Of all the dialogues of Plato, this has got to be one of the most impressive of all. A display of conversations that did not rely on just mediocre questioning….
A philosopher is wise, reflective and analytical in his views of life in general. For him, every thing has its proper context, correct sense and right values. There are those who Plato believed to be prejudiced against philosophy. He attempted to explain philosophy through his use of analogies like a: navigator, plant, beast, and tinker. In a ship, the crew keeps the vessel moving, the captain gives orders for the crew to follow, but it is the navigator who steers the ship in course.
In order for the navigator to do his job, he has to study the wind direction, the water current, and the vessel speed.
A philosopher is like a navigator who possesses the knowledge that would keep him from straying off course in life. A philosopher has the wisdom or the gift of reason that would not allow his unbridled greed and desires from prevailing over him. The crew represents the out of control greed and desires that characterize some people when they go through life.
The captain is the symbol of power. The navigator, with the important knowledge that he has to commander the ship, has what it takes to seize the power for himself. This means that there is a strong temptation for a philosopher to use his wisdom in the wrong way.
Plato compared the vices and virtues of man to the weeds and to a good plant. Weeds grow easily and abundantly anywhere and everywhere but a good plant needs to be nurtured in order for it to grow. The same can be said of man’s wisdom. A person must exert extra effort to develop virtues from that wisdom, because it will not take as much for vices to spread in his person and in his soul. A beast is incapable of reason. He can be tamed only at a certain time but not forever by its trainer. A leader who exploits the ignorance and bias of people is like the trainer who can not tame the beast.
The beast becomes dangerous. When appetites and passions can no longer be tamed they become the beasts inside us. Man will need a strong sense of reason and wisdom to control these beasts. The tinkers have no real talent but they are those who pretend to have the talent. Plato believed that there are plenty of them in the Athenian academe, mostly in law and politics. He believed that the real philosophers are those with uncompromised beliefs and values and those who have the least regard for fame and money. In his analogies he defended the philosophers and their importance.
Plato cited that the wisdom of philosophers: 1) keeps people on the right track, 2) prevents them from seeking power for themselves, 3) cultivates virtues and stops vices, 4) makes their reason prevail over their greed and desires, and 5) inspires the pursuit of values and beliefs over and above fame and financial gain. Plato considers the philosophical life to be highly moral and a cut above the rest. The philosophers do not just have the knowledge and wisdom stored in their minds, they have it in their souls and they show it in their attitudes towards others.
Those who are prejudiced against philosophers are the power grabbers, the materialistic, those without self-regulation, and the self-indulgent people who desire everything for themselves. The concern and values of the philosophers are those that keep the mind and soul morally upright while the concern and values of non-philosophers are centered on material pursuits like fame and fortune. The philosophers hold the virtues like honesty, humility, and compassion in the highest order, non-philosophers seeks power for himself and not through which to serve others. The philosophy of Plato is applicable to us in our present circumstances.
Our leaders must possess the virtues and qualities of a philosopher to be able to move our nation in the right direction. He must use his powers for the good of all. As an individual and member of a society of people, I believe that my actions must always conform to what is for the common good. I must not think of what is easy for me even if it would inconvenience others, like breaking traffic rules. The philosophy of Plato is simple but when he expounds on it, the idea becomes cluttered in its complexity. His use of analogies further complicates the idea instead of making it easily understood.
It would have been a lot simpler if he stated his defense of the philosophical life in plain language or stating it as it is and not resorting to examples. It is another job to explain the analogy and figure out his thoughts that way. His philosophies are mostly about leading an austere life, devoid of the frills, but steeped in virtues. In the current times, we do not have to deprive ourselves with the conveniences that make life easy. Living the golden rule and all the other virtues is not a monopoly of the philosophers. We must follow their examples as it would do us a lot of good.