Quotes about Plato
290 Sourced Quotes
We come after. We know now that a man can read Goethe or Rilke in the evening, that he can play Bach and Schubert, and go to his day's work at Auschwitz in the morning. To say that he has read them without understanding or that his ear is gross, is cant. In what way does this knowledge bear on literature and society, on the hope, grown almost axiomatic from the time of Plato to that of Matthew Arnold, that culture is a humanizing force, that the energies of spirit are transferable to those of conduct?
Second we must recognize that the evil deed of the enemy-neighbor, the thing that hurts, never quite expresses all that he is. An element of goodness may be found even in our worst enemy. Each of us is something of a schizophrenic personality, tragically divided against ourselves. A persistent civil war rages within all or our lives. Something within us causes us to lament with Ovid, the Latin poet, "I see and approve the better things, but follow the worse," or to agree with Plato that human personality is like a charioteer having two headstrong horses, each wanting to be go in a different direction, or to repeat with the Apostle Paul, "The good that I would I do not, but the evil which I would not, I do."
The Christian priesthood, finding the doctrines of Christ levelled to every understanding, and too plain to need explanation, saw in the mysticism of Plato, materials with which they might build up an artificial system, which might, from its indistinctness, admit everlasting controversy, give employment for their order, and introduce it to profit, power and pre-eminence. The doctrines which flowed from the lips of Jesus himself are within the comprehension of a child ; but thousands of volumes have not yet explained the Platonisms engrafted on them; and for this obvious reason, that nonsense can never be explained.
There is one mind common to all individual men. Every man is an inlet to the same and to all of the same. He that is once admitted to the right of reason is made a freeman of the whole estate. What Plato has thought, he may think; what a saint has felt, he may feel; what at any time has befallen any man, he can understand. Who hath access to this universal mind is a party to all that is or can be done, for this is the only and sovereign agent.
At that moment Marx puts himself in a position where he becomes the necessary target of all who have a special interest in maintaining the old-similar to Democritus before him, whose work was burned by Plato and his disciples, the ideologues of Athenian slave aristocracy. Beginning with the revolutionary Marx, a political group with concrete ideas establishes itself. Basing itself on the giants, Marx and Engels, and developing through successive steps with personalities like Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse-tung and the new Soviet and Chinese rulers, it establishes a body of doctrine and, let us say, examples to follow.
God knows; I won't be an Oxford don anyhow. I'll be a poet, a writer, a dramatist. Somehow or other I'll be famous, and if not famous, I'll be notorious. Or perhaps I'll lead the life of pleasure for a time and then—who knows?—rest and do nothing. What does Plato say is the highest end that man can attain here below? To sit down and contemplate the good. Perhaps that will be the end of me too.
Some teachers of mankind — as Plato... the first Christians, the orthodox Muslims, and the Buddhists — have gone so far as to repudiate art....[They consider it] so highly dangerous in its power to infect people against their wills, that mankind will lose far less by banishing all art than by tolerating each and every art.... such people were wrong in repudiating all art, for they denied that which cannot be denied — one of the indispensable means of communication, without which mankind could not exist.... Now there is only fear, lest we should be deprived of any pleasures art can afford, so any type of art is patronized. And I think the last error is much grosser than the first and that its consequences are far more harmful.
But for Socrates, tragedy did not even seem to "tell what's true", quite apart from the fact that it addresses "those without much wit", not the philosopher: another reason for giving it a wide berth. Like Plato, he numbered it among the flattering arts which represent only the agreeable, not the useful, and therefore required that his disciples abstain most rigidly from such unphilosophical stimuli — with such success that the young tragedian, Plato, burnt his writings in order to become a pupil of Socrates.
This misplacing hath caused a deficience, or at least a great improficience in the sciences themselves. For the handling of final causes, mixed with the rest in physical inquiries, hath intercepted the severe and diligent inquiry of all real and physical causes, and given men the occasion to stay upon these satisfactory and specious causes, to the great arrest and prejudice of further discovery. For this I find done not only by Plato, who ever anchoreth upon that shore, but by Aristotle, Galen, and others which do usually likewise fall upon these flats of discoursing causes.
It is in the stomach of plants that development begins, and ends in the circles of the universe. 'Tis a long scale from the gorilla to the gentleman,--from the gorilla to Plato, Newton, Shakespeare,--to the sanctities of religion, the refinements of legislation, the summit of science, art, and poetry. The beginnings are slow and infirm, but it is an always accelerated march.
After Plotinus, says Schassler, fifteen centuries passed without the slightest scientific interest for the world of beauty and art.... In reality, nothing of the kind happened. The science of aesthetics … neither did nor could vanish, because it never existed. … the Greeks were so little developed that goodness and beauty seemed to coincide. On that obsolete Greek view of life the science of aesthetics was invented by men of the eighteenth century, and especially shaped and mounted in Baumgarten's theory. The Greeks (as anyone may read in Bénard's book on Aristotle and Walter's work on Plato) never had a science of aesthetics.
Certain characteristics of the subject are clear. To begin with, we do not in this subject deal with particular things or particular properties: we deal formally with what can be said about any thing or any property. We are prepared to say that one and one are two, but not that Socrates and Plato are two.
The light dove, in free flight cutting through the air the resistance of which it feels, could get the idea that it could do even better in airless space. Likewise, Plato abandoned the world of the senses because it posed so many hindrances for the understanding, and dared to go beyond it on the wings of the ideas, in the empty space of pure understanding.