Plato had one goal as a philosopher – to help people understand how to live more fulfilling lives. In order to meet this goal, he wrote more than 30 books. All of which surround four core concepts:
- Know yourself
- Let your lover change you
- Understand beauty
- Reform society
Throughout this article, we’re going to take a deeper look into these concepts in the hopes that they will help you develop a better understanding of yourself and the world around you. At the end, we invite you to discuss further.
1.) Know Yourself
The unfortunate truth is, our current society isn’t designed to teach us to think. Rather, it’s designed to think for us.
How often do you take time out of your day to stop and carefully think out where you’re going, what you’re doing, and how you’re going to manage?
If you’re like the majority of people, these come in rare intervals. Usually, at a time of necessity. However, as Plato saw it, thinking more is something we should make a habit of.
The biggest danger to our freedom of thought is the idea of going along with the popular culture. The idea that we need to achieve fame and large sums of money in order to live out a fulfilling life. Yet, these ideas – along with ideals of popular culture – tend to leave us with prejudices and false opinions of the nature of the world around us.
In turn, by following this falsehood, we start to give in to the wrong ideals for ourselves. You see, we’re all built differently. We think and operate at different levels in comparison to others. And in order to make the most of these differences, we must understand ourselves.
In order to understand ourselves, we must think more.
Think about what we’re truly chasing after in this life. What will truly make us better people. We must not follow what the majority claims is right, no matter how intriguing their argument is.
Through this thinking, we begin to philosophize. And as Plato saw it, people developing their own philosophies allow them to live out to most fulfilling lives. For their philosophies are simply a way for them to understand themselves.
2.) Let Your Lover Change You
How would you describe your most ideal lover? Is it someone with the perfect physiology who’s so emotionally stable, fights are almost inconsistent? Is it a person of high acclaim – who’s made the most of themselves and is already leading a fulfilling life?
Whatever your answer is, it’s most likely wrong.
According to Plato, our ideal lovers are those who hold a piece of us that we’re missing. For the rebel, it’s someone of purity and innocence. For the fighter, it’s a pacifist.
These differences are more than simply ways to keep a conversation going for decades down the line. These differences will define how you and your lover help each other change.
The purpose of finding the right lover isn’t merely out of a fear of loneliness. It’s for the sake of continuous education.
Let’s take a look at the fighter who’s just gotten engaged to the pacifist. His whole life, he’s had to strive for what he wants. He was bullied throughout school and had to stand up for himself. He went out to serve his nation in some war he doesn’t truly understand. When he returned, he had to make up for the lost years of experience in order to beat the competition. He’s fought long and hard to get to the position he’s in now.
Then there’s the pacifist. Though she was never popular, she had a group of close friends that helped her in times of need. She was never really competitive, but always did the best she could. She never made the effort to fight for opportunities. Yet, they always seem to present themselves to her. She allowed life to happen to get to the position she’s in now.
What can the fighter learn from the pacifist?
That sometimes, you don’t need to fight your way to opportunity. Sometimes life will place an opportunity in front of you without the extra struggle.
What can the pacifist learn from the fighter?
Though opportunities will always come and go, sometimes you can make the most of one by getting a little competitive.
This is a very surface-level analysis of how lovers can truly help one another. When it comes down to it, human’s are very intricate creatures with many defining aspects of their personalities, psychologies, and spiritualities.
When two people meet, they’re bound to have a large number of differences. More often than not, couples argue over these difference and allow them to eat away at the love they share.
As Plato saw it, we need to embrace each other’s differences and allow ourselves to grow through our lovers. To learn and change through our significant other.
3.) Understand Beauty
It’s no secret people are drawn to beautiful things. Whether it’s a beautiful person, building, natural wonder, or piece of art. But have you ever stopped to ask yourself why we’re all so drawn to beauty?
Plato did. And he discovered that beauty allows us to reflect on the lives we want to fulfill.
Beauty is something more than just attractiveness. A truly beautiful thing will make us realize an aspect of ourselves that we’re missing, yet, strongly desire.
For example, take a building that’s precisely symmetric and filled with intricate details. We could stare at it for hours never truly knowing exactly what it is we find so beautiful about it. Though, for many, it would probably be the sense of balance it represents.
Even through all it’s little intricate details, this building remains stable in its symmetry. Even through all our intricate problems, we hope to one day obtain a balance in ourselves.
Beauty is something more than just attractiveness. It’s something that initially lures us in with physical wonder, but keeps us thinking about it through subtle education.
Similarly, ugly objects actually do quite the opposite for us. It presents characteristics that not only prevent knowledge but may even provoke danger.
Beauty in anything is a form of therapy.
4.) Reform Society
It may not be up to us to decide how a government runs society. But it is up to us to leave our impact on that same society.
How society should be run naturally differs from person to person. And more often than not, topics of such usually lead to arguments.
Yet, what many of those arguments seem to miss is that ALL of us have one common goal. To develop a world in which people are allowed to live more fulfilling lives.
According to Plato, there are some things we as individuals need to begin looking into in order to make a better society.
The first is our idols. More often than not, these are people of great wealth, high popularity, and – especially, in today’s society – lot’s of flaws. The same was true even in Ancient Greece. Plato saw people giving great fame to those who were made up of bad characteristics and didn’t agree with it.
Instead, Plato hoped one day in society, people would cherish those who were well-educated and kind-hearted. People who could help the rest of society become better.
Furthermore, Plato felt as though the majority of people weren’t educated enough to vote in a democracy. This isn’t to say that people were dumb or ignorant. Rather, that most people still haven’t developed a sense of themselves, still haven’t become philosophers of their own lives.
And that people shouldn’t be allowed to vote until they did begin to philosophize on who they were as individuals. Plato even went as far as to say, “The world would not be right until kings become philosophers or philosophers kings.”
Understandably, Plato’s ideology came out of a time that was much different from ours. If he were to set foot in the world today and given the time to think, we wonder just what he’d say then.
But as Plato proclaimed, we need to be the philosophers of our own lives and our society. With that, we’d like to hear your thoughts both on Plato’s philosophy and how it may be able to positively impact modern society.