowledge… Then our art of midwifery declare to us that all the offspring that have been born are mere wind-eggs and not worth rearing… and if you remain barren, you will be less harsh and gentler to your associates, for you will have the wisdom not to think you know that which you do not know.
- I do see one large and grievous kind of ignorance, separate from the rest, and as weighty as all the other parts put together. Thinking that one knows a thing when one does not know it. Through this, I believe, all the mistakes of the mind are caused in all of us.
- Those who purge the soul believe that the soul can receive no benefit from any teachings offered to it until someone by cross-questioning reduces him who is cross-questioned to an attitude of modesty, by removing the opinions that obstruct the teachings, and thus purges him and makes him think that he knows only what he knows, and no more.
- I shall have to test the theory of my father Parmenides, and contend forcibly that after a fashion not-being is and on the other hand in a sense being is not… For unless these statements are either disproved or accepted, no one who speaks about false words, or false opinion —whether images or likenesses or imitations or appearances— about the arts which have to do with them, can ever help being forced to contradict himself and make himself ridiculous.
- We certainly must contend by every argument against him who does away with knowledge or reason or mind and then makes any dogmatic assertion about anything. The philosopher, who pays the highest honor to these things, must necessarily, as it seems, because of them refuse to accept the theory of those who say the universe is at rest, whether as a unity or in many forms, and must also refuse utterly to listen to those who say that being is universal motion; … he must say that being and the universe consist of both.
- The attempt to separate everything from everything else is not only not in good taste but also shows that a man is utterly uncultivated and unphilosophical. The complete separation of each thing from all is the utterly final obliteration of all discourse. For our power of discourse is derived from the interweaving of the classes or ideas with one another.
- No one should be discouraged, Theaetetus, who can make constant progress, even though it be slow.
- Original Greek, from Sophist 261b: θαρρεῖν, ὦ Θεαίτητε, χρὴ τὸν καὶ σμικρόν τι δυνάμενον εἰς τὸ πρόσθεν ἀεὶ προϊέναι.
- Also quoted in variant forms such as: Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow
- It is difficult to set forth any of the greater ideas, except by the use of examples; for it would seem that each of us knows everything that he knows as if in a dream and then again, when he is as it were awake, knows nothing of it all.
- The greatest and noblest conceptions have no image wrought plainly for human vision, which he who wishes to satisfy the mind of the inquirer can apply to some one of his senses and by mere exhibition satisfy the mind. We must therefore endeavor by practice to acquire the power of giving and understanding a rational definition of each one of them; for immaterial things, which are the noblest and greatest, can be exhibited by reason only, and it is for their sake that all we are saying is said. But it is always easier to practice in small matters than in greater ones.
- Law could never, by determining exactly what is noblest and must just for one and all, enjoin upon them that which is best; for the differences of men and of actions and the fact that nothing, I may say, in human life is ever at rest, forbid any science whatsoever to promulgate any simple rule for everything and for all time… So, that which is persistently simple is inapplicable to things which are never simple.
- Doing what is for the good of the people, this must be the truest criterion of right government, in accordance with which the wise and good man will govern the affairs of his subjects. Just as the captain of a ship keeps watch for what is at any moment for the good of the vessel and the sailors, not by writing rules, but by making his science his law, and thus preserves his fellow voyagers, so may not a right government be established in the same way by men who could rule by this principle, making science more powerful than the laws? And whatever the wise rulers do, they can commit no error, so long as they maintain one great principle and by always dispensing absolute justice to them with wisdom and science are able to preserve the citizens and make them better than they were, so far as that is possible.
- No multitude is able to acquire any art whatsoever. Then if there is a kingly art, neither the collective body of the wealthy nor the whole people could ever acquire this science of statesmanship.
- The tyrant has arisen, and the king and oligarchy and aristocracy and democracy, because men are not contented with that one perfect ruler, and do not believe that there could ever be any one worthy of such power or willing and able by ruling with virtue and knowledge to dispense justice and equity rightly to all, but that he will harm and kill and injure any one of us whom he chooses on any occasion, since they admit that if such a man as we describe should really arise, he would be welcomed and would continue to dwell among them, directing to their weal as sole ruler a perfectly right form of government. But, as the case now stands, since, as we claim, no king is produced in our states who is, like the ruler of the bees in their hives, by birth pre-eminently fitted from the beginning in body and mind, we are obliged, as it seems, to follow in the track of the perfect and true form of government by coming together and making written laws.
- Of these not right forms of government*… monarchy, when bound by good written rules, which we call laws, is the best of all the six; but without law it is hard and most oppressive to live with. The government of the few must be considered intermediate, both in good and in evil. The government of the multitude is weak in all respects and able to do nothing great, either good or bad, when compared with the other forms of government…; therefore of all these governments when they are lawful, this is the worst, and when they are all lawless it is the best.
- 302b, 302e-303a
- *monarchy: royalty or tyranny; the rule of the few: aristocracy or oligarchy; the rule of the many: democracy (regularly constituted popular government or mob rule).302d-e
The seventh must be set apart from all the others, as God is set apart from men. 303b
- The characters of self-restrained officials are exceedingly careful and just and conservative, but they lack keenness and a certain quick and active boldness. The courageous natures, on the other hand, are deficient in justice and caution in comparison with the former, but excel in boldness of action; and unless both these qualities are present it is impossible for a state to be entirely prosperous in public and private matters.
- The whole business of the kingly weaving is comprised in this and this alone: in never allowing the self-restrained characters to be separated from the courageous, but in weaving them together by common beliefs and honors and dishonors and opinions and interchanges of pledges, thus making of them a smooth and, as we say, well-woven fabric, and then entrusting to them in common forever the offices of the state.
- This is the end of the web of the statesman’s activity: the direct interweaving of the characters of restrained and courageous men, when the kingly science has drawn them together by friendship and community of sentiment into a common life, and having perfected the most glorious and the best of all textures, clothes with it all the inhabitants of the state, both slaves and freemen, holds them together by this fabric, and omitting nothing which ought to belong to a happy state, rules and watches over them.
- Parmenides: It is impossible to conceive of many without one.
- Parmenides: Just as things in a picture, when viewed from a distance, appear to be all in one and the same condition and alike.
- Parnenides: When there is a number of things which seem to you to be great, you may think, as you look at them all, that there is one and the same idea in them, and hence you think the great is one. But if with your mind's eye you regard the absolute great and these many great things in the same way, will not another great appear beyond, by which all these must appear to be great?
- Socrates: I think the most likely view is, that these ideas exist in nature as patterns, and the other things resemble them and are imitations of them; their participation in ideas is assimilation to them, that and nothing else.
Parmenides: It is impossible that anything be like the idea, or the idea like anything; for if they are alike, some further idea, in addition to the first, will always appear, and if that is like anything, still another, and a new idea will always be arising, if the idea is like that which partakes of it.
- Parmenides: If anyone, with his mind fixed on all these objections and others like them, denies the existence of ideas of things, and does not assume an idea under which each individual thing is classed, he will be quite at a loss, since he denies that the idea of each thing is always the same, and in this way he will utterly destroy the power of carrying on discussion... Then what will become of philosophy? To what can you turn, if these things are unknown?
- Parmenides: I was pleased with you, Socrates, because you would not discuss the doubtful question in terms of visible objects or in relation to them, but only with reference to what we conceive most entirely by the intellect and may call ideas… But if you wish to get better training, you must do something more than that; you must consider not only what happens if a particular hypothesis is true, but also what happens if it is not true.
- Parmenides: Whatever the subject of your hypothesis, if you suppose that it is or is not, or that it experiences any other affection, you must consider what happens to it and to any other particular things you may choose, and to a greater number and to all in the same way; and you must consider other things in relation to themselves and to anything else you may choose in any instance, whether you suppose that the subject of your hypothesis exists or does not exist, if you are to train yourself completely to see the truth perfectly.
- Zeno: The many do not know that except by this devious passage through all things the mind cannot attain to the truth.
- Zeno: Most people are not aware that this roundabout progress through all things is the only way in which the mind can attain truth and wisdom.
- Parmenides: If the one is not, nothing is. Then, and we may add, whether the one is or is not, the one and the others in relation to themselves and to each other all in every way are and are not and appear and do not appear.
Let every man remind their descendants that they also are soldiers who must not desert the ranks of their ancestors, or from cowardice fall behind. Even as I exhort you this day, and in all future time, whenever I meet with any of you, shall continue to remind and exhort you, O ye sons of heroes, that you strive to be the bravest of men. And I think that I ought now to repeat what your fathers desired to have said to you who are their survivors, when they went out to battle, in case anything happened to them. I will tell you what I heard them say, and what, if they had only speech, they would fain be saying, judging from what they then said. And you must imagine that you hear them saying what I now repeat to you:
Sons, the event proves that your fathers were brave men; for we might have lived dishonourably, but have preferred to die honourably rather than bring you and your children into disgrace, and rather than dishonour our own fathers and forefathers; considering that life is not life to one who is a dishonour to his race, and that to such a one neither men nor Gods are friendly, either while he is on the earth or after death in the world below.
Remember our words, then, and whatever is your aim let virtue be the condition of the attainment of your aim, and know that without this all possessions and pursuits are dishonourable and evil.
For neither does wealth bring honour to the owner, if he be a coward; of such a one the wealth belongs to another, and not to himself. Nor does beauty and strength of body, when dwelling in a base and cowardly man, appear comely, but the reverse of comely, making the possessor more conspicuous, and manifesting forth his cowardice.
And all knowledge, when separated from justice and virtue, is seen to be cunning and not wisdom; wherefore make this your first and last and constant and all-absorbing aim, to exceed, if possible, not only us but all your ancestors in virtue; and know that to excel you in virtue only brings us shame, but that to be excelled by you is a source of happiness to us.
And we shall most likely be defeated, and you will most likely be victors in the contest, if you learn so to order your lives as not to abuse or waste the reputation of your ancestors, knowing that to a man who has any self-respect, nothing is more dishonourable than to be honoured, not for his own sake, but on account of the reputation of his ancestors.
