The Influence of the Works of Aristotle, Socrates and Plato

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“Philosophy can make people sick”, Aristotle said this in the Nicomachean ethics and of course, has been taken out of context by people for generations. Could this statement mean that people actually get sick and tired of philosophy or philosophy actually makes people sick? E.G. David Hume, John Stuart Mill or even Socrates himself. Speaking to a philosopher would undoubtedly send the common everyday person go down a wormhole of misery if they do not seem to understand the mind that they are working with. However, individuals such as Plato and Socrates have crafted todays’ societal norms throughout the world.

What should be noted from all three texts that were read prior to this paper, is the level of respect each book had for the city-states and the laws that the philosophers resided in, tolerance for the constructive programming each system of government had, but also a necessary shock to the established system. The Nicomachean Ethics from Aristotle is essentially about virtue, goodness and happiness, which one could consider to be vague to some people but Aristotle makes a clear explanation of what the terms mean. The Republic by Plato introduces the allegory of the cave as an example of how systematic programing could create a false reality to the human condition; he also defines the term justice, to behave justly and explains the class divisions in a society. The four texts on Socrates brings great insight on Socrates’ apology while on trial for influencing citizens to no longer recognize the gods of the city state, amongst other charges; and Plato’s Crito explains the dialogue between Socrates and Crito while he is awaiting execution and Lastly, Plato’s Euthyphro deals with dialogue between Socrates and Euthyphro about holiness. These texts established the powerful presence of Plato, Aristotle and Socrates influence on present day politics and culture.

Initially, Plato’s Euthyphro dealt with Socrates being brought to trial for corrupting the youth. He acts as an ignorant student while conversating with an individual that believes he knows all there is about holiness. While Socrates was awaiting trial, he had some dialogue with Euthyphro and acts like his pupil about what is considered holy, with the intent teach Euthyphro that he is wrong. Euthyphro says that what is holy is agreeable to the gods and that bringing charges against his father for murder is what the gods would want him to do. Socrates does not agree with him because he is merely giving him an example about what holy could be. The gods are not capable of agreeing for the most part, they usually fight among one another on most decisions that have to be made. In addition, Socrates ask Euthyphro, “is it holy because the gods say it is, so therefore it is holy or is it holy by your standards? His use if Socratic Irony would be to show Euthyphro that he is not as wise as he thinks by telling him that he is, mere manipulation.

Moreover, Euthyphro believes that holiness helps figure out what is gratifying to the gods and what pleases them. The dialogue between the two would conclude with Socrates making his point, the gods cannot agree with what is holy because they cannot even agree on decisions among themselves anyway and what the people of Athens are doing is what they believe that will please the gods. The people of the city-state have this fixation on doing what the laws tell them is right but after a while, their judgment is clouded and then make choices that they feel, not that they know, is right. Therefore, how could Socrates be on trial for what the angry people of Athens say is corrupting the youth? If the youth do not have a proper direction to fall back on because their elders make decisions and say what is holy by what their feelings tell them? This is what Socrates was trying to prove, but his life was ultimately cut short. He chose to act as an ignorant pupil to a rather ignorant person himself and learned about an act of piety for the gods.

Furthermore, Socrates’ trial continues with what Plato calls the apology. This great ordeal dealt with Socratic Skeptism challenging Sophism, corrupting the youth, impiety and not acknowledging the gods of Greece that ultimately led to his arrest. In fact, Socrates does not apologize for the offences he committed, but essentially explains the reasons of his actions. He once conversed with an oracle that told him that no one is wiser than him, and with that information, he used it to preach to the youth of Athens. He was actually teaching their minds to question authority and to challenge assumptions. Socrates felt after meeting with the oracle, that his duty was to challenge wise men and to expose them as false individuals, which caused quite a stir with the youth of Athens. Sophists in Athens were basically life coaches for hire because they taught rich young men how to argue and con people into keeping their riches and maintaining power in the city-state. Socrates did not agree with these methods, however, used similar ideas but did it for free and taught the youth to tell the truth instead of deceiving others like the Sophists would do.

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This issue gradually became bigger as individuals such as Meletus would become envious of Socrates and be the main person to accuse him of crimes committed against Athens. Socrates ask Meletus what makes a good influence for the youth if he is considered a bad influence for them. Of course, Meletus retorts with the laws are in place for a reason. This is when this becomes an issue because Socrates usually brings up in not just the “apology”, but in other texts, that the social programming that Greece has on citizens is what causes people to not progress in life, but merely makes them stagnant. He then references himself to a gadfly and arrogantly states that if it weren't for what he did for Athens, the state would go into hibernation and would not progress and compete in the new world.

