Ancient Greek Philosophy

One of my biggest sources of frustration with the teaching of philosophy is that it focuses far too much on good philosophers and far too little on what is actually good philosophy. Nowhere is this clearer than in a course I’m taking, History of Ancient Greek Philosophy, which is devoted entirely to teaching philosophy that is over 2000 years old, and is also mandatory in order to get a philosophy degree.

I’m sure that when I imply that a course being devoted to 2000+ year old philosophy is a bad thing, most philosophers would object that being old, even 2500 years old, doesn’t mean that it’s bad – that old philosophy can still be some of the greatest philosophy ever written.

I completely disagree with this. Plato is terrible.

Now, please excuse me while I backpedal. I’m sure Plato was good, great, brilliant, or whatever else you want to call him, at the time he was alive. It’s just that his philosophy is no longer good in a modern context. Just like Newton’s Principia Mathematica was once the cutting edge of physics but is now outdated, and thus not taught from, so Plato’s philosophy, and that of the rest of the ancient Greeks, is outdated and should no longer be taught from, no matter how good it was “for its time.” Not that it has nothing of use, but only specific concepts should be isolated and paraphrased and expounded on by modern philosophers, leaving out all of the now-useless filler, fluff, and fallacies (which, for the record, is the large majority). This really shouldn’t be a radical proposition: it’s done in soft sciences as well as hard, and is in fact done by basically any subject that actually tries to get things done. There has been significant improvement in logic, morality, and clarity of writing since the ancient Greeks’ time, and this leaves the majority of ancient Greeks’ philosophy incoherent and irrational by modern standards.

For this piece I will focus on Plato, though I believe his problems can be found in the other ancient Greek philosophers as well. What are his problems? One: his logic is very poor; whenever he attempts rational argument he instead falls back on misleading analogies and fallacies. Two: his writing is unnecessarily verbose; he takes FAR too long to say what he says. Three: the majority of his philosophical “theories” offer no true predictions (they are unfalsifiable) and have no content, in addition to lacking good justification.

In support of problems 1 and 2, look at how Plato argues. The arguments found in Plato’s works are long and meandering; they never seem to even try to directly tackle the problem . Instead, Socrates’ arguments will comprise solely of a series of poor analogies and obvious logical fallacies. And each one of these fallacious steps will, instead of being a single sentence or paragraph like it should, be drawn out into a page or ten.

An example of Plato’s long, winding, faulty argumentative style would be when Socrates is asked in Republic why one should pursue a good life rather than pursue one’s own pleasure. He spends ~90 pages laying out a useless (more on this later) model of cities and the human soul, then suddenly concludes, without any good justification (not that there was any good justification to be found in the previous 90 pages either), that if you act selfishly your soul will be out of proportion and thus you will be miserable.

Maybe you found this convincing when you read the Republic, I don’t know. But actually look at the core of his argument: he is arguing that you should not act badly because if you do you will be miserable. Does anyone seriously think that it is impossible to be selfish and happy? I won’t take the time to argue this out here, but even if you do (somehow) think that it is impossible, realize that Socrates offered next to no support for this proposition. He spent over ninety pages on his stupid model of the soul and then all but skips over the only part of the argument that actually has anything to do with the problem at hand. His only attempt at justification is his assertion that acting badly will make your soul “diseased” and that “good practices lead to virtue, and evil practices to vice.”

Problem number 3 is a very common Greek theme, and also, in my opinion, the primary reason people like ancient Greek philosophy in spite of its myriad flaws. Plato (usually speaking through Socrates) will claim to have some incredible revelation – e.g. Socrates arguing in Republic that the human soul is composed of three parts: appetite, will, and reason – that in fact says nothing at all. In the case presented above, is there any way to disprove Plato’s claim about the soul? Of course not, because his model is so vague that it makes no predictions. There is no possible human behaviour that you could point to and say, “see, this person’s soul clearly must not be composed of appetite, will, and reason!” In other words, it is unfalsifiable. If you don’t believe this, let’s look at one of the predictions Socrates himself tries to draw from his theory; that you will be miserable if you act selfishly. This did not follow at all from his theory of the soul, but let’s assume it did for the moment. Imagine you found someone who clearly acted selfishly and, equally clearly, was very happy. Would Socrates bat an eyelid? No! He would declare that this person was secretly very unhappy, despite all appearances. And his compatriots, instead of challenging this ridiculous assertion, would cry “I cannot imagine anything more obvious, Socrates! Anyone who disagrees with this is most certainly stupid beyond belief!”