The honour of parents is a fair and noble treasure to their posterity, but to have the use of a treasure of wealth and honour, and to leave none to your successors, because you have neither money nor reputation of your own, is alike base and dishonourable.
And if you follow our precepts you will be received by us as friends, when the hour of destiny brings you hither; but if you neglect our words and are disgraced in your lives, no one will welcome or receive you. This is the message which is to be delivered to our children.
- Rhetoric, it seems, is a producer of persuasion for belief, not for instruction in the matter of right and wrong … And so the rhetorician's business is not to instruct a law court or a public meeting in matters of right and wrong, but only to make them believe.
- Then the case is the same in all the other arts for the orator and his rhetoric; there is no need to know the truth of the actual matters, but one merely needs to have discovered some device of persuasion which will make one appear to those who do not know to know better than those who know.
- The orators — and the despots — have the least power in their cities … since they do nothing that they wish to do, practically speaking, though they do whatever they think to be best.
- It would be better for me … that multitudes of men should disagree with me rather than that I, being one, should be out of harmony with myself.
- Words spoken by Socrates, 482c
- Knowledge is the food of the soul; and we must take care, my friend, that the Sophist does not deceive us when he praises what he sells, like the dealers wholesale or retail who sell the food of the body; for they praise indiscriminately all their goods, without knowing what are really beneficial or hurtful.
- 313c, Benjamin Jowett, trans.
- The wisdom which knows what are and are not dangers is opposed to the ignorance of them
- 360d, Benjamin Jowett, trans.
- Sometimes misattributed as "Courage is knowing what to fear and what not to fear", this paraphrase is actually from Werner Jaeger's book Paideia: the Ideal of Greek Culture, Volume II, p. 122, where the footnote references Protagoras 360d5.
- Μίμησιν μὲν γὰρ δὴ καὶ ἀπεικασίαν τὰ παρὰ πάντων ἡμῶν ῥηθέντα χρεών που γενέσθαι.
- All that is said by any of us can only be imitation and representation.
- Περὶ θεῶν γάρ, ὦ Τίμαιε, λέγοντά τι πρὸς ἀνθρώπους δοκεῖν ἱκανῶς λέγειν ῥᾷον ἢ περὶ θνητῶν πρὸς ἡμᾶς. Ἡ γὰρ ἀπειρία καὶ σφόδρα ἄγνοια τῶν ἀκουόντων περὶ ὧν ἂν οὕτως ἔχωσιν πολλὴν εὐπορίαν παρέχεσθον τῷ μέλλοντι λέγειν τι περὶ αὐτῶν: περὶ δὲ δὴ θεῶν ἴσμεν ὡς ἔχομεν.
- I shall argue that to seem to speak well of the gods to men is far easier than to speak well of men to men: for the inexperience and utter ignorance of his hearers about any subject is a great assistance to him who has to speak of it, and we know how ignorant we are concerning the gods.
- There were many special laws affecting the several kings inscribed about the temples, but the most important was the following: They were not to take up arms against one another, and they were all to come to the rescue if any one in any of their cities attempted to overthrow the royal house; like their ancestors, they were to deliberate in common about war and other matters, giving the supremacy to the descendants of Atlas. And the king was not to have the power of life and death over any of his kinsmen unless he had the assent of the majority of the ten.
- Such was the vast power which the god settled in the lost island of Atlantis; and this he afterwards directed against our land for the following reasons, as tradition tells: For many generations, as long as the divine nature lasted in them, they were obedient to the laws, and well-affectioned towards the god, whose seed they were; for they possessed true and in every way great spirits, uniting gentleness with wisdom in the various chances of life, and in their intercourse with one another.
- They despised everything but virtue, caring little for their present state of life, and thinking lightly of the possession of gold and other property, which seemed only a burden to them; neither were they intoxicated by luxury; nor did wealth deprive them of their self-control; but they were sober, and saw clearly that all these goods are increased by virtue and friendship with one another, whereas by too great regard and respect for them, they are lost and friendship with them.
- By such reflections and by the continuance in them of a divine nature, the qualities which we have described grew and increased among them; but when the divine portion began to fade away, and became diluted too often and too much with the mortal admixture, and the human nature got the upper hand, they then, being unable to bear their fortune, behaved unseemly, and to him who had an eye to see grew visibly debased, for they were losing the fairest of their precious gifts; but to those who had no eye to see the true happiness, they appeared glorious and blessed at the very time when they were full of avarice and unrighteous power.
- Zeus, the god of gods, who rules according to law, and is able to see into such things, perceiving that an honourable race was in a woeful plight, and wanting to inflict punishment on them, that they might be chastened and improve, collected all the gods into their most holy habitation, which, being placed in the centre of the world, beholds all created things. And when he had called them together, he spake as follows— [** The rest of the Dialogue of Critias has been lost]
- ἐπ᾽ εὐτυχίᾳ τῇ μεγίστῃ παρὰ θεῶν ἡ τοιαύτη μανία [sc. ὁ ἔρως] δίδοται
- οἷον πνεῦμα ἤ τις ἠχὼ ἀπὸ λείων τε καὶ στερεῶν ἁλλομένη πάλιν ὅθεν ὡρμήθη φέρεται, οὕτω τὸ τοῦ κάλλους ῥεῦμα πάλιν εἰς τὸν καλὸν διὰ τῶν ὀμμάτων ἰόν
- As a breeze or an echo rebounds from the smooth rocks and returns whence it came, so does the stream of beauty, passing through the eyes which are the windows of the soul, come back to the beautiful one.
- Neither human wisdom nor divine inspiration can confer upon man any greater blessing than this [live a life of happiness and harmony here on earth].
- Socrates: The disgrace begins when a man writes not well, but badly.
Socrates: And what is well and what is badly—need we ask Lysias, or any other poet or orator, who ever wrote or will write either a political or any other work, in metre or out of metre, poet or prose writer, to teach us this?
- τοῖς μὲν οὖν τότε, ἅτε οὐκ οὖσι σοφοῖς ὥσπερ ὑμεῖς οἱ νέοι, ἀπέχρη δρυὸς καὶ πέτρας ἀκούειν ὑπ᾽ εὐηθείας, εἰ μόνον ἀληθῆ λέγοιεν: σοὶ δ᾽ ἴσως διαφέρει τίς ὁ λέγων καὶ ποδαπός.
- In those days, when people were not wise like you young people, they were content to listen to a tree or a rock in simple openness, just as long as it spoke the truth, but to you, perhaps, it makes a difference who is speaking and where he comes from.
- 275c, as translated by Joe Sachs in introduction to Aristotle's Physics: A Guided Study (2011), p. 1
- In those days, when people were not wise like you young people, they were content to listen to a tree or a rock in simple openness, just as long as it spoke the truth, but to you, perhaps, it makes a difference who is speaking and where he comes from.
- Oh dear Pan and all the other Gods of this place, grant that I may be beautiful inside. Let all my external possessions be in friendly harmony with what is within. May I consider the wise man rich. As for gold, let me have as much as a moderate man could bear and carry with him.
- 279 – a prayer of Socrates, as portrayed in the dialogue.
- Friends have all things in common.
- εὖ ἂν ἔχοι ... εἰ τοιοῦτον εἴη ἡ σοφία ὥστ᾽ ἐκ τοῦ πληρεστέρου εἰς τὸ κενώτερον ῥεῖν ἡμῶν...
- I only wish that wisdom were the kind of thing that flowed … from the vessel that was full to the one that was empty.
- Neither family, nor privilege, nor wealth, nor anything but Love can light that beacon which a man must steer by when he sets out to live the better life.
- 178c, M. Joyce, trans, Collected Dialogues of Plato (1961), p. 533
- The vicious lover is the follower of earthly Love who desires the body rather than the soul; his heart is set on what is mutable and must therefore be inconstant. And as soon as the body he loves begins to pass the first flower of its beauty, he "spreads his wings and flies away," giving the lie to all his pretty speeches and dishonoring his vows, whereas the lover whose heart is touched by moral beauties is constant all his life, for he has become one with what will never fade.
- 183e, M. Joyce, trans, Collected Dialogues of Plato (1961), p. 537
- For once touched by love, everyone becomes a poet
- And the true order of going, or being led by another, to the things of love, is to begin from the beauties of earth and mount upwards for the sake of that other beauty, using these steps only, and from one going on to two, and from two to all fair forms to fair practices, and from fair practices to fair notions, until from fair notions he arrives at the notion of absolute beauty, and at last knows what the essence of beauty is.
- Beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may.
- The beginning in every task is the chief thing.
- variant: The beginning is the most important part of any work. (Jowett translation)
- There is no one who ever acts honestly in the administration of states, nor any helper who will save any one who maintains the cause of the just.
- Since those who rule in the city do so because they own a lot, I suppose they're unwilling to enact laws to prevent young people who've had no discipline from spending and wasting their wealth, so that by making loans to them, secured by the young people's property, and then calling those loans in, they themselves become even richer and more honored.
- 555c, G. Grube and C. Reeve, trans., Plato: Complete Works (1997), p. 1166
- The inexperienced in wisdom and virtue, ever occupied with feasting and such, are carried downward, and there, as is fitting, they wander their whole life long, neither ever looking upward to the truth above them nor rising toward it, nor tasting pure and lasting pleasures. Like cattle, always looking downward with their heads bent toward the ground and the banquet tables, they feed, fatten, and fornicate. In order to increase their possessions they kick and butt with horns and hoofs of steel and kill each other, insatiable as they are.
- Then we may begin by assuming that there are three classes of men—lovers of wisdom, lovers of honor, lovers of gain?
- Jowett translation, p. 284
- μόγις δὲ τριβόμενα πρὸς ἄλληλα αὐτῶν ἕκαστα, ὀνόματα καὶ λόγοι ὄψεις τε καὶ αἰσθήσεις, ἐν εὐμενέσιν ἐλέγχοις ἐλεγχόμενα καὶ ἄνευ φθόνων ἐρωτήσεσιν καὶ ἀποκρίσεσιν χρωμένων, ἐξέλαμψε φρόνησις περὶ ἕκαστον καὶ νοῦς, συντείνων ὅτι μάλιστ᾽ εἰς δύναμιν ἀνθρωπίνην.
