Oligarchy and Democracy (Part 2)

Plato regards the descent of political regimes into tyranny as a gradual process in which each type of government is transformed into an even more unjust or imperfect state. The oligarchic man is the son of the timarchic man who has lost his reputation and fortune ‘in some political disaster’. Reduced to poverty, his son neglects the dialectic power of reason which he uses instead to further his selfish materialistic ends. In his craving for money, the oligarchic man ‘is ...

The Beauty in Maths

A few months ago the BBC conducted a survey to find the most beautiful mathematical equation in the world. There is of course a long history of the relationship between the idea of beauty and mathematics. The ancients certainly pondered that relationship as well as connecting it to the concepts of truth and of goodness. In Plato’s mind certainly, as well as in the mind of others, the true, the good and the beautiful were objectively one in the transcendental ...

Was Plato Right?

Plato’s definition of what knowledge is, ‘justified true belief’, has been trotted out by countless IB students for generations, often without much thought as to its genuine value or validity as a definition of what knowledge is. However, what are we to make of the fact that the definition includes the term belief? What does the definition actually mean? Is it not possible to interpret the definition in different ways? And has anyone since Plato not provided a better one? Let us explore ...

The New Hedonism of Michel Onfray

Michel Onfray has set himself the seemingly unsurmountable challenge of toppling over what he regards as the false idols of the philosophical Parthenon. Influenced by Nietzsche but especially by late ancient materialist thinkers such as Democritus and Epicurus, he defends a new form of hedonism described as ‘an introspective attitude to life’ based on the unselfish pursuit of pleasure. He is not talking, here, about Bentham’s felicific calculus but about the careful and reasoned care and management of the self ...

Philosophers on Work

Philosophers are not known for their practical skills and thinkers like Plato and Aristotle had little to say about their toiling contemporaries, be they free artisans or slave labourers. Over the centuries, many philosophers have tried to exert some influence on the ruler of the day, most often in vain, such as Plato with Dionysus II of Syracuse or Voltaire with Frederick II of Prussia. It is in the nineteenth century that philosophers went back to the drawing board and ...

Philosophy in Solitude

Should philosophy be a solitary or social exercise? Is solitude essential to reach the inner parts of the self and the spiritual core of the soul? Historically, Philosophy has been the handmaid of Theology up to the dawn of Humanism in the sixteenth-century. Augustine wrote his Confessions in solitude after his conversion to Christianity in a Milanese garden. All great mystics before him had renounced the false trappings of the mundane world and found spiritual comfort in the apparent desolation ...

Some Advice on how to approach Paper 2

  Now that the summer 2014 examination is over, it is time to take stock of what can be learnt for the future. Since the very format of the questions remains the same and is, therefore, an invariable component of the examination, it remains an imperative for all candidates and all their teachers, to prepare and anticipate their potential responses to future exam questions. Paper 2 is a case in point as it is meant to test the candidate’s knowledge of the ...

Plato’s world of illusions

So, you’ve probably recently embarked on the study of Plato’s Republic and you may have already touched on the famous ‘myth of the cave’ and how one singled out prisoner is freed from his physical shackles and ‘forced’ to make his way up the steep ramp of philosophical knowledge before emerging into the glorious world of ‘philosophical’ Truth, the only type of reality considered ‘real’, that is, ‘eternal’ for Plato. The whole argument rests upon this symbolic contrast between the darkness ...