I know that the typical response here is that while Plato’s theories may need some fleshing out, they are a great starting point for thought and discussion. I simply disagree. Philosophically speaking, these theories have no content. Not only that, but they have have no relation to the truth; they are usually extremely arbitrary, as in the case of the tripartite division of the soul. Socrates came up with the division out of nowhere (at least, he had no good justification, neither rational nor intuitive, for it) and only made it work through making the idea vague enough that it made no predictions. These vague “theories” are only helpful for sparking discussion and thought in that they mislead people into thinking they have some degree of  understanding of an issue when in fact they have none (e.g. thinking they know the basic way the soul/mind works because of Plato’s “theory” of soul). Poor Socrates has become what he hated!

A more specific problem with Socratic dialogues is… the people Socrates dialogues with. The characters opposed to Socrates seem to serve the sole purpose of breaking Socrates’ speech into manageable bites, punctuating his speech with some variant of “Yes,” “Certainly,” or “Of course.” Nowadays we have invented the paragraph, which renders these other speakers largely obsolete. I suppose that they are also occasionally allowed to serve as straw men, if they are lucky. In these cases, their job is to present an opposing idea, and then immediately revert back to their default  setting: “agree enthusiastically with everything Socrates says, no matter how absurd.”

Going back to problem number 2, Plato takes forever to say anything, spinning what should be a single sentence into a page or more. This makes it very difficult to quote his argument directly so that I can show why it’s fallacious; instead I have to attempt to paraphrase his arguments, which takes away weight from my claims. But there is a brief moment in Plato’s discussion of the soul, why we should be good, and so forth, where Plato is far more succinct than usual, although he still takes about three times longer to communicate his idea than a modern philosopher would (not that a modern philosopher would ever, ever try to make this argument). This moment is when Socrates “shows” that concepts that work for cities will necessarily work for individuals:

“Socrates: Well, then, are things called by the same name, whether they are bigger or smaller than one another, like or unlike with respect to that to which that name applies?

Glaucon: Alike.

Socrates: Then a just man won’t differ at all from a just city in respect to the forms of justice; rather he’ll be like the city.

Glaucon: He will.”

My main point in quoting this is to show how terrible Plato’s logic is (by modern standards). Here he literally argues that a city is just a really big person (or, to be generous, a large collection of people, not that this makes his argument any less invalid), and that because of this what applies to a city must also apply to a person. And this is someone we are expected to learn from?

Incidentally, this quote also shows how Plato is unnecessarily hard to read: “are things called by the same name, whether they are bigger or smaller than one another, like or unlike with respect to that to which that name applies?”  How about: “Are like things called by the same name, regardless of size?” The answer being “no,” and also being, “a city is not a really big person Socrates, come on.” To be fair, the quote I’m hammering here is from the translation in the book I was given for ethics class, but a different translation words this section in much less certain terms. So maybe this is partly a translation error. But you know what? Whatever. I don’t think anyone can deny that in Plato, even extraordinarily simple concepts are wrapped up in big, long sentences filled with unnecessary words. This makes it harder to pin down what Plato is saying, which is an invaluable asset when so little of what he says is of any worth. However, given that our motive here should be to conduct philosophy, not to hide the fact that we have nothing of value to say, there is no reason to read strict translations of Plato; instead he should be thoroughly paraphrased if he is taught at all.

To conclude, Plato’s logic is generally bad, examples being his terrible “city” argument and his complete non-argument for why we should be good; his theories are usually useless, e.g. his tripartite theory of the soul, and his writing is far longer than it needs to be, e.g. pick up anything by Plato and read it and you will see this is true. Because of these things there is no reason to teach directly from Plato or focus on Plato’s ideas.

I realize that this piece is not by itself very convincing; I have drawn entirely from one specific section of Republic and have still relied primarily on paraphrasing his argument rather than quoting (hopefully I didn’t distort the truth; if so I didn’t do so intentionally, but rather out of extreme incompetence) But I still maintain that my general claims about the problems with Plato and the rest of the ancient Greeks are true. This piece isn’t intended to definitively prove the claims true, but to lay them out so that I can prove them in the time to come, and so that hopefully you will start to recognize these problems when you next read Plato (if you hadn’t already).