- After much effort, as names, definitions, sights, and other data of sense, are brought into contact and friction one with another, in the course of scrutiny and kindly testing by men who proceed by question and answer without ill will, with a sudden flash there shines forth understanding about every problem, and an intelligence whose efforts reach the furthest limits of human powers.
- Now in this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole island and several others, and over parts of the continent and, furthermore, the men of Atlantis had subjected the parts of Libya within the columns of Heracles as far as Egypt, and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia. This vast power, gathered into one, endeavored to subdue at a blow our country and yours and the whole of the region within the straits, and then, Solon, your country shone forth, in the excellence of her virtue and strength, among all mankind.
- Section 25b–c
- ἡδονήν, μέγιστον κακοῡ δέλεαρ
- Pleasure, a most mighty lure to evil.
- Section 69d (W. R. M. Lamb's translation); also rendered: pleasure, "the bait of sin" (W.A. Falconer's translation).
- τὸν μὲν οὖν ποιητὴν καὶ πατέρα τοῦδε τοῦ παντὸς εὑρεῖν τε ἔργον καὶ εὑρόντα εἰς πάντας ἀδύνατον λέγειν
- So when the universe was quickened with soul, God was well pleased; and he bethought him to make it yet more like its type. And whereas the type is eternal and nought that is created can be eternal, he devised for it a moving image of abiding eternity, which we call time. And he made days and months and years, which are portions of time; and past and future are forms of time, though we wrongly attribute them also to eternity. For of eternal Being we ought not to say 'it was', 'it shall be', but 'it is' alone: and in like manner we are wrong in saying 'it is' of sensible things which become and perish; for these are ever fleeting and changing, having their existence in time.
- And when the father who begat it perceived the created image of the eternal gods, that it had motion and life, he rejoiced and was well pleased; and he bethought him to make it yet more nearly like its pattern. Now whereas that is a living being eternally existent, even so he essayed to make this All the like to the best of his power. Now so it was that the nature of the ideal was eternal. But to bestow this attribute altogether upon a created thing was impossible; so he bethought him to make a moving image of eternity, and while he was ordering the universe he made of eternity that abides in unity an eternal image moving according to number, even that which we have named time. For whereas days and nights and months and years were not before the universe was created, he then devised the generation of them along with the fashioning of the universe. Now all these are portions of time, and was and shall be are forms of time that have come to be, although we wrongly ascribe them unawares to the eternal essence. For we say that it was and is and shall be, but in verity is alone belongs to it: and was and shall be it is meet should be applied only to Becoming which moves in time; for these are motions. But that which is ever changeless without motion must not become elder or younger in time, neither must it have become so in past nor be so in the future; nor has it to do with any attributes that Becoming attaches to the moving objects of sense: these have come into being as forms of time, which is the image of eternity and revolves according to number. Moreover we say that the become is the become, and the becoming is the becoming, and that which shall become is that which shall become, and not-being is not-being. In all this we speak incorrectly. But concerning these things the present were perchance not the right season to inquire particularly.
- 38b, as quoted by R. D. Archer-Hind, The Timaeus of Plato (1888)
- Time then has come into being along with the universe, that being generated together, together they may be dissolved, should a dissolution of them ever come to pass; and it was made after the pattern of the eternal nature, that it might be as like to it as was possible. For the pattern is existent for all eternity; but the copy has been and is and shall be throughout all time continually. So then this was the plan and intent of God for the generation of time; the sun and the moon and five other stars which have the name of planets have been created for defining and preserving the numbers of time. ...and a month is fulfilled when the moon, after completing her own orbit, overtakes the sun; a year, when the sun has completed his own course. But the courses of the others men have not taken into account, save a few out of many... they do not know that time arises from the wanderings of these, which are incalculable in multitude and marvellously intricate. None the less however can we observe that the perfect number of time fulfils the perfect year at the moment when the relative swiftnesses of all the eight revolutions accomplish their course together and reach their starting-point, being measured by the circle of the same and uniformly moving. In this way then and for these causes were created all such of the stars as wander through the heavens and turn about therein, in order that this universe may be most like to the perfect and ideal animal by its assimilation to the eternal being.
- [L]et us assign the figures that have come into being in our theory to fire and earth and water and air. To earth let us give the cubical form; for earth is least mobile of the four and most plastic of bodies: and that substance must possess this nature in the highest degree which has its bases most stable. Now of the triangles which we assumed as our starting-point that with equal sides is more stable than that with unequal; and of the surfaces composed of the two triangles the equilateral quadrangle necessarily is more stable than the equilateral triangle... Now among all these that which has the fewest bases must naturally in all respects be the most cutting and keen of all, and also the most nimble, seeing it is composed of the smallest number of similar parts... Let it be determined then... that the solid body which has taken the form of the pyramid [tetrahedron] is the element and seed of fire; and the second in order of generation let [octahedron] us say to be that of air, and the third [icosahedron] that of water. Now all these bodies we must conceive as being so small that each single body in the several kinds cannot for its smallness be seen by us at all; but when many are heaped together, their united mass is seen...
- When earth meets with fire and is dissolved by the keenness of it, it would drift about, whether it were dissolved in fire itself, or in some mass of air or water, until the parts of it meeting and again being united became earth once more; for it never could pass into any other kind. But when water is divided by fire or by air, it may be formed again and become one particle of fire and two of air: and the divisions of air may become for every particle broken up two particles of fire. And again when fire is caught in air or in waters or in earth, a little in a great bulk, moving amid a rushing body, and contending with it is vanquished and broken up, two particles of fire combine into one figure of air: and when air is vanquished and broken small, from two whole and one half particle one whole figure of water will be composed. Let us also reckon it once again thus: when any of the other kinds is intercepted in fire and is divided by it through the sharpness of its angles and its sides, if it forms into the shape of fire, it at once ceases from being divided...
- Original Greek, from Laches 196b: ἐμοὶ μὲν οὖν φαίνεται Νικίας οὐκ ἐθέλειν γενναίως ὁμολογεῖν ὅτι οὐδὲν λέγει, ἀλλὰ στρέφεται ἄνω καὶ κάτω ἐπικρυπτόμενος τὴν αὑτοῦ ἀπορίαν: καίτοι κἂν ἡμεῖς οἷοί τε ἦμεν ἄρτι ἐγώ τε καὶ σὺ τοιαῦτα στρέφεσθαι, εἰ ἐβουλόμεθα μὴ δοκεῖν ἐναντία ἡμῖν αὐτοῖς λέγειν. εἰ μὲν οὖν ἐν δικαστηρίῳ ἡμῖν οἱ λόγοι ἦσαν, εἶχεν ἄν τινα λόγον ταῦτα ποιεῖν: νῦν δὲ τί ἄν τις ἐν συνουσίᾳ τοιᾷδε μάτην κενοῖς λόγοις αὐτὸς αὑτὸν κοσμοῖ;
- Now it appears to me that Nicias is unwilling to admit honestly that he has no meaning at all, but dodges this way and that in the hope of concealing his own perplexity. Why, you and I could have dodged in the same way just now, if we wished to avoid the appearance of contradicting ourselves. Of course, if we were arguing in a law-court, there would be some reason for so doing; but here, in a meeting like this of ours, why waste time in adorning oneself with empty words?
- Also quoted in spurious variant forms such as: Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they would like to say something. (see below in section Disputed)
- οὐκ εἰσὶν οἱ παμπλούσιοι ἀγαθοί
- The very rich are not good.
- Book 5, 743c
- The very rich are not good.
- Moreover, there is a victory and defeat—the first and best of victories, the lowest and worst of defeats—which each man gains or sustains at the hands, not of another, but of himself; this shows that there is a war against ourselves going on within every one of us.
- Book I
- Sometimes paraphrased as "The first and best victory is to conquer self".
- Your pride has been too much for the pride of your admirers; they were numerous and high-spirited, but they have all run away, overpowered by your superior force of character; not one of them remains. And I want you to understand the reason why you have been too much for them. You think that you have no need of them or of any other man, for you have great possessions and lack nothing, beginning with the body, and ending with the soul.
- Socrates speaking to Alcibiades
- My love, Alcibiades, which I hardly like to confess, would long ago have passed away, as I flatter myself, if I saw you loving your good things, or thinking that you ought to pass life in the enjoyment of them.
- Socrates speaking to Alcibiades
- As you hope to prove your own great value to the state, and having proved it, to attain at once to absolute power, so do I indulge a hope that I shall be the supreme power over you, if I am able to prove my own great value to you.
- Socrates speaking to Alcibiades
- You want to know whether I can make a long speech, such as you are in the habit of hearing; but that is not my way.
- Socrates speaking to Alcibiades
- Socrates: The shoemaker, for example, uses a square tool, and a circular tool, and other tools for cutting?
- Alcibiades: Yes.
- Socrates: But the tool is not the same as the cutter and user of the tool?
- Alcibiades: Of course not. …
- Socrates: Then what shall we say of the shoemaker? Does he cut with his tools only or with his hands?
- Alcibiades: With his hands as well.
- Socrates: He uses his hands too?
- Alcibiades: Yes. …
- Socrates: And does not a man use the whole body?
- Alcibiades: Certainly.
- Socrates: And that which uses is different from that which is used?
- Alcibiades: True.
- Socrates: Then a man is not the same as his own body?
- Alcibiades: That is the inference.
- Socrates: What is he, then?
- Alcibiades: I cannot say.
- Socrates: Nay, you can say that he is the user of the body.
- Alcibiades: Yes.
- Socrates: And the user of the body is the soul?
- Alcibiades: Yes, the soul.
- [Aristotle] was the most eminent of all the pupils of Plato…. He seceded from Plato while he was still alive; so that they tell a story that [Plato] said, "Aristotle has kicked us off, just as chickens do their mother after they have been hatched."
