There was a time when ancient Greece meant splendor and wisdom. Philosophers like Plato coexisted with poets, mathematicians, astronomers and other scholars.
However, no one was better suited than Plato to express the thoughts of his generation. The best things Plato ever said are about understanding, individualism, and self-knowledge.
Some say that Plato was one of the most reactionary philosophers of his time. While it’s true that Socrates’ long shadow affected his performance, it didn’t bother him.
As the great, skilled sage that he was, he considered it an honor to hear the opinions of those more intelligent than himself. Because of his imperative need to write down all his ideas, we still have easy access to his writings, advice, and lessons.
Thanks to his discoveries, this Athenian gymnastics fan eventually ended up with Aristotle and Socrates as one of the great figures of Western philosophy. A philosophy that today has become the basis of our education, our politics and our contemporary thinking.
The best things Plato ever said about understanding the world
1. “It is not the eyes that see, no, we see through our eyes.”
Plato used an allegory, the allegory of the cave, to explain the relationship between the physical world and the world of ideas. The group of people chained in the cave thinks that the latter is the only reality. They only have an idea of what is happening outside the cave.
When they get a chance to see what’s outside, the sun damages their eyes. They want to return to the dark because it is more comfortable and that is what they are used to. However, when they return, their perception of reality has changed.
With this fable, the philosopher urges us to ask ourselves why we chain ourselves. Are we afraid of what we might discover if we let go of our chains?
The shadows we see on the wall of the cave simulate a delusional reality and distract us from the real reality: what is happening outside.
2. “The wise man will always want to be with someone who is better than him.”
One of Plato’s best sayings revolves around his belief that the world should be run by philosophers. According to him, they are the wisest and most capable people to rule.
Belonging to an aristocratic family, he was highly anti-democratic, although he was never afraid to show his dissatisfaction with government measures.
He admired many other philosophers, such as Socrates, from whom he thought he could learn a lot. Through Socrates he discovered an absolutist conception of universal truth that went beyond the ideas he could have as an individual.
It’s always necessary to surround yourself with people who can teach you something, even if you don’t agree.
3. “We must seek a cause other than God for our evil.”
Plato was a great admirer of Socrates and one of his students. When Socrates was sentenced to death for propagating supposed pagan theories, it touched him deeply. He thought it was unfair that he was executed for proposing alternative ideas.
Plato learned from his mentor that people are not evil by nature, but evil by ignorance. Man himself is master of his actions and responsible for his decisions. Hiding behind God’s idea of doing unrighteous things is a misstep.
4. “No human cause deserves such fear.”
This statement has become one of Plato’s most famous statements. No human purpose deserves our fear and stress. When we think about it for a moment, we usually worry about trivial things that often have a simple solution.
In a situation where fear is really justified, we need to control our fear. We should not let it affect our health or make us feel even more unhappy.
5. “Seeking the good in our fellow man will help us find the good in ourselves.”
This fifth piece of advice gives us the importance of understanding and kindness. Plato’s maxim was to establish a just regime through which all people could live in peace.
Unfortunately, he failed to do this. However, it is never too late for others to try.
By helping others, we help not only them, but ourselves as well. It makes us feel useful and allows us to empathize with others, which will give us a sense of accomplishment.
Plato was ahead of his time. Despite all the criticism he received for his antagonistic positions, his teachings are still valid to this day.
Our problems are very similar and perhaps, if we put his advice into practice, we will learn to see life from a different perspective.