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45 Responses to Ancient Greek Philosophy

  1. Hansel says:

    Thank the Lord above!

    I thought I was the only one who hated Plato. I’ve been reading the Gorgias (for a class; I would never have bothered finishing it had it not been required) and I absolutely hated it. I was in tears, or very nearly, for days, because of that quote, I think it was A.N. Whitehead, that all Western philosophy is “but one long footnote on Plato” (or something). I was so worried I was stupid, and that Plato was actually amazing, and I couldn’t get it.

    But no. I’m convinced, genuinely convinced, that Plato is almost entirely useless, and is truly faecal in it’s quality.

    I would like to just ask – you say that the Dialogue allows straw men arguments. I agree. I couldn’t help feeling that it also allows Ad Hominem attacks, to weaken counter-arguments. For instance, in Gorgias, Callicles is painted as essentially a psychotic thug (Might is right, et. al); Polus is an irritating, upstart youth; and Gorgias himself comes across as an arrogant and pompous arse. Personally, I felt that this portrayal of the other characters was designed to make Socrates come across as a ‘nice guy’, and so more believable. You didn’t mention that idea in your article (if you did, then I missed it, and I apologize). Do you think there is anything in that, or am I being unfair?

    The other thing that annoys me about Plato is that I swear he redefines words midway through arguments, in order to trip people up. There is a word that describes that, and I can’t remember it, unfortunately. I don’t suppose you can help there?

    But, most importantly, thank you for confirming to me that Plato is terrible. I feel we should start some sort of club.

    • Anonymous says:

      also, I would like to add, not only are his ideas outdated, but he pinned a lot of them on socrates in writing the various book about his teacher’s life. Plato knew that since socrates was so influential, it would be almost an advertisement for his ideas to say that they were ideas socrates had. Plato is cowardly and apathetic. His plan worked, but he went the way that could very well have hurt socrates’ legacy, while offering a cushion for himself if the ideas were not supported. Plato is the worst and I want to make a time machine purely to go back in time and punch him in the face.

  2. screwplato says:

    Thanks! I felt alone on this point too – basically everyone I talk to seems to love him, or at best not mind him. And yeah, that quote got to me as well, and what was even worse was the compliments that professors heaped on him every single time he came up. It makes me feel like either everyone else is completely insane, or I am. I remember talking to a philosophy prof who, when I pressed him, actually said, “well, I’m not sure if Plato was right about anything!”… But he still loves Plato. It’s absolutely surreal.

    And I agree that Plato also uses the dialogue to work in ad hominem arguments (and didn’t mention it in the post). As best I can tell, most of Socrates’ dialogue partners (if they aren’t devoted disciples of his playing devil’s advocate) are extremely unpleasant, immoral men, and of course Socrates himself is always made out to be basically perfect.

    About him redefining words, the word you’re thinking of is equivocation. It’s definitely a standard tactic for Plato. What makes it so effective is that since he usually doesn’t define his words well in the first place, doesn’t say when he switches, and stretches his argument out over 20 pages or so, it makes it basically impossible to pin him down to anything.

    Man I hate Plato. Thanks again for commenting, it’s good to know that there’s someone else who is as confused as I am by the adoration he receives.

  3. Hansel says:

    Equivocation, that was the word I was looking for! Hot damn, I feel like a dumbass now. Thanks for getting that for me though.

    But yeah, I really don’t understand the huge hard-on the world has for Plato. I must admit, with some guilt here, that I like the Analogy of the Ship. As a condemnation of democracy, it is rather brilliant. A little wordy, as you said, but it just works. However, I don’t think I’ve read anything else by Plato that I actually like. His idea of the perfect society sounded pretty horrific to me – no social mobility, slavery was fine, lie to the people as a matter of course. Well done Plato – that’s never gone wrong before.

    I like your site though, and I think I’ll become a regular follower. I don’t do philosophy, I’m a history student (final year) but I’m really interested in Philosophy, and I think it’s very important. I’m doing a course on Rhetoric in History, hence the Gorgias. We’re doing a whole bunch of other writers, like Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian, Saint Augustine, JS Mill. They’re a whole lot better than Plato.