- ’’The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers’’, Book V, "Life of Aristotle" paragraphs II and IV, as translated by C. D. Yonge
- Magic consists of, and is acquired by the worship of the gods.
- Democracy does not contain any force which will check the constant tendency to put more and more on the public payroll. The state is like a hive of bees in which the drones display, multiply and starve the workers so the idlers will consume the food and the workers will perish. 
Quotes about Plato
- Sorted chronologically
- Here, first of all men for pure justice famed,
And moral virtue, Aristocles lies;
And if there e'er has lived one truly wise,
This man was wiser still; too great for envy.
- The epigram on his tomb, with what Laërtius reported to be his original name, in: Diogenes Laërtius (tr. C. D. Yonge). The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, Book III, "Life of Plato", xxx..
- Let us not link ourselves with the vilifiers of Plato and the persecutors of Confucius. They were oppressed by citizens who were considered the pride of the country. Thus has the world raised its hand against the great Servitors. Be assured that the Brotherhood formed by Pythagoras appeared dangerous in the eyes of the city guard. Paracelsus was a target for mockery and malignance. Thomas Vaughan seemed to be an outcast, and few wished to meet with him. Thus was the reign of darkness manifested.
- Agni Yoga, Brotherhood (1937), 175.
- If one examines the reasons for the persecution of the best minds of different nations, and compares the reasons for the persecution and banishment of Pythagoras, Anaxagoras, Socrates, Plato, and others, one can observe that in each case the accusations and reasons for banishment were almost identical and unfounded. But in the following centuries full exoneration came, as if there had never been any defamation. It would be correct to conclude that such workers were too exalted for the consciousness of their contemporaries, and the sword of the executioner was ever ready to cut off a head held high.
- Agni Yoga, Supermundane, (1938), 222.
- Why write about Plato nearly 2400 years after his death? Don’t we understand him by now? We do and we don’t. But more important than whether humanity’s collective knowledge about Plato, built up over centuries, includes mastery of his systematic philosophy is whether our generation understands Plato at all.
- Danielle Allen, Why Plato Wrote (2010), Prologue: Why Think about Plato?
- I was very fortunate. I was curious and handicapped as a young person. And so I read everything I could get my hands on and I have a good memory. And I have a lot of energy. It's a blessing. So I continued to learn. I'm hungry for knowledge still. Not every young person is blessed or visited with that combination. So he or she desperately needs to go to a university and be introduced to some of the great ideas of humankind. One needs to worry over the question of "Why am I here, what am I doing here of all things in this place, this life?" One needs to know Aristotle and Plato. One needs it desperately. One must have Leopold and Pascal. Must! I mean desperately, if one is to be at ease anywhere. One should have read the African folk tale to see what the West African calls deep thinking. One must worry over ideas that if I come forward how far do we have to go before we meet? And when we meet will I go through you and you go through me and continue until we meet someone else? This is an African concept. Do we stay once we meet or do I actually go right through you and pass through you and continue on that road. Is that what life is? All this knowledge is available at universities and one is more likely to run into a great teacher at a university than one is at a pool hall. It just follows.
- 1986 interview in Conversations with Maya Angelou (1989)
- What is Plato, but Moses speaking in Attic Greek?
- Aristobulus of Paneas
- Note: The late antique Jewish philosophers considered Plato and Moses, thus Judaism, in concord. Christians inherited this idea and actively learnt Greek philosophers to develop their theoretical thinkings.
- Following Pythagoras, Plato, the great Grecian philosopher, taught the old-new doctrine of Rebirth. He taught that the souls of the dead must return to earth, where, in new lives, they must wear out the old earth deeds, receiving benefits for the worthy ones, and penalties for the unworthy ones, the soul profiting by these repeated experiences, and rising step by step toward the divine. Plato taught that the reincarnated soul has flashes of remembrance of its former lives, and also instincts and intuitions gained by former experiences. He classed innate ideas among these inherited experiences of former lives. It has been well said that "everything can be found in Plato," and therefore one who seeks for the ancient Grecian ideas concerning Reincarnation, and the problems of the soul, may find that which he seeks in the writings of the old sage and philosopher. Plato was the past master of the inner teachings concerning the soul, and all who have followed him have drawn freely from his great store of wisdom. His influence on the early Christian church was enormous, and in many forms it continues even unto this day. Many of the early Christian fathers taught that Plato was really one of the many forerunners of Christ, who had prepared the pagan world for the coming of the Master.
- In Phaedo, Plato describes the soul, and explains its immortality. He teaches that man has a material body which is subject to constant change, and subject to death and disintegration; and also an immaterial soul, unchangeable and indestructible, and akin to the divine. At death this soul was severed from its physical companion, and rose, purified, to the higher regions, where it rendered an account of itself, and had its future allotted to it. If it was found sufficiently untainted and unsullied by the mire of material life, it was considered fit to be admitted to the State of Bliss, which was described as Union with the Supreme Being, which latter is described as Spirit, eternal and omniscient. The base and very guilty souls undergo a period of punishment, or purgation, to the end that they may be purged and purified of the guilt, before being allowed to make another trial for perfection. The souls which were not sufficiently pure for the State of Bliss, nor yet so impure that they need the purging process, were returned to earth-life, there to take up new bodies, and endeavor to work out their salvation anew, to the end that they might in the future attain the Blissful State.
- Plato taught that in the Rebirth, the soul was generally unconscious of its previous lives, although it may have flashes of recollection... Plato taught that the immaterial part of man—the soul—was a complex thing, being composed of a number of differing, though related, elements. Highest in the hierarchy of the soul elements he placed the Spirit, which, he taught, comprised consciousness, intelligence, will, choice between good and evil, etc., and which was absolutely indestructible and immortal, and which had its seat in the head. Then came two other parts of the soul, which survived the dissolution of the body, but which were only comparatively immortal, that is, they were subject to later dissolution and disintegration. Of these semi-material elements, one was the seat of the affections, passions, etc., and was located in the heart; while the other, which was the seat of the sensual and lower desires, passions, etc., was located in the liver. These two mentioned lower elements were regarded as not possessed of reason, but still having certain powers of sensation, perception, and will.
- From Plato: the man who has an elevated mind and takes a view of all time and of all substance, dost thou suppose it possible for him to think that human life is anything great? It is not possible, he said. Such a man then will think that death also is no evil.
- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations (c. 161–180 CE) Book VII, #35
- This is a fine saying of Plato: That he who is discoursing about men should look also at earthly things as if he viewed them from some higher place; should look at them…a mixture of all things and an orderly combination of contraries.
- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations (c. 161–180 CE) Book VII, #48
- Compare Aristotle next to Plato. Plato had an influence second only to Aristotle, and the range of his philosophical interests was vast. Moreover, his philosophical talents — the capacity to see where a problem lies, the ability to tell a promising line of inquiry from a dead end, the gift for producing relevant arguments - were surely greater than those of Descartes. Here is reason enough to read Plato. But Plato's philosophical views are mostly false, and for the most part they are evidently false; his arguments are mostly bad, and for the most part they are evidently bad. Studying Plato will indeed make you realize how difficult philosophy is, and the study has a particular fascination and a particular pleasure. But it can also be a dispiriting business: for the most part, the student of Plato is preoccupied by a peculiar question - How and why did Plato come to entertain such exotic opinions, to advance such outre arguments?
- Jonathan Barnes, Introduction to The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle (1995)
- Justice is, for Plato, at once a part of human virtue and the bond, which joins man together in society. It is the identical quality that makes good and social. Justice is an order and duty of the parts of the soul, it is to the soul as health is to the body. Plato says that justice is not mere strength, but it is a harmonious strength. Justice is not the right of the stronger but the effective harmony of the whole. All moral conceptions revolve about the good of the whole-individual as well as social.
- Plato held that those souls which in a previous state of existence (antedating Athens) had obtained the clearest glimpses of eternal truth entered into the bodies of persons who became philosophers. Plato himself was a philosopher. The souls that had least contemplated divine truth animated the bodies of usurpers and despots. Dionysius I, who had threatened to decapitate the broad- browed philosopher, was a usurper and a despot. Plato, doubtless, was not the first to construct a system of philosophy that could be quoted against his enemies; certainly he was not the last.
- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)
- The whole question of phenomena rests on the correct comprehension of old philosophies. Whither, then, should we turn, in our perplexity, but to the ancient sages, since, on the pretext of superstition, we are refused an explanation by the modern? Let us ask them what they know of genuine science and religion; not in the matter of mere details, but in all the broad conception of these twin truths — so strong in their unity, so weak when divided. Besides, we may find our profit in comparing this boasted modern science with ancient ignorance; this improved modern theology with the "Secret doctrines" of the ancient universal religion. Perhaps we may thus discover a neutral ground whence we can reach and profit by both. It is the Platonic philosophy, the most elaborate compend of the abstruse systems of old India, that can alone afford us this middle ground.
- Although twenty-two and a quarter centuries have elapsed since the death of Plato, the great minds of the world are still occupied with his writings. He was, in the fullest sense of the word, the world's interpreter. And the greatest philosopher of the pre-Christian era mirrored faithfully in his works the spiritualism of the Vedic philosophers who lived thousands of years before himself, and its metaphysical expression. Vyasa, Djeminy, Kapila, Vrihaspati, Sumati, and so many others, will be found to have transmitted their indelible imprint through the intervening centuries upon Plato and his school. Thus is warranted the inference that to Plato and the ancient Hindu sages was alike revealed the same wisdom. So surviving the shock of time, what can this wisdom be but divine and eternal?
- H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology, Vol. I, Before the Veil, xi, (1877)
- Plato taught justice as subsisting in the soul of its possessor and his greatest good. "Men, in proportion to their intellect, have admitted his transcendent claims." Yet his commentators, almost with one consent, shrink from every passage which implies that his metaphysics are based on a solid foundation, and not on ideal conceptions.
