Ancient Philosophers: The Philosophy of Plato, Doctrine

Classic Philosophers: The Great Thinkers of the Western World


by Jonathan Dolhenty, Ph.D.

II. The Philosophy of Plato: Doctrine, General Ideas

Socrates had spoken about concepts, and had affirmed their existence in the field of logic and morality. But he had said nothing of the nature of concepts and of their origin. Plato, his greatest disciple, not only inherited his master’s doctrine on concepts, but sought to complete it, giving it a metaphysical foundation. For Plato, the concepts of which Socrates had spoken are representative of a metaphysical world which really exists. This is the world of Ideas; Plato conceives of these Ideas as having all the attributes of the being of Parmenides.

Ideas, for Plato, are subsistent realities, distinct both from the mind that possesses them and the material objects in which they appear. Ideas are eternal, immovable. Opposed to the world of Ideas there is Chaos, the element which receives the form. And between the worlds of Ideas and Chaos there are Demiurge and souls. Demiurge infuses the soul in the Chaos and, working upon it, makes possible this visible world, the world of becoming, of which Heraclitus had spoken.

Another important characteristic of the speculation of Plato, one which he had inherited from Socrates, is that philosophy is conceived of in its practical order. Man must seek the truth; and once the truth is discovered in the purely speculative field, it must serve to find the solution of practical problems: Philosophy must render man morally better. This was the philosophic labor, the quest in which Plato spent his whole noble existence, and it explains the great influence his philosophy has exercised on all ages up to the present day.

The late Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty was the Founder and President of The Center for Applied Philosophy and the Radical Academy, and is Honorary Philosophy Editor at The Moral Liberal. The Moral Liberal has adopted these projects beginning with a republishing and preserving of all of Dr. Dolhenty’s work. “Classic Philosophers: The Great Thinkers of the Western World” was designed and organized by Jonathan Dolhenty, Ph.D. Copyright ©1992 -2011 The Radical Academy. Copyright renewed in © 2011 -2013 The Radical Academy (a project of The Moral Liberal).

The Moral Liberal recommends: Great Books of the Western World.