    Thank you for replying, both to show me that I’m not the only Plato-hater, and to tell me it was equivocation. Hope you have a nice day.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Plato laid the foundations! The dialectic began from his philosophy and will continue to the end of time. To do philosophy without understanding Plato is like trying to make a pizza without the base! It can be done but it will be messy and can you even call that a pizza?
    You also pointed out that Plato’s philosophy is full of fallacies, but which philosopher didn’t commit the sin of fallacy? Look at Nietzsche’s works, they are full of fallacies but it is brilliant philosophy nonetheless. Bertrand Russell was found to commit the sin of fallacy and he would have been extra careful when writing his philosophy.
    You started your own argument against Plato with an ad hominem attack!
    The point i’m trying to make is that Socrates (via Plato) taught us to question things. Even the value of logic needs to be questioned! Logic is just a tool that is used to make sure our reasoning doesn’t wander off the straight path in the quest for truth, but do we really need logic to know that 1+1=2? That is the point Plato is trying to make when he talks about the forms. Some things are eternal other things are subject to change. Scientific books like Newtons Principia Mathematica are subject to change but 1+1=2 is eternal!

    • Anonymous says:

      What if we count in base 2 (binary)?

    • CatsB says:

      It has been argued that Plato was not the beginning but more a culmination of ideas that were outdated even during his time, stuff he borrowed from the river valley civilizations. “Others do it too” does not really justify it. Logic is not just a tool, plato viewed it as a tool. Plato had an ideology and a vague vision and he would pick up or discard anything that aided him, he would have gone for pure reason or unthinking theory as long as it worked in his eyes. Nothing is eternal an plato desperately wants it to be, if you think everyone else is a hack than just read platos own criticism of theory of forms

  5. Smock Lick Docklin says:

    Okay while I agree Plato and his logical fallacies suck huge monkey balls, I have to disagree with the first couple of paragraphs. If your interested in philosophy then calling one particular philosopher or philosophy ‘good’ is subjective and vague. That’s a no-brainer, and pointing that out is a bit semantic. Here’s what grinds my gears: unfortunately there isn’t much outdated about Plato. Plato is the conceptual basis of Christian metaphysics, and the Republic has had a profound influence on the western world’s sense of politics, the most prominent example being nationalism.

    Also, please don’t let Plato give the rest of Greek philosophy a bad rep. If you get the chance, there is a number of books on presocratic philosophy which mainly deals with natural science, along with everything that Plato rants on about without all the unnecessary dialectic and bullshit logic. I have spent the last few years reading different books on Greek presocratic philosophy and some Homer/Hesiod, and with better context I can say Plato has seriously fucked over the western world. In his metaphysics, the immortal soul is almost evangelist in helping one transcend this world to a more perfect Ideal one. Pythagoras and Parmenides seem to have had a huge influence in a positive sense, and the sophists/other presocratic philosphers in the negative sense.

    In context to our capitalistic society I came upon an interesting article on how The Republic advocates specialization, and no, in case you are wondering, the article does not mention Adam Smith.

    I wouldn’t say that Plato irrelevant to our culture, but has actually influenced more than any other person alongside some other forerunners Hegel/Marx/Smith/Nietzsche/Kant. But seeing as nationalism, christianity, and capitalism are the definitive systems of values that the western world still uses, we are from ridding ourselves of this terrible person.

    My biggest personal grudge with the guy is the immortal soul thing, it pretty much set up a nihilistic way of looking at the world, I say this as a Nietzsche fan. If your going to live forever in spite of dying on earth, you have no reason to give a fuck about what you do or the implications of your actions. The monotheistic conception of God in the Ancient Greek world dates back to Xenophanes who also said ‘All is but a woven web of guesses’ (Karl Popper’s translation). But Plato uses it to justify his absurd ideal perfect world which one transcneds by modes of reason. His rationalism is ironically complements the paradoxical nature of Christianity. I know this a rant in response to rant, but dude, Plato is the king of paradox, and we’re still talking about him because plenty of people still look back to him for guidance. Plus Socrates is just his and Aristotle’s puppet. Alright, I’m done.

