Editing Essay 2
The field of philosophy owes a lot to the contributions of two of the world’s most famous Greek philosophers, Socrates and Plato. These philosophers nullified commonly held beliefs and sought to think for themselves on the nature and origin of life. The philosophical views changed man’s thinking during their time, and they still form the cornerstone of wisdom in the contemporary world. The philosophers share similar views, mainly because Plato was Socrates’ student. However, although their views are similar in several ways, the philosophers also disagree on major areas in philosophy. For instance, both Socrates and Plato address concepts of justice by exploring the role of adherence to the law, customs, governments, ethics, morality, and conscience in determining the success of a society. This paper explores the major differences in the philosophical views of Socrates and Plato on knowledge and justice.
Both Socrates and Plato study various concepts concerning justice and the need for man to be just, and they agree that justice is necessary for a successful community. However, they differ in their views regarding the ability of man to be just. Here, Plato believes that man is inherently able to act justly whereas Socrates is pessimistic about man’s ability to be just. According to Socrates, the law is necessary to ensure justice within a community. He proposes that legal punishments reduce the evil that exists in man’s souls, but they are unable to make the man just. Thus, man is unable to be just under any circumstances, and he is just only in death. Plato disagrees with Socrates, as he believes that justice cannot be legislated thus the law does not play an important role in ensuring justice (Rubin 4). Plato pays tribute to divine intervention, which gives man the inherent power to do good. Plato uses the fact that the law is drafted and implemented by man to prove his optimism about man’s ability to be just. According to Platonic justice, it is possible for a city to be virtuous if all people perform their functions, such as in governance and taking care of relevant issues concerning the community members (Rubin 23).
Plato and Socrates also share their views concerning knowledge. They both seek to offer a distinct definition of the word knowledge and an explanation regarding the role of education in the society. The philosophers differ on three accounts in this field. According to Plato, man acquires knowledge from past information existing in his or her soul. Thus, he equates knowledge and perception an argument that Socrates refutes. According to Socrates, perception is not equal to knowledge since man has the ability to identify a foreign language without having prior knowledge about the language. Socrates also disagrees with Plato’s argument that knowledge is equal to true belief. This is because an individual may belief unfounded facts, in which case the belief will not be knowledge. White (167) presents an example for this when he states that “if we have a memory-imprint of Theaetetus, and the same time perceive Socrates, we can, by wrongly “fitting” the sensory impression of Socrates into our memory imprint of Theaetetus, do something that he is willing to count as falsely believing that the thing that we are perceiving is Theaetetus.” Plato defends his stand by including a rational account to make true belief knowledge. However, Socrates further refutes this argument because it is difficult to differentiate between rational and irrational accounts (White 167).
The philosophers also differ in their views regarding the role of knowledge in the society. According to Socrates, education is valuable to humanity in that it creates virtuous human beings, and thus he equates good virtues to knowledge. In Benson (260), Socrates feels that “once one recognizes one’s ignorance, one must recognize that a life in such a state is not worthy living.” He believes that a good education needs to avoid exposing children to wrongdoing, and setting rules and laws that ensure justice within the community. This increases the chances of growing a just and knowledgeable society. On the other hand, Plato does not believe in the ability of laws to create a just government. This is because the rulers and lawmakers are also prone to making mistakes, and the law may fail to offer justice occasionally. Rather, he believes that if people are educated, there will be no need for legislating justice. This is because educated leaders make great leaders and a government consisting of such leaders greatly determines the kind of justice practiced (Benson 260).
In conclusion, Plato challenged the views of his teacher Socrates regarding various aspects of life. This paper focuses on two major areas where these philosophers share similarities and differences, that is, in justice and knowledge. While Plato believes in man’s ability to be just, Socrates believes that only the law can enact justice. Plato nullifies the role of the law in ensuring justice prevails in a society, and instead he upholds the role of morality and the conscience in enhancing justice. Regarding knowledge, both Socrates and Plato feel that the knowledge is essential in building up a successful society. However, Socrates feels that education and the law should work together to ensure justice while Plato disregards the role of the law and upholds education in itself. The philosophers also disagree concerning the definition of knowledge.
Benson, Hugh H. Socratic Wisdom: The Model of Knowledge in Plato’s Early Dialogues. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. Print.
Rubin, Leslie G. Justice V. Law in Greek Political Thought. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997. Print.
White, Nicholas P. Plato on Knowledge and Reality. Indianapolis, Ind: Hackett, 1987. Print.