Plato (428-347 B.C.)
by Richard E. Noble
Plato was a little, rich boy. And like a lot of other little, rich boys, he thought that he knew it all (think of William F. Buckley). If you believe in democracy, and the ideals of equality, and the principles on which the American Constitution is based, Plato is NOT your main man. In fact, most of the criticisms of democratic life, and the democratic political system that were spewed out of the mouth of Adolf Hitler centuries later, like vomit or invective diarrhea, were first laid down by Plato in his “Dialogues”, or his attempt at Utopian thinking, “The Republic”.
Plato is an aristocratic, elitist, totalitarian type who was run out of the country after his mentor Socrates was given his poison potion. Socrates was given his choice of poison potion or exile but basically chose to kill himself. He was old anyway, and his wife drove him nuts. Socrates liked (interpreting the writing of Plato) to get all of the little, rich boys in the neighborhood riled up about their personal greatness and superiority over the regular “common” democratic, mediocre shmuck.
Plato’s uncle, Critias, was the leader of an oligarchic party of wealthy elitist who preached against the Athenian Democracy, and established, for a very short period, one of the cruelest dictatorships of the period. When the Democracy was restored, Socrates was arrested, tried and found guilty of a lesser crime, side-stepping a granted amnesty, and Plato ran for the hills. He traveled around the world for about twelve years, “a sabbatical”, talking to Kings and Queens, other little, rich boys and dictator sorts everywhere. After things calmed down, he returned home and began re-agitating the system by way of education, being permitted that option from the privilege granted under a “democratic” system; a type of agitation that would certainly not have been permitted under the reign of his uncle, Critias.
Plato is most famous for his “Allegory of the Cave” in which he explains to us that our real existence is actually imaginary, and our imaginary existence is true reality. If you like Plato, you will love Descartes. You might also go on to cultivate an interest in Voodoo, witchcraft, and Black Magic.
Plato was really a dramatist and playwright. His “Dialogues” are basically plays. They are masterpieces of developmental logic, and often mis-logic. I loved reading the “Dialogues”, but pretty much gave up reading Plato after wallowing through “The Republic”.
Plato, like Confucius, got the opportunity to try out some of his political ideas. He nearly got himself killed by Dionysius of Syracuse, who then, had a change of heart and simply sold Plato into slavery. He was released and returned home by this benefactor who had purchased him.
At eighty-one he fell asleep in a corner at a party, and didn’t wake up.