RAJ NANDY

Rookie (CALCUTTA, NOW SETTLED IN NEW DELHI)

****philosopher Plato In Verse. - Poem by RAJ NANDY

****PHILOSOPHER PLATO IN VERSE
(427 -347 BC)
Background:
Around 427 BC, a boy child named Aristocles,
Took birth in an aristocratic Athenian family.
He became a good athlete and did military
training with the cavalry!
But none of these qualities were remotely akin
to Philosophy!
He also got trained in painting, music and writing
verse,
And had become almost a versatile genius!
Because of his ‘broad build’ his gymnast teacher
nick-named him ‘platon’;
And he was destined to become renowned as
Plato, later on!

Plato’s first lessons in philosophy was from
Cratylus, a pupil of Heraclitus;
Who had exclaimed you can step into the
same river only once!
Plato’s intellectual quest brought him closer to
the Athenian ‘street philosopher’ Socrates;
Whose teaching methods Plato’s mind
adequately teased!
The execution of Socrates had touched his mind
and soul,
And philosophy became Plato’s life long quest
and goal!
Plato, a young man of twenty eight years then,
Could never forgive the ruling class at Athens!
He found it prudent to leave that city,
To be away from the wrath of ruling Democracy!

His Wanderings:
Plato wandered far from Athens for the next twelve
years;
At Megra in Attica, met Euclid and other Socrates’
followers!
In Italy acquainted himself with the mystical
Doctrines of Pythagoras.
In Egypt he saw the mighty priestly class rule;
And on the bank of the Ganges said to have met, -
those mystic meditating Hindus!
But Plato’s visit to Syracuse was a great blunder,
Where the tyrant Dionysius I, sold him as a slave
to the Spanish ambassador!
Later, recognized and rescued by a friend,
Plato was sent back to the city of Athens!
By then he was an erudite man of forty years, -
full of maturity;
When in the serene groves of Academus, he
founded his famous Academy.
The word ‘academics’ is derived from Plato’s
‘Academus’ of Greek history!

Plato’s Academy:
This Academy could be considered as the proto-
type of first ancient university;
Where Plato attempted to mould all aspiring
young politicians,
Into philosopher-statesmen and good human
beings;
And all future rulers into Philosopher Kings!
Aristotle, then a young man of eighteen,
Was one of the many students who had made
a beginning!
Plato’s Academy thrived for almost a thousand
years,
Till in 1529 AD the Christian Emperor Justinian
to ally his fears,
Declared it as a pagan establishment,
And decreed its closure and saw its very end!

Salient features of his philosophy:
Plato is a vast institution all by himself,
So only salient features are being highlighted,
Due to paucity of time and space!
He systematized philosophy with his reforming
zeal and transcending thoughts;
Touching all facets of human life and reaching
far beyond!
Plato’s god is a generic name, different from the
monotheistic God of the Christians;
He refers to him as “demiurge” in the true Greek
sense!
His god is immortal in nature, and like a ‘divine
artificer’ or ‘a worker’,
Gives shape to all material things from pre-existent
matter!
For the Greeks abhorred the concept of the void
and nothingness;
And Plato’s ‘god’ remains inferior to his ‘Forms’, –
in the true platonic sense!
His ‘demiurge’ also creates ‘Time’, ‘that moving
image of eternity’!
And this definition later made St. Augustine,
To compose excellent prose on the subjective
elements of time, -
As a part of his eloquent philosophy!
Versed in the philosophical methods of Socrates,
Plato believed ‘genuine knowledge’ lies in the
‘true concepts’ of things!
While with the Elatics he agrees that the real world
is changeless and continuous;
But substitutes Parmenides’ ‘unchanging Being’, -
With his world of ‘Forms’ and ‘Eternal Ideas’!

Doctrine of Forms:
Considered as the most original of philosophical
achievement of Plato,
Its influence on later Neo-platonic philosophers,
And early Christian theologians, did positively
show!
Plato’s forms, ideas, or concepts is seen, -
To hold together the very essential qualities of
all created things!
Since all created things are ‘imperfect copies’ of
its ‘ideal Forms’, -
Which exists as ‘pure concepts’ in a world beyond!
Like Parmenides’ ‘eternal being’ they exist beyond
time and space,
Far removed from the world of our physical sense!
Men may come and men may go, but ‘the man-type
goes on forever’, Plato felt!
But the highest level of all reality is that ‘Form of
the Good’,
Which only the contemplating mind of men and
seekers of truth, understood!
In Plato’s mind this ‘Good’ was equated with the
‘Ideal Forms’ of truth and beauty;
Which made John Keats exclaim in his ‘Ode on
a Grecian Urn’, -
“Beauty is truth and truth beauty”!
And centuries later the great St. Augustine,
Identified this ‘Form of the Good’ with the
‘World of God’, - for all mankind!