  6. Sayyid says:

    I’m afraid you don’t understand Plato.
    First, in all or nearly all dialogues, Plato gives good arguments for and against a view. The Gorgias, mentioned by someone here, is a brilliant example. The idea that the opponents are mere self-serving devices is not true. (More on what sort of devices they are later)
    Second, generally speaking, Plato does not end a dialogue conclusively. This is one of the fascinations with Plato, in the context in which he was living, but still today. Philosophers generally expounded theories in a conclusive manner. Plato was wary of doing that. Partly, because none of Plato’s works begin from first principles. This leads me to the next point.
    Third, Plato’s Socrates is tries to take a conjunction of beliefs from one of his opponents and reduce it to an absurd conclusion, hence providing the opponent with the trilemma of: a) abandoning elements of that belief, or b) identifying equivocation in Socrates, or c) remain incoherent. And this leads me to the role of opponents in the dialogues.
    1. When Socrates asks a question, Plato sometimes lets the opponent ask for clarification. This helps train the philosophical mind of the reader, but also shows how a vague question can be analysed.
    2. When Socrates makes a point, Plato sometimes lets the opponent mock it, a bit like how you are doing now. He does this both for dramatic and philosophical effect. It has philosophical significance, because it exposes commonplace intuitions, perhaps prejudiced, of the opponent. Exactly what you find problematic in today’s philosophy, Plato found problematic in Socrates’ opponents.
    3. When Socrates makes a point and asks for confirmation (‘Is this not so, Glaucon?’, ‘Indeed, Socrates.’), Plato allows the opponent to either affirm or deny, but he prefers to let them affirm as much as possible. Contrary to your objection that Plato has bad logic, in fact he shows impeccable sensitivity to it within the rushing flux of dramatic dialogue. Here is why: to successfully establish a reduction ad absurdum, you must begin with premises, and assume their truth, one by one, step by step, until you arrive at self-negation. This is why we find the opponents saying ‘yes’ and ‘true’ and ‘certainly’ so often, because Plato wants to assume all the premises until the contradiction emerges. He even goes the extra step, sometimes at least, to have the opponent not see why there is a contradiction, which provokes Socrates to make it absolutely clear that a contradiction does arise.
    4. Furthermore, having opponents in a dialogue that does not turn everything into neat paragraphs is actually very enlightening. It shows the human passions, the biases, the sarcastic remarks, the impulses to go to any lengths to defends one’s prejudice, and the counter-intuitive cool of Socratic reason. It also displays them in a social background, where philosophy is relevant and engages with hot topics of the day. Plato is a reminder of why there must be philosophy as well as why it is.

    A word, now, on the analogies and myths. First, just because Plato or his Socrates say something, it does not follow that Plato believed it or that he continued to believe it or that he does not subject it to powerful criticisms. What he is mostly remembered and reviled for, his Theory of Forms, has suffered many criticisms, but arguably, the best come from himself and, perhaps, Aristotle. Plato often used myths to illustrate abstract concepts, to show their logical structure, but also, perhaps, as a mystical interpretation of the abstract concepts. Our current anti-mystical attitude does not mean Plato’s mysticism is to be dismissed without careful argument. So even Platonic mysticism is a rewarding field of inquiry.
    You object that his analogies are a case of bad logic. There are 2 points I can make here:
    1. In Ancient Greece, proportion was held in high esteem. It was believed that everything was organised in proper mathematical ratios, and so, naturally, they sought these ratios. Analogical reasoning is a fascinating form of inference. It is not deductive, but it seems to be. The strange thing is that it is hard to pin down what exactly makes an analogy valid, other than saying ‘when they are analogous’. Many great progresses – maybe the most important – were based on analogies. The creative, imaginative leap can lead to seeing potential in a line of inquiry purely because of some resemblance in some property. Point being, analogies may be wrong, but they are potentially fruitful and good ones are extremely powerful.
    2. But about the example of the human and the city. You find that as a bad analogy. I deny that claim. It is actually a very attractive analogy (I mean philosophically, not as a literary device, though that too) and absolutely worthy of analysis and further investigation. Why do I think you are wrong? Because you mistakenly assume that Plato holds a human and a city to be analogous in every respect. He doesn’t. He clearly gives the context:

    Socrates: Then a just man won’t differ at all from a just city in respect to the forms of justice; rather he’ll be like the city.

    Note, he says that a “just” man won’t differ at all from a “just” city in respect to the forms of “justice”. And this follows from Glaucon’s belief:

    Socrates: Well, then, are things called by the same name, whether they are bigger or smaller than one another, like or unlike with respect to that to which that name applies?