- H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology, Vol. I, Before the Veil, xi, (1877)
- Plato could not accept a philosophy destitute of spiritual aspirations; the two were at one with him. For the old Grecian sage there was a single object of attainment: real knowledge. He considered those only to be genuine philosophers, or students of truth, who possess the knowledge of the really-existing, in opposition to the mere seeming; of the always-existing, in opposition to the transitory; and of that which exists permanently, in opposition to that which waxes, wanes, and is developed and destroyed alternately.
- H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology, Vol. I, Before the Veil, xii, (1877)
- The philosophy of Plato, we are assured by Porphyry, of the Neoplatonic School was taught and illustrated in the mysteries. Many have questioned and even denied this; and Lobeck, in his Aglaophomus, has gone to the extreme of representing the sacred orgies as little more than an empty show to captivate the imagination. As though Athens and Greece would for twenty centuries and more have repaired every fifth year to Eleusis to witness a solemn religious farce! Augustine, the papa-bishop of Hippo, has resolved such assertions. He declares that the doctrines of the Alexandrian Platonists were the original esoteric doctrines of the first followers of Plato, and describes Plotinus as a Plato resuscitated. He also explains the motives of the great philosopher for veiling the interior sense of what he taught.
- H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology, Vol. I, Before the Veil, xii, (1877)
- The followers of Plato generally adhered strictly to his psychological theories. Several, however, like Xenocrates, ventured into bolder speculations. Speusippus, the nephew and successor of the great philosopher, was the author of the Numerical Analysis, a treatise on the Pythagorean numbers. Some of his speculations are not found in the written Dialogues; but as he was a listener to the unwritten lectures of Plato, the judgment of Enfield is doubtless correct, that he did not differ from his master. He was evidently, though not named, the antagonist whom Aristotle criticised, when professing to cite the argument of Plato against the doctrine of Pythagoras, that all things were in themselves numbers, or rather, inseparable from the idea of numbers. He especially endeavored to show that the Platonic doctrine of ideas differed essentially from the Pythagorean, in that it presupposed numbers and magnitudes to exist apart from things. He also asserted that Plato taught that there could be no real knowledge, if the object of that knowledge was not carried beyond or above the sensible.
- Aristotle was no trustworthy witness. He misrepresented Plato, and he almost caricatured the doctrines of Pythagoras. There is a canon of interpretation, which should guide us in our examinations of every philosophical opinion: "The human mind has, under the necessary operation of its own laws, been compelled to entertain the same fundamental ideas, and the human heart to cherish the same feelings in all ages." It is certain that Pythagoras awakened the deepest intellectual sympathy of his age, and that his doctrines exerted a powerful influence upon the mind of Plato. His cardinal idea was that there existed a permanent principle of unity beneath the forms, changes, and other phenomena of the universe. Aristotle asserted that he taught that "numbers are the first principles of all entities." Ritter has expressed the opinion that the formula of Pythagoras should be taken symbolically, which is doubtless correct. Aristotle goes on to associate these numbers with the "forms" and "ideas" of Plato. He even declares that Plato said: "forms are numbers," and that "ideas are substantial existences — real beings." Yet Plato did not so teach. He declared that the final cause was the Supreme Goodness... "Ideas are objects of pure conception for the human reason, and they are attributes of the Divine Reason." Nor did he ever say that "forms are numbers." What he did say What he did say may be found in the Timaeus: "God formed things as they first arose according to forms and numbers." (Cousin: "History of Philosophy," I., ix.)
- If the Pythagorean metempsychosis should be thoroughly explained and compared with the modern theory of evolution, it would be found to supply every "missing link" in the chain of the latter. But who of our scientists would consent to lose his precious time over the vagaries of the ancients. Notwithstanding proofs to the contrary, they not only deny that the nations of the archaic periods, but even the ancient philosophers had any positive knowledge of the Heliocentric system. The "Venerable Bedes," the Augustines and Lactantii appear to have smothered, with their dogmatic ignorance, all faith in the more ancient theologists of the pre-Christian centuries. But now philology and a closer acquaintance with Sanskrit literature have partially enabled us to vindicate them from these unmerited imputations. In the Vedas, for instance, we find positive proof that so long ago as 2000 B.C., the Hindu sages and scholars must have been acquainted with the rotundity of our globe and the Heliocentric system. Hence, Pythagoras and Plato knew well this astronomical truth; for Pythagoras obtained his knowledge in India, or from men who had been there, and Plato faithfully echoed his teachings.
- The great philosopher Plato wrote an allegory in the last book of his Republic about souls making themselves ready to come back to earth again. Each one, he said, had a choice as to when and where to be born, but that choice must always be in accord with the soul's capacities and needs. So it is really a matter of being drawn naturally to the environment best suited to the soul, as provided by parents, family, and nation.
It would, however, be a mistake to think that one who held reincarnation to be true would therefore judge men by their environments - a pleasant environment meaning that they were "good souls," and an unpleasant one meaning that they were "bad souls." The greatest of men often take upon themselves the most difficult and apparently unrewarding tasks for reasons which they themselves must understand much more clearly than can those around them. So it might be for souls who are resting between births: some souls might be drawn to a very difficult family situation and take up such a burden, knowingly.
If there is a soul in man, assuredly it does not think in terms of physical wealth or personal ambition, nor care about what the short-sighted part of man's nature calls success or failure.
- Plato. An Initiate into the Mysteries and the greatest Greek philosopher, whose writings are known the world over. He was the pupil of Socrates and the teacher of Aristotle. He flourished over 400 years before our era.
- The classifications of 'early' and 'middle-period' dialogues rest squarely on the interpretative theses concerning the progress of Plato's work, philosophically and literarily, outlined above. As such, they are an unsuitable basis for bringing anyone to the reading of these works. To use them in that way is to announce in advance the results of a certain interpretation of the dialogues and to canonize that interpretation under the guise of a presumably objective order of composition—when in fact no such order is objectively known. And it thereby risks prejudicing an unwary reader against the fresh, individual reading that these works demand. For these reasons, I urge readers not to undertake the study of Plato’s works holding in mind the customary chronological groupings of 'early', 'middle', and 'late' dialogues. It is safe to recognize only the group of six late dialogues. Even for these, it is better to relegate thoughts about chronology to the secondary position they deserve and to concentrate on the literary and philosophical content of the works, taken on their own and in relation to the others.
- John M. Cooper, Introduction to Plato's Complete Works (1996)
- Plato's dialogues are writings—books—too; like all books, once written, their words are fixed for all time and all readers. But because they demand that the reader interpret and reinterpret the meaning of what is said, going ever deeper in their own questioning and their own understanding both of the writings themselves and of the truth about the subjects addressed in them, these writings speak in a unique new way to the reader. It may remain true that only a mind, and no book, can contain the knowledge of anything important. But a Platonic dialogue makes a unique claim to do what a book can do to engage a person effectively in the right sort of search for truth.
- John M. Cooper, Introduction to Plato's Complete Works (1996)
- My suggested approach to the reading of Plato pays full respect to this renunciation. But—with the reservations already noted about Plato's openness and experimental spirit—it also accepts the overwhelming impression, not just of Antiochus, but of every modern reader of at least many of his dialogues, that Platonism nonetheless constitutes a systematic body of 'philosophical doctrine'—about the soul and its immortality; the nature of human happiness and its dependence on the perfection of mind and character that comes through the virtues of wisdom, justice, temperance, and courage; the eternal and unaltering Forms whose natures structure our physical world and the world of decent human relations within it; the nature of love and the subservience of love in its genuine form to a vision of that eternal realm. These and many other substantive philosophical ideas to be explored in Plato’s dialogues are his permanent contribution to our Western philosophical culture. But we would fail to heed his own warnings if we did not explore these in a spirit of open-ended inquiry, seeking to expand and deepen our own understandings as we interrogate his texts, and ourselves through them.
- John M. Cooper, Introduction to Plato's Complete Works (1996)
- Plato (2.4) 2 4 7 6 7 (His point in evolution & rays)
- For the Greeks who believed in the immortality of the soul it may have been harder to accept the Christian preaching of the resurrection than it was for others. … The teaching of the great philosophers Socrates and Plato can in no way be brought into consonance [agreement] with that of the New Testament.
- Oscar Cullmann, The Watchtower magazine, 1 July 1998.
- Despite the vociferous claims of the Platonists and Neoplatonists, Plato was not a mathematician. To Plato and his followers mathematics was largely a means to an end... they viewed the technical aspects of mathematics as a mere device for sharpening one's wits, or at most a course of training peparatory to handling the larger issued of philosophy. This is reflected in the very name "mathematics,"... a course of studies or... a curriculum. ...in the Dialogues... such topics as harmony, triangular numbers, figurate numbers... which we view today as more or less irrelevant, if not trivial, were taken up at length. ...the guiding motive behind the... Pythagoreans and Platonists was... metaphysical ...which for the nonprofessional have all the earmarks of the occult.
- Tobias Dantzig, The Bequest of the Greeks (1955)
- His considered answer to what God was doing before creating the universe was "the world was made with time and not in time." Augustine's God is a being who transcends time, a being located outside time altogether and responsible for creating time as well as space and matter. Thus Augustine skillfully avoided the problem of why the creation happened at that moment rather than some earlier moment. There were no earlier moments. Identical reasoning applies to the scientific problem. If the universe originated in time, then it cannot have been caused by any physical process that has a finite probability, because if it did, then the event would already have happened, an infinite time ago. ...He wasn't even the first person to hit on the idea of time coming into being with the universe. Plato said much the same thing hundreds of years earlier. The history of philosophy is so rich and diverse that it would be astonishing if theories emerging from science hadn't been foreshadowed in some vague way by somebody.
- Paul Davies, Cosmic Jackpot: Why Our Universe is Just Right for Life (2007)
- Plato had defined Man as an animal, biped and featherless, and was applauded. Diogenes plucked a fowl and brought it into the lecture-room with the words, "Behold Plato's man!"