Plato’s Works:
Plato’s essential philosophical thoughts,
Remain enshrined in his priceless thirty-six
dialogues!
In his early dialogues on ‘Courage’, ‘Temperance’,
‘Crito’, and the ‘Apology’;
He makes Socrates his spokesman, and reflects
his master’s philosophy!
Whatever we know of Socrates today,
Is based on what Plato had to say!
But in his middle dialogues Plato expresses his
own views;
These are the ‘Symposium’, the ‘Republic’, ‘Phaedo’,
the ‘Meno’, - to mention a few!
Plato’s later Dialogues become more difficult to
discern,
For here he develops his own philosophical
doctrines and mystical systems!
His unique doctrine of Ideas or Forms,
Has already been explained above in a simple
form!
In all his dialogues Plato uses his master’s
interrogative skills,
And creates a dramatic effect, with which his
mission gets fulfilled!
Though a few dialogues are said to be spurious,
But his ‘The Republic’ till date is most valued
and famous!
The Republic:
Plato’s Republic was the forerunner of ‘De
Republic’ of Cicero; St. Augustine’s ‘City of God’,
and ‘The Utopia’ of Sir Thomas Moore!
Yet it was not merely a treaties on an Ideal State;
Its scope was rather vast, touching every thought
of Plato’s age!
From socialism, feminism, birth control, education, -
everything under the sun;
A compendium of Athenian learning, culture and life, -
all rolled in one!
‘Justice’ is the hard core of Plato’s ideal society,
Where political justice in harmony with the Guardians,
Auxiliaries (warriors) , and the Producers (artisans):
Each performing his allotted task in ‘a just society’;
Where individual justice, mirrored political justice with
certainty!
The soul of man being a three part entity,
Was analogus to these three classes of society!
The Soul has its ‘rational’, ‘spirited’ and ‘appetitive
parts’,
Corresponding to the Guardians, the Warriors and the
Artisan class!
The ‘rational part’ sought truth, the ‘spirited part’ honor,
and the ‘appetitive part’ money and earthly pleasures!
In a ‘just individual’ the entire soul aims at seeking
the truth to fulfill the ‘rational portion’!
While in a ‘just society’ the entire community aims
at accomplishing the Guardian’s (ruler’s) mission!
‘Ideal justice’ being the ‘Form of the Good’, -
That ultimate object of knowledge and truth!
The ‘aim of education’ is to fill the soul with the
quest for this truth!
For the wise man seeks not the pleasures of this
earth,
But that ‘joy of true understanding’, brings him
his greatest reward!

Plato’s Death:
Cicero tells us Plato worked in his Academy till
the very end,
And at the age of eighty, attending a marriage
feast of a friend;
While resting on a couch his life came to a
peaceful end;
And Cicero says, ‘all Athens followed him to
his grave’!

Plato’s Relevance:
Plato must be judged in relation to his age and
time,
Not to do so, would be most unkind!
Socrates’ death had a profound impact on him,
And aroused the philosopher luring inside him!
He was not a mere idealist and a dreamer, as
now people say,
But a rationalist who showed those lost Athenians -
the path and way;
And to all seekers of knowledge both simple and
pure,
Based on concepts of ‘Ideas’ and reason, which
should endure!
His ‘Form of the Good’ was to be sought not
by mere meditation,
But through one’s true calling and active
participation in one’s vocation;
And also by subduing the ‘appetitive’ and the
‘baser parts’ of the human soul,
Letting its ‘higher rational part’ dominate to
make mankind whole!
He greatly influenced later Neo-platonic thinkers
like Plotinus,
And early Christian thinkers like Justin Martyr,
and St. Augustine of the Christian Church!
Also Spinoza the poet-philosopher, Santayana
the metaphysician, to mention a few;
Who paid Plato their philosophical dues!
“The safest general characterization of European
Philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series
of footnotes to Plato”, exclaimed AN Whitehead!
What more dear readers in Plato’s praise can be said?
………………………………………………………….
(All Copyrights with Raj Nandy)


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Poem Submitted: Sunday, August 29, 2010



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