    Glaucon: Alike.

    Since “just” in “just man” and “just city” is one and the same name, and since Glaucon believes that when things are called by the same name, they are alike – i.e. analogous – with respect to that which that name applies, then a “man” and a “city” are analogous with respect to “justice”.
    Not only is this not bad logic, it is perfect reasoning. Of course, Glaucon may be wrong, and that calling two things with the same name does not mean that the two things are alike with respect to that to which that name applies. But, first, this is no fault of Plato’s. Second, there’s good, though by no means conclusive, reason to believe that the reason we call a “just man” and a “just city” both as “just” is that they exhibit some identical feature which we are trying to denote when calling them “just”. So there is no apparent fallacy at all in Plato’s reasoning, and Glaucon’s assumption, which Plato allows and pursues, is actually stemming from a deep-seated intuition that this is so. Clearly, Plato wants to see how this intuition would bear out.

    So yes, I think your criticisms are very unfair. Plato is not perfect, but he is an immortal philosopher whose works have the seeds of philosophy which were only resurrected in the 18th century, such as Aesthetics, or even in the 20th century, such as the philosophy of sex.

    • Earl Westie says:

      Objections: firstly, this sounds very interpretive, subjective and charitable towards Plato. Secondly, the fallacy with the just man / just city argument is that the ‘language element’ or symbol assigned to each, the adjective ‘just’, is considered to be sufficient grounds to support the assertion that they are alike. It is perfect reasoning to argue that 1 =1, but they are arbitrary abstract constructs that cannot necessarily be applied to the real world. In other words, it’s a straw man argument.

      • GP says:

        Objection to you in regards to the city comment. The justness of the person and the city may be 1=1, lets assume I mean just to be honest and hard working. To call a man Just then implies he is honest and hardworking. To call a city just implies the city contains honest and hardworking people. Then I don’t see any issue in saying the just man is alike to the just city -only- in matters of the attribute just. Obviously a man is not comprised of dwellings in which people live or work or a city made of flesh and has thought and action. Noting my definition for just is not the same as Plato’s and he went much further to create parallels between the justness of a city and justness of men which further makes me comfortable with plato using equality. Don’t think it really fits a straw man.

        • GP says:

          I also find this cry against subjectiveness to problems in philosophy hilarious. The entire subject is a thinking exercise for different world views trying to find what the truth is for subjects we have very little chance at an objective answer. I love capitalism, I’m a fan of republics, I believe in utilitarian methods for ethical dilemmas. For every one of me I will find you a person who thinks a fully controlled economy with a one party one rule no vote and heavy deontological ethical beliefs. Neither of us are -objectively- wrong or right and I doubt we will ever see a system that can be objectively right.

    • George Watson says:

      Thank You.

    • Octavian says:

      This pretty much sums it up. The author doesn’t understand Plato, nor does he/she even properly understand what philosophy is.

  7. ERG says:

    The fella’ who wrote this, seems stupid… learn how to learn.

    • Anonymous says:

      “I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think.”

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  8. Anonymous says:

    i love your post…. “plato is terrible”…

  9. George Watson says:

    There is a reason why people are called Sophomores and this essay, though well meaning,
    is Sophomoric.

    Aristotle deeply respected Plato, as did Plotinus, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Leibniz
    and Kant.

    Yes, they may have disagreed but they did not dismiss Plato as you immaturely do.

    Sayyid and GP have pointed out where you have jumped to conclusions.

    I might note that you seem, perhaps I missed your citing it in your rant against the Republic,
    that Socrates suggests that they examine the Polis as it is, in some ways, the human soul
    writ large.

    The word “Fallacy” and “Strawman” are used too often. Surely Plato would know if he is
    obviously using a fallacious form of reasoning or not. As for equivocation, well just trying
    speaking without equivocating any of your words – see Wittgenstein on the inherent
    flexibility/vagueness of natural languages.

    Perhaps Analytical Philosophy is your cup of Philosophical Tea and if it is,
    I wish you the best, but please don’t speak ill of Philosophers you barely understand.

    You write very clearly but you are not fair to Plato.

