Philosophy did not find Plato already a noble man; it made him one. – Seneca
What does that mean?
This is a neat quote, as it gives us a thought on what the study of Philosophy can do for a person. In this case, Plato is the subject of interest.
According to the quote, other philosophers came from lowly beginnings. Plato is quoted as saying that all rulers came from slaves, and all slaves have kings in their blood-lines. That’s something to think about, right?
The quote is about how philosophy doesn’t choose who follows it, it only helps them find the best in themselves. The light of philosophy exists to help all who will see by it.
In the quote, the study of philosophy is what sharpened Plato’s mind and helped him to become well known for his wisdom. And philosophy has no favorites, anyone can join in the fun.
Why is philosophy important?
Let’s start by defining philosophy. At thefreedictionary.com, it is defined as “Love and pursuit of wisdom by intellectual means and moral self-discipline” and “Investigation of the nature, causes, or principles of reality, knowledge, or values, based on logical reasoning rather than empirical methods.” among other things.
Self discipline and investigation of morals and principles helps one to understand (correctly or not) how the world works. All the flat-earth philosophers were flat-out wrong, but their world worked well for them, if they didn’t look too hard at the messy parts. Having reasons and understandings (again, even if not exactly right) help us in our lives.
If you are certain of something because you have studied it, you will know what choices you will make because you will follow your philosophy, not contradict it. The more you know about yourself and your favored topics, the better you will become at being certain about facts, and about your decisions.
Again, philosophy doesn’t ensure you will be right, for there are plenty of opposing positions in the field of Philosophy. It just means that you will be consistent in your statements and your decisions (they can’t all be right, can they?). The more you know the easier your decisions will be, at least when your philosophy has a firm stance on the issue.
Where can I apply this in my life?
You should be able to use this in pretty much any aspect of your life. Let’s start with something easy. What is your philosophy on honesty? Do you believe one must always be honest, or do you have times or reasons when you believe honesty isn’t the best policy? You may not have formally thought about it, but I bet you have a pretty solid set of rules.
I try to be as honest as I can, but there are things about which I will not speak. I will try to change the subject, but the person asking will not get the truth from me if I am unwilling to speak it. There are also times when, as a parent, my small children might see something and ask what was going on. The truth wasn’t always age appropriate, so sometimes they got less than the truth.
By considering what your philosophy is on a particular topic, you formalize it. It is no longer something you do in a haphazard manner. You now have a standard to which you hold yourself. Now what? Your decision making will be a little clearer, won’t it? And you can now evaluate your rules against those of others.
You can also measure your rules, your philosophy, against that of your society. Gandhi did so, and found his society (as ruled by the British and their supporters) lacking. And that helped him take action against the British philosophy of governance, and help install his philosophy of governance.
Did philosophy find Gandhi already a noble man, or did it help him become one? I don’t know much about his early years, but philosophy certainly didn’t hurt him, and most likely helped him enhance his personal nobility. Just in case you didn’t figure it out, this is noble as in honorable, not as in a titled or landed feudal lord.
What other aspects of your life has a philosophy? What are they? Can you write them down, and then specify the rules which make up your personal philosophy on it? Take a moment and try. Interesting, isn’t it? Now consider where in your life you have no philosophy guiding you. How would your life change if that part of your life had guiding principles?
This is an exercise that one can do over and over and over. There are always new thoughts and areas of your life to explore. Sometimes things will happen in your life which require you to reconsider your rules, your principles and your philosophy.
This is a journey of introspection, of self-examination of your life. It can be exciting. If you find it frightening, perhaps that tells you something of your values and the decisions you have been making, right?
From: Twitter, @quotesofseneca
confirmed at : en.wikisource.org/…Moral_letters_to_Lucilius/Letter_44 search for ‘Plato’
Photo by Jason Eppink