- He was the first author who wrote treatises in the form of dialogues … And as he argued against almost every one who had lived before his time, it is often asked why he has never mentioned Democritus.
- Xenophon, too, does not appear to have been very friendlily disposed towards him: and accordingly they have, as if in rivalry of one another, both written books with the same title, the Banquet, the Defence of Socrates, Moral Reminiscences. Then, too, the one wrote the Cyropaedia and the other a book on Politics ; and Plato in his Laws says, that the Cyropaedia is a mere romance, for that Cyrus was not such a person as he is described in that book. And though they both speak so much of Socrates, neither of them ever mentions the other, except that Xenophon once speaks of Plato in the third book of his Reminiscences.
- Diogenes Laërtius (tr. C. D. Yonge). The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, Book III, "Life of Plato", xxiv..
- What Plato lacks above all, perhaps, is the Heracleitean sense of flux and change; he is too anxious to have the moving picture of this world become a fixed and still tableau. He loves order exclusively, like any timid philosopher; he has been frightened by the democratic turbulence of Athens into an extreme neglect of individual values; he arranges men in classes like an entomologist classifying flies; and he is not averse to using priestly humbug to secure his ends. His state is static; it might easily become an old-fogey society, ruled by inflexible octogenarians hostile to invention and jealous of change. It is mere science without art; it exalts order, so dear to the scientific mind, and quite neglects that liberty which is the soul of art; it worships the name of beauty, but exiles the artists who alone can make beauty or point it out. It is a Sparta or a Prussia, not an ideal state.
- Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World's Greatest Philosophers (1926), reprinted in Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books, 1991.
- And now that these unpleasant necessities are candidly written down, it remains to do willing homage to the power and profundity of Plato’s conception. Essentially he is right–is he not?–what this world needs is to be ruled by its wisest men. It is our business to adapt his thought to our own times and today we must take democracy for granted: we cannot limit the suffrage as Plato proposed; but we can put restrictions on the holding of office, and in this way secure that mixture of democracy and aristocracy which Plato seems to have in mind. We may accept without quarrel his contention that statesmen should be as specifically and thoroughly trained as physicians; we might establish departments of political science and administration in our universities; and when these departments have begun to function adequately we might make men ineligible for nomination to political office unless they were graduates of such political schools. We might even make every man eligible for an office who had been trained for it, and thereby eliminate entirely that complex system of nominations in which the corruption of our democracy has its seat; let the electorate choose any man who, properly trained and qualified, announces himself as a candidate. In this way democratic choice would be immeasurably wider than now, when Tweedledum and Tweedledee stage their quadrennial show and sham. Only one amendment would be required to make quite democratic this plan for the restriction of office to graduates in administrative technique; and that would be such equality of educational opportunity as would open to all men and women, irrespective of the means of their parents, the road to university training and political advancement. It would be very simple to have and counties and states offer scholarships to all graduates of grammar school, high school and who had shown. a certain standard’ of ability, and whose parents were financially unable to see them through the next stage of the educational process. That would be a democracy worthy of the name.
- Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World's Greatest Philosophers (1926), reprinted in Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books, 1991.
- Plato was synthesis of Europe and Asia, and a decidedly Oriental element pervades his philosophy, giving it a sunrise color.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson. Quoted in Abhedananda, Swami India and her people, a study in the social. political, educational and religious conditians of India. [6th ed.] Calcutta, Ramakrishna Vedanta Math 
- He filled his writings with mathematical discoveries, and exhibited on every occasion the remarkable connection between mathematics and philosophy.
- But it's a false argument, because it assumes somehow that government is a way in which you put unselfish and ungreedy men in charge of selfish and greedy men. But government is an institution whereby the people who have the greatest drive to get power over their fellow men, get in a position of controlling them. Look at the record of government. Where are these philosopher kings that Plato supposedly was trying to develop?
- Plato's most enduring influence on science was his advice to approach the study of nature as an exercise in geometry. Through this "geometrization of nature," which could best be done in disciplines that could be suitably idealized, such as astronomy, one can formulate laws that are as "certain" as those in geometry. As Plato has Socrates remark in the Republic: "Let's study astronomy by means of problems, as we do in geometry, and leave the things in the sky alone."
- Note that Plato's influence in this regard, may be traced to the Pythagoreans.
- John Freely, Before Galileo: The Birth of Modern Science in Medieval Europe (2012)
- I would not do so much wrong to Plato, but yet I may truly say with Aristotle, that he too much lost himself in, and too much doted upon that, his Geometry: for that in conclusion these Mathematical subtilties, Salviatus, are true in abstract, but applied to sensible and Physical matter, they hold not good. For the Mathematicians will very well demonstrate for example, that Sphæra tangit planum in puncto [the sphere touches the plane at the point]; a position like to that in dispute, but when one cometh to the matter, things succeed quite another way. And so I may say of these angles of contact, and these proportions; which all evaporate into Air, when they are applied to things material and sensible.
- We speak of a clock as an instrument for measuring time. In Plato and Aristotle's scheme of things, time (χρόνος) is itself a kind of clock, not just the passage of events, but a standard by which that passage can be measured. At one point Plato notes ...'men scarcely realize that the journeyings of these planets are time.' ...time is to be actually identified with the planetary motions.
- W. K. C. Guthrie, A History of Greek Philosophy Vol. 1, "The Earlier Presocratics and the Pythagoreans" (1962)
- With regard to this question modern physics takes a definite stand against the materialism of Democritus and for Plato and the Pythagoreans. The elementary particles are certainly not eternal and indestructible units of matter, they can actually be transformed into each other. … The elementary particles in Plato's Timaeus are finally not substance but mathematical forms.
- Werner Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy (1958)
- In Plato and to a lesser extent in Aristotle we read that practical concerns are low and vulgar. It follows that business, as an inherently practical enterprise, is hardly worthy of esteem. Given the place of Plato and Aristotle on the intellectual landscape, we have a partial explanation of the disdain that members of the cultural elite have always exhibited toward business.
- Stephen Hicks (2003). "Ayn Rand and Contemporary Business Ethics." Journal of Accounting, Ethics & Public Policy, Volume 3, Number 1 (Winter 2003), pp. 1–26
- Plato was aware that divination is something inferior that pertains to the non-rational soul. The main point is that they [clairvoyants] name their illnesses, especially chronic nervous disorders that are not yet fully developed. Also, rheumatism, toothaches, yield to magnetism. Remarkably, it seems to have an effect on the maladies of menstruation. The somnambulists especially know how to specify these disorders and it is easy to admit that they discover deficiencies. They describe these conditions, but in an entirely ordinary manner, not in the manner of one who understands anatomy. Then they indicate the remedy for their disease.
- Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Spirit, 1827–8
- Friendship in the Greek tradition, in the Roman tradition, in the old tradition, was always viewed as the highest point which virtue can reach. Virtue, meaning here, "the habitual facility of doing the good thing," which is fostered by what the Greeks called politaea, political life, community life. I know it was a political life in which I wouldn't have liked to participate, with the slaves around and with the women excluded, but I still have to go to Plato or to Cicero. They conceived of friendship as a supreme flowering, of the interaction which happens in a good political society.
- Ivan Illich, We the People interview (1996)
- The light dove cleaving in free flight the thin air, whose resistance it feels, might imagine that her movements would be far more free and rapid in airless space. Just in the same way did Plato, abandoning the world of sense because of the narrow limits it sets to the understanding, venture upon the wings of ideas beyond it, into the void space of pure intellect. He did not reflect that he made no real progress by all his efforts; for he met with no resistance which might serve him for a support, as it were, whereon to rest, and on which he might apply his powers, in order to let the intellect acquire momentum for its progress. It is, indeed, the common fate of human reason in speculation, to finish the imposing edifice of thought as rapidly as possible, and then, for the first time to begin to examine whether the foundation is a solid one or no.
- Until the eleventh century, when the thinking of Aristotle reached Western Europe, men had believed along with Plato that man had three ways of knowing:
1. He knew by sense experience.
2. He knew by reason.
3. And he knew by what Plato called Divine madness, or a direct contact with nonphysical reality; myths were one result of this last kind of knowing.
- Morton Kelsey, Myth, History & Faith: The Mysteries of Christian Myth & Imagination (1974)
- Plato was right: ideas rule the world, and, as men's minds will receive new ideas, laying aside the old and effete, the world will advance: mighty revolutions will spring from them; creeds and even powers will crumble before their onward march crushed by the irresistible force. It will be just as impossible to resist their influx, when the time comes, as to stay the progress of the tide. But all this will come gradually...
- Plato and Confucius were fifth round men and our Lord a sixth round man (the mystery of his avatar is spoken of in my forthcoming letter) not even Gautama Buddha's son was anything but a fourth round man.
- Fasting, meditation, chastity of thought, word, and deed; silence for certain periods of time to enable nature herself to speak to him who comes to her for information; government of the animal passions and impulses; utter unselfishness of intention, the use of certain incense and fumigations for physiological purposes, have been published as the means since the days of Plato and lamblichus in the West, and since the far earlier times of our Indian Rishis...
- In one place revolutionary philosophers went on strike because they got a reading list including Plato, Descartes and other bourgeois idiots, instead of relevant great philosophers like Che Guevara and Mao.
- Leszek Kolakowski, commenting on leftist campus radicals of the 1960s, in "My Correct Views on Everything: A Rejoinder to Edward Thompson's 'Open Letter to Leszek Kolakowski'", Socialist Register (1974)
- One profound lesson Plato teachers, albeit not by design, is that Plato himself, considered by many the greatest of all philosophers, could not construct the perfect society. He sought to avoid the disintegration of society and the onset of tyranny, but his solution was a totalitarian City destructive of human nature. Regrettably, Plato provided a philosophical and intellectual brew for a utopian society that would influence tyrannies for centuries to come.
