Plato And The Paradoxes Essay, Research Paper
Plato And The Paradoxes Paradoxes are ideas that seem to be in opposition to one another but aremutually needed to function. In Plato s Republic he discusses several paradoxes. While reading The Republic we can see which side of these paradoxes Plato favors. We find which side he feels should be stressed so that we may live in a reasonable and safe society and be better human beings. There are three categoriesin which these paradoxes have been divided into: ethics, metaphysical and political.POLITICAL Justice and LawPolitically, Plato explains the paradox of justice and the law. Plato believesthat absolute justice is the same for everyone without exception. This justice goesbeyond power and or money. He feels justice is not necessarily the law. Law isan imperfect form of justice. What is legal is not necessarily moral, for example,the Jim Crow laws in the South. Although these laws were quite equal they weretotally immoral. In Book 1 of Plato s The Republic, Plato explains that justice is abalance between reason , courage and man s needs or in other words, the head, theheart and the stomach. He goes on to explain that justice or fairness doesn t alwaysmean equal. The law may change but justice remains constant. A good rule or lawhowever is a just rule. Plato felt that to get people to act justly you must teachthem ethics and values. He also believed that along with these ethics and values wemust have a reasonable understanding of these rules. An understanding of theserules is needed so people are more apt to comply with them and therefore maintain ajust and fair society. Authority and Liberty Another paradox discussed in Plato s The Republic is authority and liberty. Plato strongly favors authority. He has little faith in man. Plato believes that menare more unreasonable than reasonable. He feels that most men and women cannotbe objective and make rules that benefit all of society not just themselves or theirfamily. He feels that personal liberty and choice only bring disunity, unhappinessand anxiety. Even today experts agree that children brought up with rules tend to bemore secure and happy than children who are not taught acceptable behavior orwho don t have authority figures in their lives. In The Republic, Plato explainsthat the authority will be made up of people who are able to make up reasonablerules. These people, men and or women would be chosen and then educated inethics, morals and reasoning. He futher explains that if the authorities givepeople objective rules with reasons then objective behavior should follow. In Plato s Republic, by using reasonable authority he is trying to create a reasonablesocial order. He feels that reasonable rules should come from the outside not fromeach person s inner feelings. The guardians, or authority are able, by usingreasoning and passing just laws to keep the dignity and liberty of the individual andalso maintain a just and orderly society. Equality and Inequality In Plato s The Republic men and women would be treated equally. Bothgenders would be educated until the age of 18. Between the ages of 18 and 22 everyone would go to the army to gain courage. After the army all would go tocollege until age 26. During college they would be selected for what ever servicethey are qualified for. Either a man or women could become a guardian, server orhelper, and or a producer. The guardians themselves would make equal amounts ofmoney so they could concentrate on a nonmaterial existence. Plato felt an inequalityof wealth would cause an ethical breakdown. These three groups, the guardians,servers and the producers, although different in the roles they play and jobs theyhave would not be considered better or worse, inferior or superior to one another, just different. Each group would fulfill a societal need by bringing goods andservices or rules for everyone to benefit by. Society and Individual When Plato was thinking out his Republic he felt society took president overthe individual. The whole is greater than it s parts , he said. However, Plato alsosaid, you need to balance the order of society with the rights of the individual. Plato felt in a natural state people would war against on another. That is why acivil or social contract is needed to keep man from killing one another. Man wouldthen enter into this social contract for protection, to trade goods and services withothers and simply to have their needs taken care of. For this social contract to besuccessful each individual must have a responsibility and an obligation to hisfellow man and follow the rules of the contract. In this way the individual will gainbut society will prevail. It is a give and take proposition. People are working forthe benefit of society and individuals benefit from working for the society. Platowanted to set up an interdependent society where we would service one anotherwith competence. Where each one would better themselves by working for thesociety and fulfilling different needs. Everyone would be working for thebetterment of society and thereby helping themselves. We are stronger togetherthan we are individually. Order and Change In the paradox of order and change, Plato favors order. In Plato s Republic hespeaks of a specific social order and feels that there are absolute laws and reasonswithout exceptions to keep that order. He feels order will give a permanent senseof security. He feels that change can only create chaos and anxiety. He says thateach person will belong to a specific group and should work at a specific job throughout their life time. Not necessary the job a person may want, but one thathe or she is good at. He wants people to do only one thing in their life and notchange their jobs. He says people are happiest when they are doing somethingthey are good at. It would be too emotionally draining and chaotic to do severaljobs, or to try different professions just for the heck of it He wants people to followthe rules to maintain order in the society and in only that way can society be happyand emotionally healthy. METAPHYSICAL Deduction and Induction Plato was a deductive thinker. He was abe to take general information andbreak it down to specifics. He had apriori knowledge , that is knowledge notcompletely dependent on experience or prior knowledge. He was able to useassumptions not necessarily based on facts or principles from which a logicalconclusion could be drawn. Deduction transcends direct observations. Withdeductive reasoning you start with a premise and a conclusion will then follow. Anexample of this would be when we have a mathematical hypothesis and we must gothrough the specific steps to prove it. We start off with a general idea and break itdown to its specifics. With inductive reasoning the premise is made by observationand the conclusion stands only in relation to the observations on which it is based. Itis more concrete thinking. What you see is what you get . This type of thinking aposteriori or after the fact reasoning would not allow the guardians tosuccessfully rule. They would not be able to anticipate future problems or haveinsight to successfully rule society. Therefore Plato felt the people who are able touse apriori reasoning or deduction and are able to come up with ideas should bethe guardians or the people in authority. Absolute and Relativism Here again, Plato believed in the absolute. There is only one reality. There is