  10. Murray Hobbs says:

    read Plato at university in the 70’s – found it boring mostly though some of the shorter dialogues were less tedious

    the biggest problem with Plato and all who followed him is that his idea about forms is pretty naive by today’s standards. With what we know now about DNA, evolution etc and what we know about how our brain categorizes things it’s pretty obvious his idea, though awesome for the time, is just as silly as believing in gods or santa clause

    Had he been exposed to the idea of “ring species” he’d have seen his forms just don’t make any sense other than to throw some light on the way the human brain works – that we might agree with the idea that there is a “perfect” horse and that we all agree that a horse is a horse says nothing about horses really – unless you look at horses in a small window of evolutionary time

    Plato’s theory of forms could be both explained and totally destroyed in a single lecture or less – reading his works should be relegated to history of philosophy and not philosophy itself. The rest of his ideas then also fall apart.

    Much could be said about other “great” philosophers.

    Anyone who creams themselves over Plato is probably an idiot unless they are fascinated by how the development of human thought has progressed over time.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    What a piece of shit article

  12. I’m so thankful it wasn’t simply me who found the dialogues frustrating and illogical.

  13. Carlee says:

    That’s a crjcceraakk answer to an interesting question

  14. I have lomng recognized Plato as an idiot and unworthy of worship in philosophy classes. The plato apologists in this thread are comical. Anyhow, thanks for this article. The other night I was thinking about how idiotic the Platonic approach is, someone was using this sort of nonsense in a Facebook arguement and I thought surely I can’t be the only one who realizes what a nutcase Plato is/was so I googled something like “Plato is dumb” and found this post! Cheers!

    • Al Gazali says:

      You are not.

      I actually Googled “Plato is terrible” in addition to “overrated” and “why do people think that Plato was responsible for every idea anyone ever thought of at any point in time after Plato lived.”

      OK that last one was not true, but it is my opinion. I started to realize this while reading English language translations of my favorite Muslim philosopher and famous anti-Hellenist al-Ghazali and the translator from the Society of Asiatic Brethren (some kind of quasi Masonic outfit I would imagine) decided that one of the subjects of the book was a tradition that was originated in neo Platonism. While I have no time to explain why this is an erroneous assumption suffice it to say that al Ghazali was not exactly known for his love of Greek philosophy, and that neo Platonism refers specifically to the period after Plotinus, which there is no proof of al Ghazali even having been aware of. It seems unthinkable to the egomaniacal European that anyone who is not European ever had an original idea, though in reality Europe owes Asia more than Asia owes Europe when it comes to science and arts. Practically everything came into Latin from Arabic, including Plato and Plotinus. And modern scientific method which Europeans find ways to weaponize, the proverbial swine before whom one should not cast pearls. I’m European myself and I can’t deny this fact.

  15. methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall). all about viagra may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication and for as many days your medicine improperly or without a prescription. Do not take it in a newborn if the mother and the hematological profile have normalized. The dosages of other forms of monitoring during treatment if you are using omeprazole. Store omeprazole at room temperature away from moisture and heat. Since naproxen is taken as you

  16. Anonymous says:

    You have a weak mind.

  17. Plato is terrible, Christianity is terrible, continental philosophy is terrible. Platonism appeals to the most psychotic part of the human psyche.

  18. You dumbass says:

    A selfish person will be happy only in ignorance. Surely only a fool would think himself to be more intelligent than Plato (I.e. you).

    • Anonymous says:

      Two different “truisms” that aren’t. Selfishness and ignorance are really just two faces of the same thing = low IQ

      Only a fool would recognise that what we know now renders much of what Plato contemplated somewhat old hat.

      One can enjoy Plato as one enjoys Shakespeare or even Mozart – for it’s own brand of brilliance

      One should not however raise it to the status of diety

      for that, as Plato would himself no doubt agreed, would be foolishness beyond stupidity’s realm

      grammar nazis anywhere?

  19. Anonymous says:


  20. CatsB says:

    I think they are correct in teaching Plato but take wrong lessons from it. I found lovers of Plato to be like a cult that insists that if you don’t find him to be a genius than something is wrong with you on a fundamental level. They will say that Plato make no mistakes, its all traps to trick the sophists. They will say theory of forms does not works but is better than the alternatives at the time, plato was made to be superseded and that is why he can never be superseded,etc.They have been exhausting to deal with so I understand your pain even if I don’t fully agree with you.