- Plato was the most artistic of philosophers, and, among men of great eminence, one of the worst of investigators; not, assuredly, from deficient power, but from his disastrous misconception of Method. In spite of a certain loitering diffuseness of style, and an oppressive circumstantiality in refuting trivial considerations, no one before Plato, no one since, has managed the extremely difficult art of dramatic debate on philosophic topics with such commanding success; and in consequence of this fascinating art, aided by the union of dialectical subtlety with mystical yearnings, a subtlety which seems to give a hope to mysticism, and a warrant to transcendentalism, no one has exercised a more pernicious influence on culture. The charm of the artist has immortalized the vices of the thinker.
- It is not in Science only that Plato is misled by his Method. The same confidence in deduction from unverified premisses vitiates his teaching in every other department of inquiry, moral and political; but in Science his errors are more patent, because his statements admit of a readier, and less equivocal, confrontation with fact.
- Aristotle feels this so strongly with reference to Plato's external, as contrasted with his own immanent, teleology that, forgetting his own concession elsewhere, he once roundly asserts that the final cause is 'not touched by the Ideas'. Again, what is the relation of the Idea of the Good to other ends (Ideas) or to the special functions of things? Efficient causes Plato attributes at one time to Idea, at another to soul: which is his real doctrine? and what is the relation of Idea to soul? Aristotle, therefore, while willing to admit that Plato made 'stammering' efforts in the direction of efficient and final causes, was perfectly justified in thinking that he had not 'fully worked them out'.
- James McLean Watson, Aristotle's criticisms of Plato (1909)
- These ideas of planning [by dictators and would-be dictators] go back to Plato’s treatise on the form of the commonwealth. Plato was very outspoken. He planned a system ruled exclusively by philosophers. He wanted to eliminate all individual rights and decisions. Nobody should go anywhere, rest, sleep, eat, drink, wash, unless he was told to do so. Plato wanted to reduce persons to the status of pawns in his plan. What is needed is a dictator who appoints a philosopher as a kind of prime minister or president of the central board of production management. The program of all such consistent socialists—Plato and Hitler, for instance—planned also for the production of future socialists, the breeding and education of future members of society.
During the 2300 years since Plato, very little opposition has been registered to his ideas. Not even by Kant. The psychological bias in favor of socialism must be taken into consideration in discussing Marxian ideas. This is not limited to those who call themselves Marxian.
- Pythagoras and Plato and Boehme and Paracelsus and Thomas Vaughan were men who bore their lamps amidst their fellowmen in life under a hail of nonunderstanding and abuse. Anyone could approach them, but only a few were able to discern the superearthly radiance behind the earthly face. It is possible to name great Servitors of East and West, North and South. It is possible to peruse their biographies; yet everywhere we feel that the superearthly radiance appears rarely in the course of centuries. One should learn from reality. Let us not link ourselves with the vilifiers of Plato and the persecutors of Confucius. They were oppressed by citizens who were considered the pride of the country. Thus has the world raised its hand against the great Servitors. (175)
- Morya, Brotherhood (1937)
Amicus Plato—amicus Aristotles—magis amica veritas
(Plato is my friend—Aristotle is my friend—but my greatest friend is truth.)
- Isaac Newton, Quaestiones Quaedam Philosophicae (Certain Philosophical Questions) (c. 1664)
- It is no idle question to wonder whether Plato, if he had stayed free of the Socratic spell, might not have found an even higher type of the philosophical man, now lost to us forever.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits (1878)
- Plato is boring.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols (1888)
- Even Plato seems to me to be in all main points only a Brahmin’s good pupil.
- The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.
- Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (1929), Pt. II, ch. 1, sec. 1
- [I]n my early manhood I learned to respect ignorance, to regard ignorance as an object of legitimate interest and reflection; and as I say, a sort of unconsidered preparation for this attitude of mind appears to have run back almost to my infancy. Moreover, when I got around to read Plato, I found that he reinforced and copper-fastened the notion which experience had already rather forcibly suggested, that direct attempts to overcome and enlighten ignorance are a doubtful venture; the notion that it is impossible, as one of my friends puts it, to tell anybody anything which in a very real sense he does not already know. It seemed extraordinary that this should be so. Nevertheless, there it was; and apparently no one could give,—certainly no one, not even Plato, did give,—any more intelligent and satisfying reason why it should be so than I could give; and I could give none at all.
- Albert Jay Nock, Memoirs of a Superflous Man (NY: Harper and Brothers, 1943), pp. 16–17
- A man may read Plato without clearly comprehending much of what he means. He cannot read him without becoming, in some degree, a changed man.
- Coventry Patmore, The Rod, the Root, and the Flower (London: George Bell and Sons, 1895), Knowledge and Science XXV, p. 80
- Modern man, seeking a middle position in the evaluation of sense impression and thought, can, following Plato, interpret the process of understanding nature as a correspondence, that is, a coming into congruence of pre-existing images of the human psyche with external objects and their behaviour. Modern man, of course, unlike Plato, looks on the pre-existent original images also as not invariable, but as relative to the development of a conscious point of view, so that the word "dialectic" which Plato is fond of using may be applied to the process of development of human knowledge.
- Plato is the essential Buddha-seeker who appears again and again in each generation, moving onward and upward toward the "one." Aristotle is the eternal motorcycle mechanic who prefers the "many."
- Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974)
Socrates had only one worthy successor, his old friend Antisthenes, the last of the Great Generation. Plato, his most gifted disciple, was soon to prove the least faithful. He betrayed Socrates, just as his uncles had done. These, besides betraying Socrates, had also tried to implicate him in their terrorist acts, but they did not succeed, since he resisted. Plato tried to implicate Socrates in his grandiose attempt to construct the theory of the arrested society ; and he had no difficulty in succeeding, for Socrates was dead.
I know of course that this judgement will seem outrageously harsh, even to those who arc critical of Plato . But if we look upon the Apology and the Crito as Socrates' last will, and if we compare these testaments of his old age with Plato's testament, the Laws, then it is difficult to judge otherwise. Socrates had been condemned, but his death was not intended by the initiators of the trial. Plato's Laws remedy this lack of intention. Here he elaborates coolly and carefully the theory of inquisition. Free thought, criticism of political institutions, teaching new ideas to the young, attempts to introduce new religious practices or even opinions, are all pronounced capital crimes. In Plato's state, Socrates might have never been given the opportunity of defending himself publicly ; he would have been handed over to the secret Nocturnal Council for the purpose of 'attending' to his diseased soul, and finally for punishing it.
I cannot doubt the fact of Plato's betrayal, nor that his use of Socrates as the main speaker of the Republic was the most successful attempt to implicate him. But it is another question whether this attempt was conscious.
Socrates had refused to compromise his personal integrity. Plato, with all his uncompromising canvas-cleaning, was led along a path on which he compromised his integrity with every step he took. He was forced to combat free thought and the pursuit of truth. He was led to defend lying, political miracles, tabooistic superstition, the suppression of truth, and ultimately, brutal violence. …
The lesson which we thus should learn from Plato is the exact opposite of what he tries to teach us. It is a lesson which must not be forgotten. Excellent as Plato's sociological diagnosis was, his own development proves that the therapy he recommended is worse than the evil he tried to combat.
- It has always been correct to praise Plato, but not to understand him.
- Bertrand Russell; History of Western Philosophy, Chapter XIII: The Sources of Plato's Opinions
- Plato certainly shows something significant. It is on average better to be just. The unjust man must always fear that others will discover his in justices and defend themselves against him, and is exposed to anxieties the just man escapes.
- Alan Ryan, Introduction in Justice (1993) edited by Alan Ryan
- Knowing why Plato took the short way he did is important, because philosophers, political theorists, and many rulers have been tempted to follow him; but, as Aristotle complained, Plato does not so much purify politics as purify it to death.
- Alan Ryan, On Politics: A History of Political Thought: From Herodotus to the Present (2012), Ch. 2 : Plato and Antipolitics
- But why had science lost its way in the first place? What appeal could these teachings of Pythagoras and Plato have had for their contemporaries? They provided, I believe, an intellectually respectable justification for a corrupt social order. The mercantile tradition that had led to Ionian science also led to a slave economy. You could get richer if you owned a lot of slaves. Athens in the time of Plato and Aristotle had a vast slave population. All that brave Athenian talk about democracy applied only to a privileged few.
- Carl Sagan, "Cosmos"
- We can imagine that the Academy, which could be attended only by men of leisure, was a cradle of discontent. The author of the Laws was a disgruntled old man, full of political rancor, fearing and hating the crowd and above all their demagogues; his prejudices had crystallized and he had become an old doctrinaire, unable to see anything but the reflections of his own personality and to hear anything but the echoes of his own thoughts. The worst of it was that he, a noble Athenian, admired the very Spartans who had defeated and humiliated his fatherland. Plato was witnessing a social revolution (even as we are) and he could not bear it at all. His main concern was: how could one stop it.
- George Sarton, A History of Science (1952), Vol. 1 p. 409
- The New Deal gave us a proliferation of alphabetized federal agencies to do what Plato envisioned could be done, namely to plan for and direct the course of economic systems.
- Philosophers from Plato to John Dewey have been keenly aware that good or bad education is primarily a matter of good or bad philosophy.
- Christina Hoff Sommers, "Feminism and Resentment", Reason Papers, No. 18, Fall 1993, pp. 1–15
- [A] eugenist does not have to be a Darwinian. Plato, for example, was a eugenist thousands of years before Darwinism was thought of.
- Plato's discovery went as follows.
- It is possible for something to be a certain way and for something else to be the same way.
- There are universals.
- (Tumultuous applause, which lasts, despite occasional subsidences, 2,400 years.)[…]
- 'Universals' is simply the name philosophers give to the ways in which two or more things can be the same.
- David Stove (1995). Darwinian Fairytales: Selfish Genes, Errors of Heredity, and Other Fables of Evolution, ISBN 185972 306 3
- Plato wove together separate threads from three earlier philosophers: the mathematics of Pythagoras, the atomism of Demokritos, and the four elements of Empedokles. As happens with the best scientific syntheses, the resulting theory transformed the components from which it started, and was intellectually more powerful than any of them. For these geometrical atoms differed from those of Demokritos in having a limited number of definite shapes, governed by precise mathematical theorems; and furthermore, they were no longer immutable, but could change into one another in ways that could be related back to their geometrical compositions. As a result, Plato could envisage transmutations of a kind that Demokritos did not allow for, and so introduced a new, quantitative element into the analysis of material change. ...For the regular solids can all be built up from two simple triangles... the fundamental elements of his theory.