only one rule for everyone. With relativism it can become so individualized and sochanging that it will bring a lack of social order. Absolutism will give universalorder. The world is what it is not what is thought about it. Absolutism is straightforward. Plato felt that there was a universal concept or idea. The idea or conceptnever changes but tangible objects do. For example, the idea of a table whosedefinition is: an article of furniture supported by one or more vertical legs andhaving a flat horizontal surface. The table itself may change. It may be made out ofwood or plastic, it may be different colors or have designs on it or not, but the ideaor concept of a table still remains the same. It is still an article of furniture thateveryone knows as a table. Plato felt that the concept was more important becausethe concept never changed Idealism and Materialism Plato is an idealist. An idealist asserts that reality consists of ideas andthoughts rather than material objects and forces. Material possessions, althoughimportant to live are not paramount for an idealist, Plato says materialism canincrease your standard of living but it does not teach values. An idealist feels the the world has meaning apart from its surface appearance. The world of sight,sounds and individual things is the perishable world and not the real world Platosaid the idea or concept is more real than the individual thing. Idealismemphasizes the significance or essence of the person and the mental or spiritual sideof life. Plato felt that behind the world of change, the world we see and feel, thereis an ideal world of eternal essence, forms or ideas. Although idealists feel realityis immaterial, Plato would not say that there is nothing real except mind and itsexperiences. He realized the importance of material objects needed for acomfortable life. Because of this, he wanted equal wealth for the guardians so theywould be able to concentrate on a nonmaterial existence. No matter how idealisticyou may be there are material things that humans need to survive. Determinism and Free Will Plato felt that man s decisions were predetermined by an unbroken chain ofcause and effect. Therefore he felt man had no real free will. Rather, his choices ordecisions were decided by previous actions or events that acted on his character. Ifour choice is always explicable by the reference to some want and wants are notthemselves chosen, then it seems that all our actions are predetermined. Plato sayswe can not help any decisions in any strict sense. Therefore, no one can be blamedor held responsible for wrong doing. Plato s position on this paradox is nearer to no one intentionally does wrong. He pities rather than blames a wrong doer. Plato also however is committed to a determinist picture of deliberate action but alsoholds fast to the concept that no one is responsible for wrong doing. Plato is moreinterested in character rather than choice. The conflict of free will and determinismis really the conflict between one s higher and lower self or one s reason and one sphysical urges. He feels that if man is taught to be ethical and honest then makingthe right decision will come naturally. Your free will will be really determined bythe education and training one would receive growing up in a very orderly, ethicaland structured society. In other words no one would makes decisions based ontheir own needs but would always have the good of society in mind because that iswhat you were taught. ETHICS Absolute and Relativism Relativism in ethics is when a person s ethics or justice come from within thatindividual. Relativism assumes that the individual has dignity and therefore goodjudgment. In relativism, however, it always depends. There are no absolute valvesor truths in relativism. All values are relative to time, place and culture. Each truthmay vary according to the individual group, time and area he lives. Plato on theother hand was very much an absolutist. He felt with absolute thinking there is noquestion as to proper behavior. We should have the same rules and norms foreveryone without exception. Plato felt absolute laws or rules will give people orsociety universal order. He felt there was a universally accepted code of behaviorthat all should follow in order to insure an orderly, safe and productive society. Objective and Subjective Plato felt that to beable to be a guardian of the rules one must be able to thinkobjectively. One must beable to put his own thoughts and feelings aside and havethe outcome unaffected by these internal cues. In other words to be objective onemust be open minded. Plato felt that truth or justice should be absolute and reachedobjectively, not depended on any one persons quirks. He felt that if you give peopleobjective rules with reasons for them then you will get objective behavior therebybalancing the social order with the rights and dignity of the individual. Beingsubjective, one would not be able to put personal feelings aside and make decisionsto benefit the whole of society. All decisions would be biased and based on ones own wants and needs. Society and Individual Plato wanted a mutual interdependent society where we would service eachothers needs competently. He felt as a society we are stronger together than we areindividually. The whole is more important than its parts was his feeling. Plato didnot believe that it is a good thing for each man to run his own life as he seems fit. In the Republic, Plato explains people should not choose the trade they wish topractice rather they are to be given the job for which they are best suited. Although Plato did not place a high valve on freedom of the individual, he didconsider happiness to be important. He felt happiness could be achieved if a personwould perform as best he could the job for which he was best suited. Plato felt thatGreek society gave individuals too much freedom to run their own lives and theresults were that they became undisciplined and unhappy. People come together to form a community because they are not self sufficient as individuals. Withoutcooperation they cannot supply themselves with the things they need. Thereforesociety must be paramount in order to make the individual happy and well cared for. If the individual were most important it would be every man for himself. No onewould care about the big picture, each man would only worry about himself andgetting through the day. Each man would have to take care of all his needs insteadof everyone helping each other. Society would break down and no one would besafe or cared for. Reason and Emotions Plato was a reasonable man. He believed that reason is the foundation for acivilized society. However he felt that man was more unreasonable than not. He feltman had to be taught to be reasonable In his republic he was trying to create areasonable social order. He felt that reason comes from the outside or in otherwords reasoning needs to be taught it is not an in born trait. If these reasons wereto be followed rather than following one s emotions, a reasonable social order withdignity of the individual would thrive. Plato was not in favor of teaching poetry ormusic to the young. He believed that the arts just stirred up emotions and reasonsnot emotions are what will give society structure. Plato did feel that in trainingyoung people one could use lies, stories or tales to get children emotionally involvedwith learning morals or values. Plato felt man will be disciplined or self controlledwhen his reason is in charge and when his emotions and desires do not struggleagainst his reason. He felt we must all follow reason or we will not have acivilized society. People who rely on their emotions instead of thinking or reasoningout a problem run the risk of not seeing all sides or being fair to everyone involved.