is the meaning of life? Why are we here?
What is truth? Can there be many truths?
What is right? What is wrong? How
can we really know? These, and many others, are questions that have been asked
throughout the ages. They are questions that have puzzled some of the most brilliant
minds. Some philosophers devote their lives to trying to answer these questions. But they are not the only people who ask these questions. These are questions that everyone has posed at one time or another.
In this paper, I will focus on one of the most well-known philosophers, Plato, his life, his philosophies, and how
his beliefs are similar to those of many Christians.
Plato was an Athenian who lived from 427-347 BC. He was a student of Socrates,
who often appears in his dialogues. After Socrates’ death (399 BC), Plato
studied with students of Pythagoras. Later he returned to Athens
and established a school of philosophy. (Kemerling, “Plato”) Plato
focused on answering many of the same questions as Socrates did.
one of Plato’s dialogues, Socrates argues against Euthyphro’s claim about piety.
Euthyphro claimed that “what makes right actions right is that the gods love (or approve of) them” (Kemerling,
“Socrates: Philosophical Life”). Socrates believes that the problem
arises when the gods disagree about what is right. This disagreeing results in,
according to Socrates’ take on Euthyphro’s philosophy, some actions being both right and wrong. (Kemerling, “Socrates: Philosophical Life”)
caused Socrates to look at the question of whether a right action is right due to the approval of the authority or due to
the action being right independently of the authority. Garth Kemerling, the internet
source for my paper, asks a similar question: “Do my parents approve of this action because it is right, or is it right
because my parents approve of it” (“Socrates: Philosophical Life”)?
If a right action is right merely because the authority says so, there is “no rational foundation,” according
to Socrates “and it is impossible to attribute laudable moral wisdom to the authority itself” (Kemerling, “Socrates:
Philosophical Life”). However, when an authority approves of an action
because it is right, it draws us to an important conclusion. The conclusion is
that there is one moral truth.
another one of his dialogues, titled “Meno,” Plato agrees with Socrates’ belief that “no one knowingly
does wrong” (Kemerling, “Plato”). This is a belief that everyone
desires to do what they think is good and right. They do not desire to do what
they believe to be bad or evil for the sake of the evil in the action. One may
desire to do what is bad only if one is unaware of the action actually being bad. It
is the good they see within an evil action that one desires. An example is someone
wanting to steal something. According to Plato and Socrates’ philosophy,
one does not desire to steal for the sake of stealing. One desires to steal something
because, for example, he wants the item for his enjoyment or needs the item for his survival.
He does not steal for the sake of the evil found in the action. He desires
what is good in the action, for example, enjoyment or survival. (Kemerling, “Plato:
Immorality and the Forms”)
this same dialogue, Plato also asks the question of whether or not virtue can be taught.
Socrates believes that we either know the truth for which we are seeking and therefore do not need to seek it, or we
do not know the truth for which we are seeking and therefore would not recognize it when we did find it. For that reason, Socrates did not have a lot of faith in one being able to teach virtue to another. Beforehand, Plato believed that the most basic of one’s knowledge comes from
the truth that we all already know, and are recalling from what we have previously known (Kemerling, “Plato: Immortality
and the Forms”). Plato not longer believed this later in his life. “Plato later came to disagree with his teacher on this point, arguing that genuine
knowledge of virtue is attainable through application of appropriate educational methods” (Kemerling, “Plato:
Immortality and the Forms”).
expressing that we know, for instance, what true equality is not, we show both that we know that there is true equality and
that we know at least in part what it is. Plato believed that this leads to the
assumption that we must then also know what is truly right, good and beautiful.
However, this knowledge, according to Plato, cannot be obtained through our own experiences. He argues that we are merely recalling what we have already known, prior to our bodily existence. “But in that case, the existence
of our mortal bodies cannot be essential to the existence of our souls—before birth or after death—and we are
therefore immortal,” Plato believes (Kemerling, “Plato: Immortality and the Forms”).
explained some of Plato’s philosophical ideas, let us next turn to Christianity.
Christianity does not hold the belief that there can be multiple truths, like Plato, but rather that there is one moral
truth. This truth, according to Christian belief, is God. God is the source of all truth. Christianity holds the belief
that a right action is right not because a mere mortal authority says to, but rather because God, who is a dependable being,
I believe the search for truth to be very important. Everyone, in a way, seeks the truth. Truth is what humans
are directed toward. Christianity holds the belief that the truth is true regardless. Truth is not dependent upon what the majority believes. Rather it is dependent upon what God, who is a reliable being, and “the one individual who truly
knows,” says (Kemerling, “Socrates: Philosophical Life”).
conclusion, everyone, in some way, wonders why one is here. It is human nature. It is what makes a human being different from a mere animal. Our soul is directed toward that which is beyond what we know in this lifetime. I believe our soul is directed toward God. Christians believe
that we originate in God, we come into being because of God, and we are directed toward God, are perfected by God in our ultimate
end. Christianity holds the belief
that our souls are immortal and that there is a life beyond this one.