Lagura: The philosopher called 'Platon,' that is 'round as a plate'

Fr. Flor Lagura SVD

THE glory that was Greece boasted of another wise man originally named “Ariston.” But due to his large and portly figure, people dubbed him “Platon,”(plate-like). Hence, Plato.

Like his mentor, Socrates, Plato left the comfort of Athens to become an infantry soldier(hoplite) in the famed and feared Athenian army. It was during military campaigns that he polished his ideas on leadership as well as the meaning of life. Accustomed to military discipline, Plato bewailed Greek society’s dangerous decline where the love for liberty deteriorated into the loss of the ideal and of personal responsibility.

Plato believed that leadership should be exercised not by a committee of weak-willed politicians too eager to please people. Rather leaders should be selected from those who know how to stand firmly by their principles. The ideal training for future leaders would be years of military service, followed by diplomatic assignments, and finally political career. At the same time, Plato railed against tyrants who substitute knowledge and wisdom for raw power.

With too much freedom in democracy, people would lose the sense of what has to be done, also known as duty or the ideal. Moreover, even dogs, cats and horses would then be allowed doing their things on the city’s streets. The natural order characteristic of animals would be considered normal.

The decline of Athens and Sparta, even of today’s Greece, showed Plato’s ideas about too much democracy are painfully true.