Plato (Πλάτων Plátōn; c. 427 BC – c. 347 BC) was an immensely influential classical Greek philosopher, student of Socrates, teacher of Aristotle, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens.
- 1 Quotes
- 1.1 The Apology
- 1.2 Menexenus
- 1.3 Gorgias
- 1.4 Meno
- 1.5 Critias
- 1.6 Phaedrus
- 1.7 The Symposium
- 1.8 Phaedo
- 1.9 The Republic
- 1.10 The 7th Epistle
- 1.11 Parmenides
- 1.12 Timaeus
- 1.13 Laws
- 1.14 Cratylus
- 1.15 Alcibiades I
- 1.16 In Diogenes Laërtius
- 2 Misattributed
- 3 Quotes about Plato
- 4 External links
- Quotations from Plato are often cited by Stephanus numbers, which are keyed to the original Greek and therefore independent of the translation used.
- The punishment which the wise suffer who refuse to take part in the government, is to live under the government of worse men.
- An account of the death of Socrates
- If on the other hand I tell you that to let no day pass without discussing goodness and all the other subjects about which you hear me talking and examining both myself and others is really the very best thing that a man can do, and that life without this sort of examination is not worth living.
- Socrates, 38
- Either death is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or, as men say, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another. ...Now if death be of such a nature, I say that to die is to gain; for eternity is then only a single night.
- Socrates, 40
- The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways — I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows.
- Socrates, 42
- 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
- Meno: I feel, somehow, that I like what you are saying.
Socrates: And I, Meno, like what I am saying. Some things I have said of which I am not altogether confident. But that we shall be better and braver and less helpless if we think that we ought to enquire, than we should have been if we indulged in the idle fancy that there was no knowing and no use in seeking to know what we do not know; — that is a theme upon which I am ready to fight, in word and deed, to the utmost of my power.
- 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.
- 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?
- 258d (tr. Benjamin Jowett)
- paraphrased in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig: "And what is good, Phaedrus, and what is not good—need we ask anyone to tell us these things?"
- 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.
- [F]or 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.
- Man is a prisoner who has no right to open the door of his prison and run away... A man should wait, and not take his own life until God summons him.
- τίς μηχανὴ μὴ οὐχὶ πάντα καταναλωθῆναι εἰς τὸ τεθνάναι;
- Must not all things at the last be swallowed up in death?
- Will you not allow that I have as much of the spirit of prophecy in me as the swans? For they, when they perceive that they must die, having sung all their life long, do then sing more lustily than ever, rejoicing in the thought that they are going to the god they serve.
- False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.
- But tell me, this physician of whom you were just speaking, is he a moneymaker, an earner of fees, or a healer of the sick?
- When there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income.
- Mankind censure injustice fearing that they may be the victims of it, and not because they shrink from committing it.
- τῆς δὲ ζημίας μεγίστη τὸ ὑπὸ πονηροτέρου ἄρχεσθαι, ἐὰν μὴ αὐτὸς ἐθέλῃ ἄρχειν
- But the chief penalty is to be governed by someone worse if a man will not himself hold office and rule.
- οὐκοῦν οἶσθ᾽ ὅτι ἀρχὴ παντὸς ἔργου μέγιστον
- the beginning in every task is the chief thing
- And the shoemaker was not allowed by us to be husbandman, or a weaver, a builder — in order that we might have our shoes well made; but to him and to every other worker was assigned one work for which he was by nature fitted, and at that he was to continue working all his life long and at no other; he was not to let opportunities slip, and then he would become a good workman.
Now nothing can be more important than that the work of a soldier should be well done. But is war an art so easily acquired that a man may be a warrior who is also a husbandman, or shoemaker, or other artisan; although no one in the world would be a good dice or draught player who merely took up the game as a recreation, and had not from his earliest years devoted himself to this and nothing else?
