“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”
― Plato

Plato believed in absolute good and for him, the most important aspect was achieving the truth apart from senses and following the path of discovery until it could be reaching pure intelligence. Socrates stated about this idea that: “For he should persevere until he has attained one of two things: either he should discover or learn the truth about them; or, if this is impossible, I would have him take the best and most irrefragable of human notions, and let this be the raft upon which he sails through life-not without risk, as I admit if he cannot find some word of God which will more surely and safely carry him.”(1) The idea reflected the concept of the ideal good that someone would need to follow, as a “sails through life”. Also to embrace the experiences and the journey was important as the destination, which would be necessary to achieve the truth.  

To be able to achieve the goal, whoever got into that path would need to have critical thinking and couldn’t just be driven by emotions. Socrates affirmed that “instead of blaming himself and his own want of wit because he is annoyed, should, at last, be too glad to transfer the blame from himself to arguments in general.” (2). The passage meant that a reason was necessary to follow a logical argument that could support the cause of the uncomfortable state, as what made it feel annoying was not sufficient. Through questions and logical answers could gain more knowledge and better understanding. The main reason would not include provoking others but engaging with them while continuing to follow his own character, essential to understanding the truth. That was reflected in the following passage: “And the difference between him and me at the present moment is only this-that whereas he seeks to convince his hearers that what he says is true, I am rather seeking to convince myself; to convince my hearers is a secondary matter with me” (2)  

“I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.”
― Plato

It was also important to follow the course of the discussion and to bring arguments to the point as Socrates stated that: “even if they appear certain, should be carefully considered; and when they are satisfactorily ascertained, then, with a sort of hesitating confidence in human reason, you may, I think, follow the course of the argument; and if this is clear, there will be no need for any further inquiry.”(3). Those arguments would not continue more than necessary, and once the goal was achieved a further discussion about the subject would not bring additional support.   

Winning an argument would be achieved step by step until the other one ran out of arguments. Using common examples that everyone could easily understand would change the others’ beliefs from the beginning and would be completely reversed when a different side would be shown. That idea was presented in the following passage: “They fancy that they have led astray a little at each step in the argument, owing to their own want of skill in asking and answering questions; these littles accumulate, and at the end of the discussion they are found to have sustained a mighty overthrow and all their former notions appear to be turned upside down.” (4) Because the truth would be too bold and needed time to adjust the process would be made with small steps to give time to acknowledge and understand the connection between ideas. That was reflected in the passage: “I was afraid that my soul might be blinded altogether if I looked at things with my eyes or tried by the help of the senses to apprehend them. And I thought that I had better have recourse to ideas and seek in them the truth of existence.” (5) Knowledge was above sense because the hypothesis also explained and brought arguments to ascend to a principle, whether the first level stopped to the opinion of the idea but it was not developed with arguments. That was shown in the passage: “knowledge and being, which the science of dialectic contemplates, are clearer than the notions of the arts, as they are termed, which proceed from hypotheses only: these are also contemplated by the understanding, and not by the senses: yet, because they start from hypotheses and do not ascend to a principle” (6)  

“Never discourage anyone…who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.”
― Plato

Finally, the truth could be seen and found following those steps and was achieved through studying and analyzing. The path that would follow that achievement was considered the final and higher point. Art was felt through the senses, but dialect thinking asked for reasons. The passage reflected that idea: “When a person starts on the discovery of the absolute by the light of reason only, and without any assistance of sense, and perseveres until by pure intelligence he arrives at the perception of the absolute good, he, at last, finds himself at the end of the intellectual world, as in the case of sight at the end of the visible.” (7). The evolutionary progress of the high achievement it was reflected in: “four divisions; two for intellect and two for opinion, and to call the first division science, the second understanding, the third belief, and the fourth perception of shadows, the opinion being concerned with becoming, and intellect with being”. That passage concluded that knowledge was the supreme achievement. 

“I’m trying to think, don’t confuse me with facts.”
― Plato


cf: pages in Mentor book, Great Dialogues of Plato 

  1. PHAEDO (85C) Mentor Books edition, p 490 
  2. PHAEDO (90A) Mentor 494-495 
  3. PHAEDO (107B-108A) Mentor 511-512 
  4. Republic (487C-D) Mentor 285 
  5. Phaedo (99C-100C) Mentor 503-504 
  6. Republic (511C) Mentor 311 
  7. Republic (532A-534D) Mentor 331-334 

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