Discuss the early contribution of Socrates and Plato In development of social thought

(1) Introduction

Plato and Socrates are renowned Greek philosophers. Plato was student of Socrates. Both of them presented various ideologies and philosophies, and these ideologies and philosophies are still used to this day. They challenged and refuted the theories of their predecessors.

(2) Definition Of Social Thought

(i) Intellectual Ideas

Social thought can be defined as intellectual ideas, which are often based philosophy or reason, are about certain time and place, and are about progress or decline of society. Social thought can be about present social condition or about the future.

(ii) Thinking

Social thought is thinking about social problems by one or a few persons in human history or at the present.

(iii) Totality Of Man’s Thoughts

Social thought is totality of a man’s thoughts about his relationship and obligations to his fellow men..

(3) Contribution Of Socrates In Development Of Social Thought

Socrates’ contributions in the development of social thought can be explained in the following words

  • (i) Dialectical method
  • (ii) Discussion
  • (iii) Truths & opinions
  • (iv) Questions
  • (v) Elimination of contradicting ideas

(i) Dialectical method

Socrates considered dialectical method as ultimate way of discovering truth:

(ii) Discussion

Dialectical method is a discussion that involves opposing views.

(iii) Truths & opinions

Dialectical method begins with commonly held truths and opinions.

(iv) Questions

Questions are asked to test the logic behind these views.

(v) Elimination Of Contradicting Ideas

Contradicting views are eliminated until consistency is reached.

(4) Contribution Of Plato Development Of Social Thought

Plato presented his theory of forms that contributed to the development of social thought:

  • (i) Central theory
  • (ii) Forms
  • (iii) Ideas & things
  • (iv) Objectively real
  • (v) Ideas & metaphysics
  • (vi) Ideas & epistemology
  • (vii) Knowledge
  • (viii) Empirical world & transcendental world
  • (ix) Perspectives on ideas
  • (x) Features of ideas

(i) Central Theory

Theory of forms is considered as central theory of platonic philosophy.

(ii) Forms.

Forms means ideas, and they are common and necessary qualities of all members of a particular class.

(iii) Ideas & Things

Ideas are prior to things and are independent of things.

(iv) Objectively Real

Ideas are objectively real.

(v) Ideas & Metaphysics

Ideas are related to metaphysics:

(a) Ultimate reality

(b) Metaphysical idealism

(a) Ultimate Reality

Ideas are related to metaphysics because ultimate reality is ideas.

(b) Metaphysical Idealism

There is metaphysical idealism due to this fact that ideas are accepted as ultimate reality.

(vi) Ideas & Epistemology

Ideas are related to epistemology:

  • (a) Source of knowledge
  • (b) Epistemological realism

(a) Source Of Knowledge

Ideas are related to epistemology because source of knowledge is ideas.

(b) Epistemological Realism

There is epistemological realism due to this fact that ideas are real and have separate and independent existence from the knower.

 (vii) Knowledge

Only eternal, unchangeable, universal, objective and real knowledge is acceptable:

  • (a) Source of knowledge
  • (b) How can knowledge be found?
  • (a) Source Of Knowledge

Only ideas are source of this knowledge:

  • (a-i) Objects of empirical world
  • (a-ii) Ideas

(a-i) Objects Of Empirical World

Objects of empirical world are not sources of this knowledge because the objects are impermanent, changeable and Himited and are objects of opinion.

(a-ii) Ideas

Ideas are source of this knowledge because they are eternal, unchangeable, universal and objectively real.

(b) How Can Knowledge Be Found?

Knowledge cannot be found through experience. Rather it can be found through reason.

(viii) Empirical World & Transcendental World

Plato accepted both empirical world and transcendental world:

  • (a) Empirical world
  • (b) Transcendental world
  • (c) Differences between empirical world & transcendental world
  • (d) Relation between empirical world & transcendental world

(a) Empirical World

In empirical world, change is real.

(b) Transcendental World

In transcendental world, ideas are eternal.