No tools will make a man a skilled workman, or master of defence, nor be of any use to him who has not learned how to handle them, and has never bestowed any attention upon them. How then will he who takes up a shield or other implement of war become a good fighter all in a day, whether with heavy-armed or any other kind of troops?
Yes, he [Glaucon] said, the tools which would teach men their own use would be beyond price.
- Then the first thing will be to establish a censorship of the writers of fiction, and let the censors receive any tale of fiction which is good, and reject the bad; and we will desire mothers and nurses to tell their children the authorized ones only.
- If we mean our future guardians to regard the habit of quarrelling among themselves as of all things the basest, should any word be said to them of the wars in heaven, and of the plots and fightings of the gods against one another, for they are not true. No, we shall never mention the battles of the giants, or let them be embroidered on garments; and we shall be silent about the innumerable other quarrels of gods and heroes with their friends and relatives. If they would only believe us we would tell them that quarrelling is unholy, and that never up to this time has there been any quarrel between citizens; this is what old men and old women should being by telling children; and when they grow up, the poets also should be told to compose for them in a similar spirit.
- God is not the author of all things, but of good only.
- The gods are not magicians who transform themselves; neither do they deceive mankind in any way.
- Can any man be courageous who has the fear of death in him?
- And we must beg Homer and the other poets not to be angry if we strike out these and similar passages, not because they are unpoetical, or unattractive to the popular ear, but because the greater the poetical charm in them, the less are they meant for the ears of boys and men who are meant to be free, and who should fear slavery more than death.
- A fit of laughter, which has been indulged to excess, almost always produces a violent reaction.
- Truth should be highly valued; if, as we were saying, a lie is useless to the gods, and useful only as a medicine to men, then the use of such medicines should be restricted to physicians; private individuals have no business with them.
- Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity — I mean the true simplicity of a rightly and nobly ordered mind and character, not that other simplicity which is only a euphemism for folly.
- Variant translation: Good speech, then, good accord, and good grace, and good rhythm wait upon good disposition...
- Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul; on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful, or of him who is ill-educated ungraceful; and also because he who has received this education of the inner being will most shrewdly perceive omissions or faults in art and nature, and with a true taste, while he praises and rejoices over and receives into his soul the good, and becomes noble and good, he will justly blame and hate the bad, now in the days of his youth, even before he is able to know the reason why; and when reason comes he will recognise and salute the friend with whom his education has made him long familiar.
- When the citizens of a society can see and hear their leaders, then that society should be seen as one.
- The judge should not be young; he should have learned to know evil, not from his own soul, but from late and long observation of the nature of evil in others: knowledge should be his guide, not personal experience.
- Everything that deceives may be said to enchant.
- Wealth is the parent of luxury and indolence, and poverty of meanness and viciousness, and both of discontent.
- The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life.
- Look, ye wretches, take your fill of the fair sight.
- Quoting Leontius when he couldn't resist the desire to see some dead corpses. Available at Wikisource.
- Do you know, then, of anything practiced by mankind in which the masculine sex does not surpass the female on all these points? Must we make a long story of it by alleging weaving and the watching of pancakes and the boiling pot, whereon the sex plumes itself and wherein its defeat will expose it to most laughter? … Then there is no pursuit of the administrators of a state that belongs to a woman because she is a woman or to a man because he is a man. But the natural capacities are distributed alike among both creatures, and women naturally share in all pursuits and men in all.... Shall we, then, assign them all to men and nothing to women?
We shall rather, I take it, say that one woman has the nature of a physician and another not, and one is by nature musical, and another unmusical? … Can we, then, deny that one woman is naturally athletic and warlike and another unwarlike and averse to gymnastics? … And again, one a lover, another a hater, of wisdom? And one high-spirited, and the other lacking spirit? … Then it is likewise true that one woman has the qualities of a guardian and another not. Were not these the natural qualities of the men also whom we selected for guardians?
- Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils — no, nor the human race, as I believe — and then only will this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of day.
