Plato is one of the ancient philosophers who gained his philosophical knowledge from Socrates. During the trial of Socrates, he notes down several conversations between him and his friends. Such conversations have been classified into dialogues. In this case, three dialogues including the Crito, the Meno, and the Phaedo are used to explain Plato’s system of philosophy. To ensure a good understanding of the three dialogues, philosophical concepts which apply the major components of philosophy such as metaphysics, ethics, and epistemology are applied. Also, reconstructing the major concepts in the three dialogues helps understand Plato’s system of philosophy.
The Crito, as it is called, is one of Plato’s dialogues which entails a conversation between Socrates and one of his close friends called Crito. The conversation took place at the time when Socrates was in a prison cell in Athens, waiting for execution. Crito, who was a rich man wanted to plan an escape for Socrates by bribing the guards so that Socrates can escape to the neighboring city. However, Socrates rejected the idea, arguing that escaping from jail would be a total form of injustice to the city of Athens. Socrates claims the city has given all the good things for seventy years, including security, education, social stability, and culture (Plato, Grube, & Cooper, 1981, p. 54, line 51). In this case, Plato brings out the philosophical component of ontology whereby Socrates chooses to be loyal to his city by accepting the charges set against him instead of escaping to another city for his own safety.
Furthermore, the philosophical component of metaphysical is depicted in the conversation between Socrates and Crito. Socrates says; “Do not value either your children or your life or anything else more than goodness, in order that when you arrive in Hades, you may have all this as your defence before the rulers there.” (Plato, Grube, & Cooper, 1981, p. 57, line 54). In this regard, Socrates fears being punished in the underworld by escaping execution which he had already agreed on. He would rather die and enjoy life in the underworld than live and suffer after dying later. Being a philosopher, Socrates understood all the concepts of metaphysics. Thus, he was aware of the consequences of doing wrong to the gods.
Also, Socrates explains to Crito his respect for the law of Athens. He claims that he had agreed with the lawmakers in Athens not to break any of the rules put in place for him. In that case, he was not ready to escape for his own safety or the sake of his family. His respect of the law is shown when he says: “Surely,” they might say,” you are breaking the commitments and agreements that you made with us without compulsion or deceit, and under no pressure of time for deliberation.” (Plato, Grube, & Cooper, 1981, p. 54, line 53). According to philosophical ethics, a person should not neglect social contracts signed with other parties. Therefore, Socrates, a great philosopher, could not allow himself into the trap of breaking a social contract between himself and the court of Athens. He would rather be executed that break a signed agreement by escaping.
As well, knowledge of the soul is depicted in conversation when Socrates asks Crito if life is worth living with a body that is corrupted and in bad condition (Plato, Grube, & Cooper, 1981, p. 50, line 48). According to epistemology, which in this case refers to the knowledge of the soul, a body without a peaceful soul is empty. Socrates knew that escaping will only kill his soul and he that he will end up living a shameful life. As such, he chose to face the sentence, and not to escape.
The second dialogue written by Plato is known as the Meno. It entails a conversation between Socrates and Meno whereby Meno wants to know how virtues come into existence. Although Meno presents his definitions for virtues severally, Socrates rejects them, claiming that there is no clear definition of virtues. Besides, he continues to argue that there is no reliable teacher of virtues (Plato, Grube, & Cooper, 1981, p. 60, line 71). Still, Socrates claims that good men get virtues from the gods. By this, Plato tries to incorporate the physiological concept of epistemology which defines knowledge of the virtues as that knowledge that is acquired from some supreme being. Besides, individuals who have knowledge tend to teach the offspring to possess good virtues. Those who do not do so are rated as those lacking knowledge.
As the conversation continues, Socrates relates virtues to the human soul whereby he claims that virtues are qualities of the soul (Plato, Grube, & Cooper, 1981, p. 80. Line 88). In this case, he mentions qualities such as courage, justice, and mental quickness. Such qualities characterize a human soul, and so they represent knowledge of a person. According to Socrates, the soul is immortal, meaning that it exists even without the body. Since some of the qualities mentioned above are innate, then some of the virtues that human beings possess are innate. Thus, it is possible that some people possess virtues that others do not have. In this case, Plato tries to relate the soul, virtues, and human knowledge as he has done in other dialogues.
Lastly, the dialogue between Phaedo and the Pythagoreans brings out Plato’s system of philosophy as well. The conversation occurred a few hours after the execution of Socrates. Since Phaedo had been at the trial and execution scene, he was in a good position to narrate every event that occurred before the death of Socrates. Some of the concepts narrated by Phaedo include the Socrates’ last words. He had not been worried about his execution because death only killed the body, but the soul remained intact. According to Socrates, the soul is at peace when removed from the body (Plato, Grube, & Cooper, 1981, p. 102, line 65). As such, executing him would only give his soul more peace and reasoning.
Furthermore, Phaedo continues to narrate of Socrates’ claims that pure knowledge only comes when we separate ourselves from the body so that we can start observing things from our soul. In this case, Plato tried to identify the soul as being special compared to the body. More so, Socrates demonstrated no fear for death since he was aware that the only way a man can separate from the body is through death. Therefore, men who fear death are not lovers of wisdom, but lovers of the body (Plato, Grube, & Cooper, 1981, p. 105, line 68). As such, he displayed his love for wisdom up to the final minute of his life. In essence, Plato’s system of philosophy is based on relation philosophical knowledge to the lives of people and how it relates to their bodies and souls.
Plato, Grube, G. M. A., & Cooper, J. M. (1981). Five Dialogues. Hackett publishing company.