Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Ten Year-Old, Plato, and Socrates

Religion & Philosophy

I first met Plato and Socrates when I was about nine or ten years old. I found them at the kitchen table in my home one day. Socrates and Glaucon were in conversation, and Plato and other onlookers were simply listening to the conversation. At the time, I had absolutely no clue as to what they were talking about. I recall that there was some talk of justice and that Socrates seemed to be the one asking most of the questions. I could not understand what these two men were talking about, but somehow I had the impression that it was an important conversation and that Socrates was an important individual. After all, my dad knew him, for he was in our home. What I could not understand at the time was why the conversation was titled "The Republic of Plato" (I pronounced "Plato" with a short a.) when the key person in the conversation seemed to be Socrates. What did Plato have to do with the conversation? Anyway, I kept going back to the conversation day after day, especially when my dad was not at home because I felt that he would be upset if he knew that I was listening in on the conversation of these gentlemen. Try as I would, I still could not understand what they were talking about. I eventually gave up, but I resolved that when I grew up I would try to understand them. Well, I have since gotten a handle on the conversation. I know why it's called "Plato's Republic" and not "Socrates' Republic". And I now know that at the heart of the conversation is the question of the nature of justice, which according to Socrates would be in place if every individual were to take care of his or her own business. I am gonna leave it at that for the moment.

[Photographic Art by Ric Couchman]