Introduction to Plato (#1)

We start with Plato, who is considered to be one of the greats. Often considered to be of the pedigree of western intellectual titans like Nietzsche, Wittgenstein and Kant, I hold him to be greater, or at least far more influential. It was Plato and those around him who popularized the tradition of open dialogue and honest inquiry and were among the first to be beguiled, entranced even, by philosophia . Although he hesitated to admit it, he was a sophist in the best sense and although he did not teach for monetary gain, he certainly promulgated revolutionary ideas in the spirit of his teacher, Socrates. He brought into question the most fundamental substrata of societal hierarchy and brought new streams of thought into philosophical discourse through his seminal works; the concept of justice, the world of ideal forms, of the dogmas that perennially plague the conscience, the idea of moral systems being necessarily founded upon a divine lie, the idea of a determined purpose etc. One could go on but here I will discuss some of his key ideas regarding epistemology and metaphysics and what I make of them.


In Plato’s metaphysics he sees the world of ideal forms as the realest of realities and sees our current reality as a corrupted and repugnant one. Although this may seem like a quaint and outdated idea it is in my belief that is not. Straying from the modern Christian conceptualization of this idea as that of original sin, I believe that there might be a platonic and mathematical world of ideal forms with certain mathematical laws resulting in a gestalt of emergent complex phenomenon. Here one could also bring in the idea of a collective evolutionary unconscious. Both of these ideas would represent a world of ideal forms not in their beauty, elegance or supposed divinity but in their absolute precision, simplicity, clarity and explicit nature.


Our quality of perception of (ideal) reality lies in four relatively distinct categories according to Plato, namely those of Eikasia, Pistis, Dianoia and Noesis. The four can broadly be described as follows: Eikasia is the most rudimentary and subjective of the four and can be described as delusion, extrapolation and conjecture based on nothing besides our desperate hopes and is a mere shadow of reality; Pistis which is the perception of reality based on trust and faith; Dianoia which is the perception of reality based on generalisations and simplifications as is true in the sciences and lastly Noesis. Noesis is characterized by immediate intuition or an innate understanding of (moral) reality without the need for discourse, deliberation and ideation. It would be interesting to apply Wittgenstein’s thought here.


While one may disagree with the specificities and in some cases a broad notion itself as put forth by Plato, it is indisputable that his ideas have thoroughly and completely pervaded every crevasse of the philosophical landscape.


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