Plato For Beginners
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by: Robert Cavalier (Author), Eric Lurio (Illustrator)
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Back Cover: All philosophy is a footnote to Plato. No other person so shaped the Western world and the way we think about it. Platos questions remain as real for us today as they were 2500 years ago, and as human beings, we can not avoid their presence nor shirk our responsibility to attempt to answer them: What is Justice? What is Truth? What is Beauty? What kind of society should we build? How do we know what we know? Plato For Beginners introduces the reader to Socrates, Platos mentor whose martyrdom led Plato to formulate a new system of knowledge based on reason. Socrates was found guilty and sentenced to death for introducing other divinities. He was also found guilty of corrupting youth.
Plato For Beginners also covers the history of Greece as well as the life and ideas of this great philosopher and his influence over time, from early Christianity to the 20th century. The reader learns what he meant by Truth, Beauty, and the Good. Classical dialogues such as Symposium, Phaedo, The Apology and The Republic are all explored in the context of his time and our own.
Having already been familiar with most of Plato's teachings, as well as his times, this book is a superb refresher course. Instead of a dry, condensed outline it is a humorous and original comprehensive overview. Author obviously knows his dialogs -- and there's no "dumbing down" here.
Some prof suggest that if one wants to be "truly educated" one has to be familiar with Plato's teachings -- true! When you start digging into subjects of true and lasting worth you always end up back at Plato. Plato himself not only asked what Truth, Justice, and Beauty were -- he actually knew that they really existed as Ultimates. The same with Good- he knew it existed. Plato accepted the validity of omens, dreams, the mysteries, and the pre-existance of the human soul, as well as, an afterlife. It was Plato who gave us the concept of "heaven." In fact, if you examine the words that were put in Christ's mouth in the New Testament you find that every statement is a paraphrase of Plato.
As for political matters, Plato believed that concern over one's own wealth and power was the source of most conflict, and that the goal of any system of laws and government should be making all people as happy and friendly as possible- and not merely a privaleged elite.
We can't help but speculate on how different western culture would have been if Plato's undiluted teachings, or even Plotinus' neoplatonism, had been the real spiritual core of our civilization.