    I found Plato smug,petulant,petty and self important. He gets petulant whenever the world does not work the way he wants it to and only in cases where it is relevant to him(for example him getting old)

    as you said about the soul, there is no more bases for it than myth used for love about how we all used to have 4 legs and 4 arms,etc. In this specific case he would say that person has a base bronze soul, he may try to fix them or write them off as irredeemable (as he often does)

    Socrates dialogues. Can dialectic truly breakdown if both sides are puppets of the author? I would agree that it is indeed a speech instead of a dialogue, no matter how many times they proclaim their hatred for speeches.

    I must disagree on the city. people are reflections of the society they live in. good society makes good people and vise versa. obviously there will be aberrations but it is a reasonable rule of thumb.
    I feel like you are trying to equate it to “if your dog a father” line.

    people say Plato is pious, instead I found a man aiming to subvert the gods in hopes of using them to push his ideology onto the people for whom he has contempt. Plato does not love the people, he loves the ideal versions that live in his head but his fans will paint him as a tireless worker who simply wants people to be happy and believes that only proper way for them to be happy and good is to do as he says.

    It is said that it does not matter if Plato is logical,achieves anything,etc all that matters is that he brings up the subjects and has great ambition. I reject this since Im always more impressed with a person that does than the one who dreams. Its easy to picture a flying city, its harder to make the technology that brings that vision to life. Concept art is easy, we all do it. It is folly to base political theory or plan of action on concepts that did not think of the details or worse, don’t find the details important.

    I must disagree with paraphrasing. I would much rather a new philosopher reexamine the ideas and put out their own work. putting words into the mouths of the dead is dangerous,disingenuous and often used to mislead people who are swayed by appeal to authority. I had a positive image of plato until I read him and I would not want to deprive others of the journey, for one it reminds me of the kind of censorship plato pushed for.

  21. Anonymous says:

    You read Plato as a strict scientist, but Plato is more poetic than that. Read him with a sense of irony, and never take any one person’s word for certain, even Socrates. See where the characters agree and where (you) agree or disagree. Plato is probably more careful about flawed logic than you think

  22. Al Gazali says:

    I have not bothered to read Plato, don’t know why anyone would. My problem with Plato is not even the fault of Plato but of European “Orientalists” who translate Arabic philosophers like Al-Ghazali, who literally wrote a tractate called “On the Incoherence of the Philosophers”, meant to criticize those Muslims who were trying to increase Greek philosophy into Islamic theology, and successfully made his point so much so that it was a death blow to the Mutazilite sect he was writing against.

    They will simply translate anything from any Asian language and if it was written after Plato every idea will be labeled “neo-Platonic” by the translator, as if al Ghazali gave a fig leaf about Plato and ignoring his famous hatred of Greek philosophy.

    It’s as if, in the mind of the European Academic, any idea ever thought of at any time after Plato lived, owes a debt to Plato, even if the person had never read Plato. It’s not as maddening as the made up language “proto Indo-European” that has racist origins but is accepted as fact with no evidence…

    Maybe Plato did contribute something to European culture, the method of getting people to believe you are right when you have no evidence. By talking forever until people know longer care and just want you to shut up, “OK, fine, there was a language you could consider Indo-European, can I go…”

  23. Al Gazali says:

    Just to give you an idea of why I hate Orientalists whose job is apparently to translate as many Asian writers and see how many of their original ideas you can credit Plato for, a perfect example :


    On the whole it is the final section on the Veils-Tradition which, though really of the nature of an appendix, contains the most numerous and the most interesting problems for the study of Ghazzâlî’s inner life, thought, and convictions. This tradition speaks of “Seventy Thousand Veils of Light and Darkness” which veil pure Godhead from the human soul. The origin of the tradition is, it is safe to hazard, Neoplatonic, and it therefore lent itself completely to the gnostic and theosophical mode of…

    {p. 7}

    thought which so soon invaded Muslim Sûfism after its less successful effort to capture orthodox Christianity.”

    First, Ghazali absolutely hated mixing Greek philosophy with Islam and dedicated his life to eradicating it’s influence so successfully it earned him the nickname” Proof of Islam. ”

    But I digress, the point is that European Academics are obsessed with Plato and no matter how much of a stretch or even impossibility, if they have opportunity to call something” Neo-Platonic”, they will.

    And for the record Christianity as we know owes more to Platonism than any religion on earth. Logos anyone?  

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