- The Platonic-Aristotelian problem seems to me as well to be the inevitable starting-point. I see it in the following way: at the center of Platonic political thinking stand the fundamental experiences, which are tied together with the person and death of Socrates—catharsis through consciousness of death and the enthusiasm of eros both pave the way for the right ordering of the soul (Dike). The theoretical political-ethical achievement seems secondary to these fundamental experiences. Only when the fundamental order of the soul is defined, can the field of social relations determined by it be systematically ordered. In this sense, I understand the theoretical-scientific achievement of Plato as founded in myth (which he conveys as the representation of the fundamental experiences in the Phaedo, Symposium, the Republic and the Laws). The problem is thereby complicated in that Plato orients his idea of science to the nonmythical, person-peripheral sphere of logic, mathematics, and dialectic.
- Throughout the Middle Ages the Timaeus... shaped the scientific imagination of the West, and together with Genesis challenged medieval thinkers to fashion their own "likely story" of the world's beginnings.
- Arthur Zajonc, Catching the Light: The Entwined History of Light and Mind (1993)
Isis Unveiled: A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology, H.P. Blavatsky, (1877)
- The whole question of phenomena rests on the correct comprehension of old philosophies. Whither, then, should we turn, in our perplexity, but to the ancient sages, since, on the pretext of superstition, we are refused an explanation by the modern? Let us ask them what they know of genuine science and religion; not in the matter of mere details, but in all the broad conception of these twin truths — so strong in their unity, so weak when divided. Besides, we may find our profit in comparing this boasted modern science with ancient ignorance; this improved modern theology with the "Secret doctrines" of the ancient universal religion. Perhaps we may thus discover a neutral ground whence we can reach and profit by both. It is the Platonic philosophy, the most elaborate compend of the abstruse systems of old India, that can alone afford us this middle ground. (Before the Veil, xi)
- Although twenty-two and a quarter centuries have elapsed since the death of Plato, the great minds of the world are still occupied with his writings. He was, in the fullest sense of the word, the world's interpreter. And the greatest philosopher of the pre-Christian era mirrored faithfully in his works the spiritualism of the Vedic philosophers who lived thousands of years before himself, and its metaphysical expression. Vyasa, Djeminy, Kapila, Vrihaspati, Sumati, and so many others, will be found to have transmitted their indelible imprint through the intervening centuries upon Plato and his school. Thus is warranted the inference that to Plato and the ancient Hindu sages was alike revealed the same wisdom. So surviving the shock of time, what can this wisdom be but divine and eternal? (Before the Veil, xi)
- Plato taught justice as subsisting in the soul of its possessor and his greatest good. "Men, in proportion to their intellect, have admitted his transcendent claims." Yet his commentators, almost with one consent, shrink from every passage which implies that his metaphysics are based on a solid foundation, and not on ideal conceptions. (Before the Veil, xi)
- Plato could not accept a philosophy destitute of spiritual aspirations; the two were at one with him. For the old Grecian sage there was a single object of attainment: real knowledge. He considered those only to be genuine philosophers, or students of truth, who possess the knowledge of the really-existing, in opposition to the mere seeming; of the always-existing, in opposition to the transitory; and of that which exists permanently, in opposition to that which waxes, wanes, and is developed and destroyed alternately. "Beyond all finite existences and secondary causes, all laws, ideas, and principles, there is an INTELLIGENCE or MIND [nou'", nou, the spirit], the first principle of all principles, the Supreme Idea on which all other ideas are grounded; the Monarch and Lawgiver of the universe; the ultimate substance from which all things derive their being and essence, the first and efficient Cause of all the order, and harmony, and beauty, and excellency, and goodness, which pervades the universe — who is called, by way of preëminence and excellence, the Supreme Good, the God (ὁ qeò") 'the God over all' (ὁ epi pasi qeò")." (Cocker: "Christianity and Greek Philosophy," xi., p. 377.) He is not the truth nor the intelligence, but "the father of it." Though this eternal essence of things may not be perceptible by our physical senses, it may be apprehended by the mind of those who are not willfully obtuse. (Before the Veil, xi/xii)
- The philosophy of Plato, we are assured by Porphyry, of the Neoplatonic School was taught and illustrated in the mysteries. Many have questioned and even denied this; and Lobeck, in his Aglaophomus, has gone to the extreme of representing the sacred orgies as little more than an empty show to captivate the imagination. As though Athens and Greece would for twenty centuries and more have repaired every fifth year to Eleusis to witness a solemn religious farce! Augustine, the papa-bishop of Hippo, has resolved such assertions. He declares that the doctrines of the Alexandrian Platonists were the original esoteric doctrines of the first followers of Plato, and describes Plotinus as a Plato resuscitated. He also explains the motives of the great philosopher for veiling the interior sense of what he taught. (Before the Veil, xii)
- Basing all his doctrines upon the presence of the Supreme Mind, Plato taught that the nous, spirit, or rational soul of man, being "generated by the Divine Father," possessed a nature kindred, or even homogeneous, with the Divinity, and was capable of beholding the eternal realities. This faculty of contemplating reality in a direct and immediate manner belongs to God alone; the aspiration for this knowledge constitutes what is really meant by philosophy — the love of wisdom. The love of truth is inherently the love of good; and so predominating over every desire of the soul, purifying it and assimilating it to the divine, thus governing every act of the individual, it raises man to a participation and communion with Divinity, and restores him to the likeness of God. "This flight," says Plato in the Theætetus, "consists in becoming like God, and this assimilation is the becoming just and holy with wisdom." (Before the Veil, xiii)
- Aristotle was no trustworthy witness. He misrepresented Plato, and he almost caricatured the doctrines of Pythagoras. There is a canon of interpretation, which should guide us in our examinations of every philosophical opinion: "The human mind has, under the necessary operation of its own laws, been compelled to entertain the same fundamental ideas, and the human heart to cherish the same feelings in all ages." It is certain that Pythagoras awakened the deepest intellectual sympathy of his age, and that his doctrines exerted a powerful influence upon the mind of Plato. His cardinal idea was that there existed a permanent principle of unity beneath the forms, changes, and other phenomena of the universe. Aristotle asserted that he taught that "numbers are the first principles of all entities." Ritter has expressed the opinion that the formula of Pythagoras should be taken symbolically, which is doubtless correct. Aristotle goes on to associate these numbers with the "forms" and "ideas" of Plato. He even declares that Plato said: "forms are numbers," and that "ideas are substantial existences — real beings." Yet Plato did not so teach. He declared that the final cause was the Supreme Goodness... "Ideas are objects of pure conception for the human reason, and they are attributes of the Divine Reason." Nor did he ever say that "forms are numbers." What he did say What he did say may be found in the Timaeus: "God formed things as they first arose according to forms and numbers." (Cousin: "History of Philosophy," I., ix.) (Before the Veil, xv)
- The followers of Plato generally adhered strictly to his psychological theories. Several, however, like Xenocrates, ventured into bolder speculations. Speusippus, the nephew and successor of the great philosopher, was the author of the Numerical Analysis, a treatise on the Pythagorean numbers. Some of his speculations are not found in the written Dialogues; but as he was a listener to the unwritten lectures of Plato, the judgment of Enfield is doubtless correct, that he did not differ from his master. He was evidently, though not named, the antagonist whom Aristotle criticised, when professing to cite the argument of Plato against the doctrine of Pythagoras, that all things were in themselves numbers, or rather, inseparable from the idea of numbers. He especially endeavored to show that the Platonic doctrine of ideas differed essentially from the Pythagorean, in that it presupposed numbers and magnitudes to exist apart from things. He also asserted that Plato taught that there could be no real knowledge, if the object of that knowledge was not carried beyond or above the sensible. (Before the Veil, xv)
- If the Pythagorean metempsychosis should be thoroughly explained and compared with the modern theory of evolution, it would be found to supply every "missing link" in the chain of the latter. But who of our scientists would consent to lose his precious time over the vagaries of the ancients. Notwithstanding proofs to the contrary, they not only deny that the nations of the archaic periods, but even the ancient philosophers had any positive knowledge of the Heliocentric system. The "Venerable Bedes," the Augustines and Lactantii appear to have smothered, with their dogmatic ignorance, all faith in the more ancient theologists of the pre-Christian centuries. But now philology and a closer acquaintance with Sanskrit literature have partially enabled us to vindicate them from these unmerited imputations. In the Vedas, for instance, we find positive proof that so long ago as 2000 B.C., the Hindu sages and scholars must have been acquainted with the rotundity of our globe and the Heliocentric system. Hence, Pythagoras and Plato knew well this astronomical truth; for Pythagoras obtained his knowledge in India, or from men who had been there, and Plato faithfully echoed his teachings. (Ch. I, p.8)
- “Nothing beautiful without struggle.”
- Works available on-line:
- Perseus Project : Greek & English hyperlinked text
- Works of Plato (Jowett, 1892)
- Works by Plato at Project Gutenberg
- Plato complete works, annotated and searchable, at ELPENOR
- Euthyphro LibriVox recording
- Ion LibriVox recording
- Quick Links to Plato's Dialogues (English, Greek, French, Spanish)
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
- Other Articles:
- Excerpt from W.K.C. Guthrie, A History of Greek Philosophy, vol. IV, Plato: the man and his dialogues, earlier period, Cambridge University Press, 1989, pp. 8-38
- Website on Plato and his works: Plato and his dialogues by Bernard Suzanne
- Are there really Platonic forms?
- "Plato and Totalitarianism: A Documentary Study"
- The New Academy
- Catholic Encyclopedia (1913): Plato and Platonism]
- Plato Bibliography at PlatoGeek
- Online library "Vox Philosophiae"