- And at first he would most easily discern the shadows and, after that, the likenesses or reflections in water of men and other things, and later, the things themselves, and from these he would go on to contemplate the appearances in the heavens and heaven itself, more easily by night, looking at the light of the stars and the moon, than by day the sun and the sun's light.... And so, finally, I suppose, he would be able to look upon the sun itself and see its true nature, not by reflections in water or phantasms of it in an alien setting, but in and by itself in its own place....
And at this point he would infer and conclude that this it is that provides the seasons and the courses of the year and presides over all things in the visible region, and is in some sort the cause of all these things that they had seen.
- 516a–516c; This fragment is also translated as:
- And first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves, then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled heaven.... Last of all he will be able to see the sun.
- The knowledge at which geometry aims is the knowledge of the eternal.
- The ludicrous state of solid geometry made me pass over this branch.
- I have hardly ever known a mathematician who was capable of reasoning.
- Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.
- Democracy, which is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.
- Democracy passes into despotism.
- The people have always some champion whom they set over them and nurse into greatness. ...This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector.
- When the tyrant has disposed of foreign enemies by conquest or treaty, and there is nothing to fear from them, then he is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader.
- No human thing is of serious importance.
- We are ready to acknowledge that Homer is the greatest of poets and first of tragedy writers; but we must remain firm in our conviction that hymns to the gods and praises of famous men are the only poetry which ought to be admitted into our State. For if you go beyond this and allow the honeyed muse to enter, either in epic or lyric verse, not law and the reason of mankind, which by common consent have ever been deemed best, but pleasure and pain will be the rulers in our State....
And now since we have reverted to the subject of poetry, let this our defence serve to show the reasonableness of our former judgment in sending away out of our State an art having the tendencies which we have described; for reason constrained us. But that she may impute to us any harshness or want of politeness, let us tell her that there is an ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry; of which there are many proofs, such as the saying of 'the yelping hound howling at her lord,' or of one 'mighty in the vain talk of fools,' and 'the mob of sages circumventing Zeus,' and the 'subtle thinkers who are beggars after all'; and there are innumerable other signs of ancient enmity between them.
Notwithstanding this, let us assure our sweet friend and the sister arts of imitation that if she will only prove her title to exist in a well-ordered State we shall be delighted to receive her — we are very conscious of her charms; but we may not on that account betray the truth.
- This fragment is also translated as:
- Poetry and philosophy are always hostile to each other.
- In Our Time: The Artist, BBC Radio 4 (28 March 2002)
- This fragment is also translated as:
- Virtue owns no master: he who honors her shall have more of her, and he who slights her, less. The responsibility lies with the chooser. Heaven is guiltless.
- Wherefore my counsel is that we hold fast ever to the heavenly way and follow after justice and virtue always, considering that the soul is immortal and able to endure every sort of good and every sort of evil. Thus shall we live dear to one another and to the gods.
- 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.
- It is impossible to conceive of many without one.
- Just as things in a picture, when viewed from a distance, appear to be all in one and the same condition and alike.
- 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?
- 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).
- And God designed the earth to be our nurse; also, as she winds round the axis that stretches through her, to be the guardian and maker of night and day, first and most venerable of all the gods that are within the heavens.
- As quoted by Theodore Roszak, The Voice of the Earth (2001)
- τὸν μὲν οὖν ποιητὴν καὶ πατέρα τοῦδε τοῦ παντὸς εὑρεῖν τε ἔργον καὶ εὑρόντα εἰς πάντας ἀδύνατον λέγειν
- The greatest penalty of evildoing is to grow into the likeness of bad men.
- Of all animals, the boy is the most unmanageable.
- You are young, my son, and, as the years go by, time will change and even reverse many of your present opinions. Refrain therefore awhile from setting yourself up as a judge of the highest matters.
- Not one of them who took up in his youth with this opinion that there are no gods ever continued until old age faithful to his conviction.