(c) Differences Between Empirical World & Transcendental World

Followings are the differences between empirical world and transcendental world:

  • (c-i) Imperfect & perfect
  • (c-ii) Changeable & unchangeable
  • (c-iii) Partially real & real
  • (c-iv) Empirical & rational
  • (c-v) Opinion & knowledge
  • (c-vi) Particular & universal
  • (c-vii) Imperfect expression & ultimate reality
  • (c-viii) Concrete & abstract

(c-i) Imperfect & Perfect

Objects are imperfect in empirical world while ideas are perfect in transcendental world.

(c-ii) Changeable & Unchangeable

Objects are changeable in empirical world whereas ideas are unchangeable in transcendental world.

(c-iii) Partially Real & Real

Objects are partially real in empirical world, but ideas are real in transcendental world.

 (c-iv) Empirical & Rational

Objects are empirical in empirical world: their knowledge is gained through experience. Contrary to this, ideas are rational in transcendental world: their knowledge is gained through reason.

(c-v) Opinion & Knowledge

Objects are source of opinion in empirical world. On the other hand, ideas are source of knowledge in transcendental world.

(c-vi) Particular & Universal

Objects are particular in empirical world while ideas are universal in transcendental world.

(c-vii) Imperfect Expression & Ultimate Reality

Objects are imperfect expression or photocopies of ideas in empirical world whereas ideas are ultimate reality in transcendental world.

(c-viii) Concrete & Abstract

Objects are concrete in empirical world, but ideas are abstract in transcendental world

(d) Relation Between Empirical World & Transcendental World

Plato presented following theories to describe the relation between empirical world and transcendental theories:

  • (d-i) Copy theory
  • (d-ii) Participation theory
  • (d-iii) Expression theory

(d-i) Copy Theory

This theory states that objects are photocopies of ideas.

(d-ii) Participation Theory

This theory states that objects participate in their ideas.

(d-iii) Expression Theory

This theory states that objects are imperfect expression of ideas.

(ix) Perspectives On Ideas

There are five perspectives on ideas:

  • (a) Ontological perspective
  • (b) Teleological perspective
  • (c) Logical perspective
  • (d) Epistemological perspective
  • (e) Mystical perspective

(a) Ontological Perspective

Ideas are absolute realities.

(b) Teleological Perspective

There is some purpose or utility of ideas. They are accepted as eternal structures or models or archetypes of things.

(c) Logical Perspective

Ideas are universal. But they are neither mental nor objects.

(d) Epistemological Perspective

Ideas are source of knowledge.

(e) Mystical Perspective

Ideas can only be realized.

(x) Features Of Ideas

Followings are features of ideas:

  • (a) Substance
  • (b) Universal
  • (c) Non-spatial & non-temporal
  • (d) Independency
  • (e) Unitary
  • (f) Perfect
  • (g) Immutable & imperishable
  • (h) Essence of things
  • (i) Rational
  • (j) Archetypes or models
  • (k) Hierarchy

(a) Substance

Ideas are substance. Therefore, they have independent existence, and their knowledge is not dependent on something else.

(b) Universal

Ideas are universal.

(c) Independency

Ideas are independent of knowledge and individual thing.

(d) Unitary

Idea is one, but there are many things under it.

(e) Perfect

Ideas are perfect.

(f) Immutable & Imperishable

Ideas are immutable and imperishable.

(g) Essence Of Things

Ideas are essence of things.

(h) Non-Spatial & Non-Temporal

Ideas exist beyond space and time. Therefore, they are non-spatial and non-temporal. In fact, they exist in divine world.

(i) Rational

Ideas are understood by reason. Therefore, they are rational.

(j) Archetypes Or Models

Ideas are archetypes of models or things, and things are their photocopies or expressions.

(k) Hierarchy

Ideas have hierarchy: the idea of good is the highest idea

(4) Conclusion

It can be finally stated that both Socrates and Plato are respected and followed due to their contributions to sociology, politics and other subjects. No-doubt, there was influence of Socrates on Plato’s thoughts, concepts, philosophies and theories. However, their philosophies differed. It shows that they had different perspectives and they were different men.


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