Platonic Philosophy in Ethics, Aesthetics and Politics

PREAMBULE: In our pages Description in More Details, Science of Being, and Pythagorean Man Emulation, we talk in general terms about the system of values and concepts that are at the foundation of the EthoPlasìn formation, and that are baLantanesed on the Pythagorean and Platonic traditions. To the contrary, the comments of this page have to do more specifically with the ethics, aesthetics, politics, virtues and values defined by Plato, in the context of the best possible holistic education to be given to a human being in order to make him become the best of citizens. Here we try to be more specific than in other pages, by giving explanations with reference to the exact sections of Plato's works indicated in Stephanus Pagination. This is the system of reference and organization mostly used in modern editions and translations of the 36 works of Plato. His works are divided into numbers, and each number is divided into equal sections: A, B, C, D and E. These numbers and letters are usually put in the margins of the pages of these books. They are in fact the ones of the Greek texts of Plato collected in 1578 by the French scholar Henri Estienne, where, in Latin, Stephanus means Estienne.

PREMISE: As a legitimate premise to the study of the ethics, aesthetics and politics of Plato, we have to say clearly that translating from Ancient-Greek to English, or to any other modern language, is extremely difficult, sometimes nearly impossible. Even an institution of as much dignified worthiness as the Cambridge University, who produced supposedly the English translation of most authority, of Plato, in its book "Plato - Complete Works", on which the English translation of the citations of this page is based, often does not succeed in rendering accurately the real meaning of the ancient Greek words. And we will see examples. This is because the ELL ("Greek") language was just about the most sophisticated one that ever existed, with a clear 5000 years of ascertained superiority in front of all other languages, and this is probably why philosophy was 'invented' in Ancient-Greece, and Ancient-Greek is still taught today in the most serious schools and universities around the world. Compared to the harmonious complexity and the subtle nuances of Ancient-Greek, modern languages like English or French are only simplistic primitive languages that in fact, for the little sophistication they may have, draw it all from Ancient-Greek.

The most famous example of these translating difficulties is probably the word "Republic" that is used worldwide for the name of probably the most famous work of Plato. This gives the impression that Plato is writing essentially about politics and the form of government that we know today as a 'Republic'. The real name of the dialogue in Greek is "Politeia". The word Politeia is a 100 times more subtle than the word 'Republic' in English, a word that is extremely misleading to a newcomer as to the content to be expected of Plato's 'Republic'. A somewhat closer translation could be 'Civilization', but even then it would still be much too deviously restrictive. 'Politeia' means all the essential and best aspects of living humanly and socially in a city in order to attain the best possible civic environment, or what we call "Civitas" in the context of the EthoPlasìn Academy. Politeia certainly includes 'Politics', but it is only one aspect of 'Politeia', and Plato has another dialogue called precisely 'Politics', or 'Politician' ('Politicus' in Greek, usually translated very restrictively, and also wrongly again, as "Statesman" in English). Politeia also includes considerations on laws and legislation, but again this is only another aspect of 'Politeia', and Plato has yet another dialogue called 'Laws'. Although the name "Republic" does not reveal it at all, Politeia is in fact a treatise as much on 'Education' as it is one on politics, laws, and the ideal government structure and constitution of a 'Republic', and education in its best meaning of 'holistic education' having to do with the formation of a man at the 4 levels of the human Tetractys. Jean-Jacques Rousseau even considered Republic the greatest book of pedagogy and education that was ever written. And again it has to do with much more than plain education, rather with a holistic type of education, for all those who live in the environment of a city, be they farmers, artisans, warriors, students, teaches or top leaders, and want to make it the best possible civic environment, each one providing their best possible meritocratic contribution in terms of behavior, virtue, talent, justice, achievements and dedication.

If we were to talk about the translation of the word 'Dimocratia' with the word 'Democracy', we would run into even more serious difficulties as its meaning, in Ancient-Greece, was completely different than the modern word 'democracy', and was much closer to what we could only express today with a complex expression, like possibly a "Direct Participative Meritocracy", at least in as much as we wanted to talk about the ideal form of 'democracy', or 'republic' defined by Plato for his virtual 'Civitas'. And this degree of sophistication in language, along with the 'invention' of philosophy itself at its best, and the creation of education, in a holistic and meritocratic way, and of the first 'universities' of our western civilization, not to mention the development of the spirit of the Olympics (in our context we call it SOS: Social Olympic Spirit) that we still so highly celebrate today, all expressed by the kind of outstandingly handsome men and women that we still admire today in their magnificent sculptures, like the Hermes shown to the right, was taking place some 2500 years ago, when the rest of the western world was literally full of illiterate barbarians cleaning their hands in their hair while devouring their wild preys.

As for Plato himself, who brought the nascent philosophy to an insuperable level, this is particularly amazing if we consider what the English mathematician and philosopher A.N. Whitehead so truly and so well said: "The safest general characterization of the [modern] European philosophical tradition is that it consists only of a series of footnotes to [ancient] Plato". This current of so-called Platonic Philosophy was of course born much before Plato, really from Pythagoras. It then had its best period during a full millennium between Pythagoras and Proclus. This is the period that in our context we often qualify as the period of the 6P Philosophers because the names of the main philosophers of that platonic trend that found its peak with Plato all started with a "P". These include Pythagoras (~550 BC), Plato (~350 BC), Plutarch (~100 AD), Plotinus (~250 AD), Porphyrios (~300 AD) and Proclus (~450 AD). They are distributed in a span of time of about 1000 years, between ~550 BC and ~450 AD.  In spite of the immense difficulties mentioned above, we will nevertheless attempt to give the best possible summary of the main concepts of the philosophy of Plato having to do with three fundamental sectors of the EthoPlasìn formation: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Politics.