- Now I, as the legislator, regard you and your possessions, not as belonging to yourselves, but as belonging to your whole family, both past and future, and yet more do I regard both family and possessions as belonging to the state; wherefore, if some one steals upon you with flattery, when you are tossed on the sea of disease or old age, and persuades you to dispose of your property in a way that is not for the best, I will not, if I can help, allow this...
- Now death is not the worst that can happen to men; far worse are the punishments which are said to pursue them in the world below.
- Book IX
- Let us say to the youth: "The ruler of the universe has ordered all things with a view to the preservation and perfection of the whole, and each part has an appointed state of action and passion; and the smallest action or passion of any part affecting the minutest fraction has a presiding minister. And one of these portions of the universe is thine own, stubborn man, which, however little, has the whole in view; and you do not seem to be aware that this and every other creation is for the sake of the whole, and in order that the life of the whole may be blessed; and that you are created for the sake of the whole, and not the whole for the sake of you. For every physician and every skilled artist does all things for the sake of the whole, directing his effort toward the common good, executing the part for the sake of the whole, and not the whole for the sake of the part. And you are annoyed because you do not see how that which is best for you is, as far as the laws of the creation admit of this, best also for the universe."
- Book X
- Are we assured that there are two things which lead men to believe in the Gods, as we have already stated?
What are they?
One is the argument about the soul, which has been already mentioned — that it is the eldest and most divine of all things, to which motion attaining generation gives perpetual existence; the other was an argument from the order of the motion of the stars, and of all things under the dominion of the mind which ordered the universe. If a man look upon the world not lightly or ignorantly, there was never any one so godless who did not experience an effect opposite to that which the many imagine. For they think that those who handle these matters by the help of astronomy, and the accompanying arts of demonstration, may become godless, because they see, as far as they can see, things happening by necessity, and not by an intelligent will accomplishing good.
- Book XII
- I shall assume that your silence gives consent
- 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
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..
A - F
- 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?
- 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.
- 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
- 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)
- 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.
- 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..
- 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?
- Since Plato’s Republic, politicians, intellectuals, and priests have been fascinated with the idea of “capturing” children for social engineering purposes.
- Jonah Goldberg (2007). Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. NY: Doubleday, ISBN 9780385511841, p. 326
- 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)
G - L
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Mark R. Levin, (2012) Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America, NY: Threshold Editions, ISBN 97814391732544, p. 36
- 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.
M - R
- 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.
Amicus Plato — amicus Aristoteles — 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)
- 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 (1943), Memoirs of a Superflous Man, NY: Harper and Brothers, pp. 16–17
- 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.
- Karl Popper (1947, 2011), The Open Society And Its Enemies. Vol I: The Spell of Plato, p. 189.
- Plato's Republic is a treatise on justice, written as a dialogue between Socrates and some of his upper-class Athenian friends . Socrates was impressed by the way decent and upright fathers were disgraced by the pride and ambition of their sons.
- Alan Ryan, Introduction in Justice (1993) edited by Alan Ryan
- 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 def end themselves against him, and is exposed to anxieties the just man escapes.
- Alan Ryan, Introduction in Justice (1993) edited by Alan Ryan
- Almost all accounts of the history of political thinking begin with Plato. This is a paradox, because Plato’s political thought is antipolitical. Readers of his Republic see that in the polis of Plato’s imagination, there is no politics, and are puzzled; but throughout European history there has been a current of thought that seeks the resolution of the conflicts that “ordinary politics” resolves in the creation of a such a degree of social harmony that the conflicts which everyday politics resolves have simply disappeared, and politics with them.
- Alan Ryan, On Politics: A History of Political Thought: From Herodotus to the Present (2012), Ch. 2 : Plato and Antipolitics
- 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
S - Z
- 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.
- Butler Shaffer (2012). The Wizards of Ozymandias: Reflections on the Decline and Fall, Auburn, Alabama: Mises Institute, ISBN 978-1-610160-252-4, p. 108
- 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
- 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"