Plato has been revered by the progressives, especially his “The Republic,” and he has been decried by libertarians, but he also offers insights. In addition, he should be required reading for keeping alive the heroic life of Socrates. Socrates might not have been a Christian, or more correctly, he might not have been a Jew looking forward to the Messiah, but he certainly lived a life in His spirit.
Plato wrote in narrative dialogues. The following quotes are from Plato’s “Apology” and attributed to Socrates:
“For I spend all my time going about trying to persuade you, young and old, to make your first and chief concern not for your bodies nor for your possessions, but for the highest welfare of your souls, proclaiming as I go ‘Wealth does not bring goodness, but goodness brings wealth and every other blessing, both to the individual and to the State.’”
“Are you not ashamed that you give your attention to acquiring as much money as possible, and similarly with reputation and honor, and give no attention or thought to truth and understanding and the perfection of your soul?”
“You are mistaken, my friend, if you think that a man who is worth anything ought to spend his time weighing up the prospects of life and death. He has only one thing to consider in performing any action; that is, whether he is acting rightly or wrongly, like a good man or a bad man.”
“If on the other hand I tell you that to let no day pass without discussing goodness and all the other subjects about which you hear me talking and examining both myself and others is really the very best thing that a man can do, and that life without this sort of examination is not worth living, you will be even less inclined to believe me.”
“Real wisdom is the property of God, and this oracle is his way of telling us that human wisdom has little or no value.”
Interesting quotes from Plato’s “The Republic”:
“For any musical innovation is full of danger to the whole State, and ought to be prohibited … when modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the State always change with them … there would be no harm, were it not that little by little this spirit of license, finding a home, imperceptibly penetrates into manners and customs; whence, issuing with greater force, it invades contracts between man and man, and from contracts goes on to laws and constitutions, in utter recklessness, ending at last, Socrates, by an overthrow of all rights, private as well as public.”
“And may we not say, Adeimantus, that the most gifted minds, when they are ill-educated, become preeminently bad? Do not great crimes and the spirit of pure evil spring out of a fullness of nature ruined by education rather than from any inferiority, whereas weak natures are scarcely capable of any very great good or very great evil?”
“Then, Adeimantus, I said, the worthy disciples of philosophy will be but a small remnant: perchance some noble and well-educated person, detained by exile in her service, who in the absence of corrupting influences remains devoted to her; or some lofty soul born in a mean city, the politics of which he contemns and neglects; and there may be a gifted few who leave the arts, which they justly despise, and come to her; – or peradventure there are some who are restrained by our friend Theages’ bridle; for everything in the life of Theages conspired to divert him from philosophy; but ill-health kept him away from politics. My own case of the internal sign is hardly worth mentioning, for rarely, if ever, has such a monitor been given to any other man. Those who belong to this small class have tasted how sweet and blessed a possession philosophy is, and have also seen enough of the madness of the multitude; and they know that no politician is honest, nor is there any champion of justice at whose side they may fight and be saved. Such an one may be compared to a man who has fallen among wild beasts – he will not join in the wickedness of his fellows, but neither is he able singly to resist all their fierce natures, and therefore seeing that he would be of no use to the State or to his friends, and reflecting that he would have to throw away his life without doing any good either to himself or others, he holds his peace, and goes his own way. He is like one who, in the storm of dust and sleet which the driving wind hurries along, retires under the shelter of the wall; and seeing the rest of mankind full of wickedness, he is content, if only he can live his own life and be pure from evil or unrighteousness, and depart in peace and good-will, with bright hopes.”
The Moral Liberal Associate Editor, Robert F. Beaudine, has written authoritative articles on public education, the financial crisis, and the myth of global warming. He’s also the author of the life-affirming novel, “Based Upon a Lie,” a theological conspiracy thriller. He resides in the upstate of South Carolina.
Copyright © 2011 Robert Beaudine.