Alternatively, Plato’s Crito was probably the most commendable moment of the text. Socrates decided that breaking the laws of Athens and escaping death would have been a disservice to himself and his students. He considered that his sentence to death by the people of the city-state was a social contract that he was obligated to follow. Many saw this as simply giving up on life. Socrates told Crito that “it is better for me to suffer injustice, than to commit injustice” in order to prove his point about his teachings. He was all about justice and virtue; he felt as though if he would have escape prison and death, then he would have been unjust to the social contract that he had with Athens. There's a similar correlation between Christianity and the death of Jesus Christ with Socrates and how his life ended. He challenged the system that seemed to work for generations and angered the people with authority; chose to live by his principles and die an honorable death that would put his name in the rafters forever.

“Reading Plato should be easy; understanding Plato can be difficult”. Author Robin Waterfield is among many that share the same sentiment about the philosopher. Plato introduced many things that left people bewildered or just wondering was else is this madman going to come up with, such as idealism and being vs. becoming. The republic shows Plato’s attempt to define justice and happiness and what makes a person just. In doing this, he also introduces class divisions and what makes the perfect society in a city-state, which are the producers, auxiliaries and guardians. In book 1, he makes his point by targeting conventional views on justice, Plato relays being just to human behavior, using examples to suggest what proper justice is, like if a man were to run away from punishment after committing a crime, it would make him unjust for not facing the penalty of his actions. Do the wicked prosper more in life than the righteous people suffer? This is where Plato correlates a persons’ happiness to their duty to be just. In order for a person to just, they may have to make certain choices for the sake of society to sustain, however, that may affect the level of their happiness if those choices are not real decisions that they want to make.

By the same token, Plato mentions proper ordering in society for there to be sustainability and success. Producers are the farmers and crafters, Auxiliaries are the warrior like soldiers, and of course the rulers are the guardians. In order for society to sustain and ultimately be just, all three classes must coincide with each other by performing their duties; and their must not be any interference, otherwise the system would be problematic. Plato also touches on Platonic Idealism; this theory truly is the root to all of his ideas; starting with Being v. Becoming. Becoming is the world that our senses perceive and being are the ideas and forms; they are both independent of each other. Essentially, Idealism is what we are able to see and observe is actually simpler then we think. Plato was all about the absolute truth, as seen with the allegory of the cave. The human condition is trapped in a cave being taught a false reality, which is the manufactured truth until we eventually climb up the struggle of breaking free of the false programming and finally facing the truth about what is real and what is not.

Notably, the Nicomachean Ethics aims to focus on happiness, goodness and virtue. What Aristotle says in the text is that people aim to do what makes them happy and live the best life. We always expect to achieve outcomes that positively affect our happiness; preserving our health, finances and pleasures. However, Aristotle claims that the physical objects of the world do no suffice for premier happiness. If a person were to think that riches and power are to make someone happy, they would be wrong because it’s not money that people want, it is what they can get from it due to the fact that these can be lost at any time. Aristotle says that all tangible goods that we hold so dear to ourselves have no value unless we know exactly how to use it. He wanted to put a lot of emphasis on choice and knowing to make the correct one.

This is when virtutes and vices come into play. One scenario is when a person has a bucket a food that is supposed to last for a month; knowing to eat certain portions every day to make it last is the virtue of Temperance. The virtuous action will be in the middle of two extremes and those extremes are called vices; virtue of courage would be in the middle between recklessness and cowardness. Vices are considered to be excessive and that everything should be pursued moderately. Aristotle’s virtues and vices could seem a bit too much of an easy way to live life, who is there to say that a person couldn't have a moderate life with some excessive tendencies? To continue, Aristotle brings up multiple types of friendships and the value that each of them hold, he saw them as one of the best things in life and that life needed to be surrounded by companionship of other individuals. There are three types: goodness of character, utility and pleasure. Utility is a friend with benefits type of relationship, e.g. Business relationship. Pleasure is for people that have an emotional connection and have similar interests at hand and goodness of character is essentially the type of relationship between people that have been through the good and the bad with each other and genuinely care for the other despite their imperfections. Aristotle claims that pleasure and utility are the most prevalent type of friendships and that doesn’t mean that they are bad but that people naturally flock towards relationships that are easy and do not need much work.

To conclude, the presence that Aristotle, Socrates and Plato had generations after their deaths has been felt throughout the entire world and it can be seen by the societal norms, politics, architecture and religion. All three philosophers have impacted the world in a way that they are still being spoken about in the 21st century. Plato and Aristotle understood that seeing was believing. Something to note is the step by step way of all three philosophers trying to create the perfect society; Socrates wanted people to essentially have a mind of their own and create a life and set of principle for themselves. Plato wanted people to face the truth with his allegory of the cave theory and his class divisions in a society was to maintain sustainability and Aristotle valued friendships and virtues that makeup a persons’ personality to complete the perfect living situation in a society. These individuals were able to establish theories and probable reasons for why they would work and so far with how we have progress in our own societies and countries, it seems that there are bits and pieces of philosophy everywhere, no matter what it is.

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