(Sample Material) UPSC IAS Mains GS Online Coaching : Paper 4 - "Contribution Of Moral Thinkers And Philosophers From India And World (Part-2)"

Sample Material of Our IAS Mains GS Online Coaching Programme

Subject: General Studies (Paper 4 - Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude)

Topic: Contribution Of Moral Thinkers And Philosophers From India And World (Part-2)

Thinkers and Philosophers from the World


Influence of Socrates on Plato

Plato’s meeting with Socrates was a turning-point in his life. Socrates, Plato’s guide and muster, was a person of grotesque, almost repulsive appearance: short and stout, with a snub nose, large prominent eyes, thick lips, full of wit and irony, ready to take ajoke against himself a good mixer, no respecter of persons. Plato, his disciple, presented a complete contrast. He had been brought up in comfort, and perhaps in wealth; he was a handsome and vigorous youth-called Plato, it is said, because of the breadth of his shoulders he had excelled as u soldier, and had twice won prizes at the Isthmian games. Philosophers are not apt to develop out of such an adolescence. But Plato’s subtle soul had found a new joy in the ‘dialectic’ game of Socrates; it was a delight to behold the Master deflating dogmas and puncturing presumptions with the sharp point of his question; Plato entered into this sport as he had in a coarser kind of wrestling; and under the guidance of the old ‘gad-fly’ (as Socrates called himself) he passed from mere debate to careful analysis and fruitful discussion. He became u very passionate lover of wisdom, and of his teacher. “I thank God,” he used to say, “that I was born Greek and not’ barbarian, freeman and not slave, man and not woman; hut above all that I was horn in the age of Socrates.”

Plato was twenty-eight when the master died; and this tragic end of a quiet life left its mark on every phase of the pupil’s thought. It filled him with such a scorn of democracy, such a hatred of the mob, as even his aristocratic lineage and breeding had haidly engendered in him: it led him to a Catonic resolve that democracj must be destroyed, to be replaced by the rule of the n isesi ami the best. It became the absorbing problem of his life to find a method where- by the wisest and the best might be discovered, and then enabled and persuaded to rule.
Plato’s political theory was concerned not so much with a stale ihat should promote the material well-being of its inhabitants with a system capable of opening the way to the good life by providing the maximum incentive to it. Here his attitude differs from that of the most modern writers.

Today’s man’s idea et goodness and badness are generally supposed to he matters’ private to himself. The good life is something to be lived apart from, and often in spite of. the social system of the day. Religion, for instance, is a private affair, a matter for the individual conscience. To Plato this division of life into a public and a private sphere was not to be tolerated. Politics and morals were also the same. Bad politics leads to bad behawour. The good life was possible only in the good state, which he always called as the ideal state.

Plato vsav dissatisfied with the Athenian democratic system and the Greek civilization, and he wrote a number of Dialogues, such as. Criio. Apology, Euthyphro, laches, lysis, ( harmides. Phuedo. Gorgias. Meno, Protagoras, Phaedres. Symposmm. Euthydemus. and Republic. In his later years he wrote the Theateus. Parmenides. Philebus. Sophist, Statesman, Laws, and the half-finished Critias. Of dial the greatest is the Republic, which is also regarded as the greatest book in the history of Political Thought It is this book in which he discusses his ideal state. In fact, it is this book in which we find his metaphysics, his theology, his ethics, his psychology, his pedagogy, his politics, his theory of art. Here we shall find problems reeking with modernity and contemporary savor: communism and socialism, feminism and birth-control and eugenics, Nietzschean problems of morality and aristocracy. Rousseauian problems of return to nature and libertarian education; Bergsonian elan vital and Freudian psycho-analysis every- thing is here. It is a feast of the elite, served by an unstinting host. “Plato is philosophy. And philosophy Plato,” says Emerson; and awards to the Republic the words of Omar about the Koran: “Bum the libraries, for their value is in this book.”

The Republic: Concepts of Knowledge and Government

The fundamental idea of the Republic came to Plato in the form of his master’s doctrine that virtue is knowledge. His own unhappy political experience reinforced the ideal and crystallized it in the founding of the Academy to inculcate the spirit of true knowledge as the foundation for a philosophic statecraft. But the proposition that virtue is knowledge implies that there is an objective good to be known, and that it can, in fact, be known by rational or logical investigation rather than by intuition, guesswork, or luck. The good is objectively real, whatever anybody thinks about it, and it ought to be realized not because men want it hut because it is good. In other words, will comes into the matter only secondarily; what men want depends upon how much they see of the good, but nothing is good merely because they want it. From this it follows that the man who knows the philosopher or scholar or scientist-ought to have decisive power in government, and that it is his knowledge alone which entitles him to this.

Plato’s theory of the state can be divided into two main parts: first, that government is an art depending on exact knowledge of which the philosopher-ruler is only capable, and, secondly, that knowledge can be taught. Logically the second part is a premise for the first. This we can very well understand by further analyzing Plato’s mind on the problem of good government.
Plato’s plan is, therefore, for a state-controlled system of compulsory education. His educational scheme falls naturally into two parts: the elementary education, which includes the training of young persons up to about the age of twenty, and culminates in the beginning of military service and the higher education, intended for those selected persons of both sexes who are to be members of the two ruling classes and extending from the age of twenty to thirty five .

Higher education, which is regarded as the most original and most characteristic proposal in the Republic, was to be given to the members of both sexes after an elimination test and was meant for the members of the guardian classes. It extended from twenty to thirty- five. This period was divisible into two parts, i.e., twenty to thirty and thirty to thirty five. In the first, young persons were to be helped to choose their true vocations in life and get trained in them. There was to be a systematic scientific course. Dialectical power must be developed. Military training must also be given. At the age of thirty, a second elimination test would follow. This test is far severer than the first. Those who fail will become the auxiliaries, or executive aides and military officers of the state. Those who pass this test will be the perfect guardians and will get a further five years’ course of training in Mathematics, Astronomy and Logic.
Plato’s entire system of education in the Republic is a prerequisite to the organization of an ideal state. But state-controlled education is not the only thing which can guarantee the constant supply of the selfless and efficient administrators and which can secure the people against the abuse of power The second precaution which Plato takes against the abuse of power and the tendency of men to lust after functions other than those for which they arc naturally best suited is a social one.

Plato became more practical in his outlook towards the state and gave the law its due place in his later works, the Statesman and the Laws. Since it is difficult to have a real philosopher to rule the state in the ideal way, laws arc necessary and, therefore, Plato sketched out a legal system to help, guide and restrain the imperfect governmental machinery.

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