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Writing an Essay on Plato: Key Ideas

Greek Statue

Plato was born in 428 BC in Greek democracy. He was a student of Socrates and a teacher of Aristotle, having founded the Academy in Athens which meant to educate the people and foster the establishment of an ideal social order.

Plato had some of the most significant ideas which are relevant even in the modern world. He also had some pernicious thoughts which helped totalitarian rules justify their policies. Despite all the ambiguity, his influence can be traced all the way to people’s current understanding of life.

There are many ideas you can take for an essay on Plato. Here I would like to expound upon the most interesting and pertinent ones which would earn you the best grade.

The View of Society

Plato is often regarded as one of the first political scientists. He laid the groundwork for modern democracies as well as provided the moral guidelines for a perfect society.

In his renowned book the Republic Plato argues that the society should be divided into three classes: the producers, the military and the rulers. He believed that such strict organization would be conducive to the society’s overall prosperity.

However, there was a bit of racism in his reasoning. Plato contended that people were naturally drawn to activities based on how much of a particular metal they had in their blood. For instance, the rulers were born with gold infused in them; therefore, they were intrinsically predisposed to rule. At the same time, the producers were full of brass and iron which made them inclined to pursue various occupations in medicine, law, trade etc.

Therefore, this division basically justified the caste system which was based on the place of birth rather than merit. Although at that time it seemed reasonable as there was no way to check the metal composition of the body, nowadays these ideas would cause a lot of controversy and anger.

The Role of Philosopher

Plato placed an important role on a philosopher. He believed that they were responsible for people’s well-being, their education and the functioning of the state per se.

Rulers were supposed to be philosophers in Plato’s worldview. In order to justify his position, he used the allegory of the cave. It is a mythical story in which one of the cave people leaves the darkness and sees the outside world. When he returns to deliver the message to his people, he ends up being killed. The cave men are not ready to perceive the groundbreaking ideas of the philosopher, choosing the habitual darkness over the new and frightening enlightenment.

In Plato’s opinion most people never leave the cave throughout their lives. Therefore, he believes it is the philosophers which should lead the crowd, as only they get to see the world as it is, and not just its shadows on the wall. However, the philosopher should not blame or look down on common people, as they constitute a majority and can easily dispose of him.

The Opinion on Democracy

Plato, despite living in democratic Athens, was not much fascinated with this social order. He was actually really skeptical as he believed some people should not be allowed to vote at all.

It goes back to his idea of a philosopher and the majority. He saw humans succumbing to doxa or the popular opinions without ever trying to evaluate their lives and reconsider their deep-seated beliefs. He saw how those people cast their votes for populists and ignored the intellectual elite which played on reason rather than emotion.

Perhaps, for this reason Plato created his own university – the Academy, which meant to educate the citizens of Athens. He believed in the power of knowledge and thinking, thus, seeing through the flaws of the seemingly democratic system.

The Theory of Forms

Plato spends a lot of time ruminating about the ideal forms of things and concepts. He asserted that it was crucial for a person to have a clear picture of an ideal in order to live prudent and fulfilled lives.

Plato maintained that understanding what comprises an ideal would help people spot the shortcomings and weaknesses and more effectively fight against them. In order to be able to comprehend it, they had to find time for quiet contemplation and refer to philosophers for wisdom.

He did not propose that reaching an ideal is possible. Plato simply believed that the clearer the goal was, the more likely people were to be on the right track and emulate it in the more accurate way.

Conclusion

No matter what idea you choose to develop in your essay, make sure to be respectful, but at the same time critical of Plato’s philosophy. It is easy to sing hymns to somebody so appraised and well-known, however, if you want to pay tribute to this philosopher, you need to resort to reason, and not let your emotional exaltation guide you.

Philosophy is a tough discipline which requires deep understanding of life principles. Nonetheless, remember the words of Socrates, who once mentioned that the unexamined life was not worth living. Writing an essay on Plato will help you better comprehend your own life and choices you make on a daily basis.

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