What does it mean to be really human?
He clearly explains this in the Phaedo when he says, “I do not mean a stick equal to a stick or a stone to a stone, or anything of that kind, but something else beyond all these, the Equal itself” (Plato, 24). Looking at this alone is what is eternally true and unchanging; it is always true. This frees humans from dependence on the body and the sense experiences, leaving us with absolute certitude. Plato feels that such a world of tangible things can leave us with a cloudy testimony of truth.
The mere fact that humans can think and assess this way is a clear unique and defining characteristic that humans possess for Plato. According to Plato and Socrates, the soul is immortal and continually needing to escape the human body to ascend to the after life to be with the gods. In order to reach the after life, the soul must have perfect knowledge, which can only be gained through the recollection of truths. The first truths that Plato discussed involved the infinite truths of mathematics. He felt that everyone should have an understanding of the mathematical principles.
This is all because they are absolute, perfect, unchanging, and therefore infinite. They always have been true and always will be true. Mathematic principles are also equal and this is what can be said to be Plato’s language he uses as a basis for his theories. Mathematical Principles are therefore vital to his theory of recollection. Equality has to do with the recollection of truths in that the standard is “equality itself. ” There could be a disparity when saying things are equal, but there is never a disparity when we talk about the standard itself (the “form”).
Everything in this world is no more than an approximation of the form. Things in this world make us recollect and remind us of things that we are already in touch with. The fact that we can remember and remind ourselves is one of the characteristics that Plato would say could be used to label us as really humans. All people are born with innate ideas, so that if anyone recollects something then they must have known it before. For us to learn then is nothing more then recollection. Therefore, we must at some previous time have learned what we recollect.
This is possible only if our soul existed somewhere before it took on this human shape. Plato develops this thought in his work Phaedo, “… we must then have acquired the knowledge of the Equal before this… ” “… It seems then that we must have possessed it before birth… ” (Plato, 25). According to Plato, forms are the only things that are truly real and by using the human intellect one can attain knowledge of the forms. Plato feels that any knowledge gained from our senses cannot be trusted because of the body’s influences. The soul is capable of knowing on it’s own.
This is where Plato draws a distinction between the body and the soul in regards to the unique relationship shared by both. Plato feels that humans are composed of a body and of a soul. His belief as to their relationship with one another is that they are constantly at odds with one another. The soul is responsible for all rational thought and for attaining knowledge of the forms. Plato also believes that the soul, like forms, is eternal. When someone is born, their soul gets entrapped in the body and spends the duration of that time trying to escape the body.
However, while the soul is locked in the body, it is working towards the time when it will be released and ascend to the afterlife of complete knowledge. This period in which the soul is enveloped by the body is the time when it is able to observe the forms of the living world and recollect the eternal truths they represent. The soul is the form of life that must live forever because forms are eternal and unchanging. The abstract reasoning thinking soul that is eternal, unchanging and essentially true is that which makes a human to be really real.
The soul will survive the death of the body and that is why philosophers are those (for Plato) that fear death the least. Plato gives the philosophical reasoning and theories as compared to Tattersalls scientific assessments of humanness. To summarize for Plato what the main lines are that make us to be fully human or really real are characteristics such as unchanging, abstract reasoning or thinking, indestructible, (essentially) good, emphasis on reason over sense experience, “forms” alone, and universal truths.
The soul the form alone (without the body) that lives even after the death of the body and defines us as humans. Our mind can think abstractly and that is shown through Plato’s theory of recollection. Through Plato’s discussion on how the sense experience world gives us a cloudy representation of truths, it demonstrates how our minds and looking within ourselves for truths is truly the main basis of Plato’s theory. I feel that Plato provides a lot of interesting ideas and thoughts on the human person.
Although at times for me he was a little difficult to agree with, especially where he lacks giving any value to the concrete world of tangible reality, I still was very interested in his thoughts and beliefs. When Plato brings in his view on how our soul ascends into the afterlife of complete knowledge, the idea that our soul moves into a better place once its time on earth is done is one of reassurance. I have lost people I have loved or been close with, and maybe such a belief that he has set forth that I now look to gives me that feeling of confidence that I may meet up with them once again.
This is a major aspect of Christian thought and now Plato has added a little something to my Christian morals and beliefs that I have grown up learning and believing all of my life since I can remember. Plato’s assessment of the human person in regards to abstract reasoning really makes me take a deeper look into the way I function on a day-to-day basis. It has opened my eyes to the capacities I possess and how special it is to be a functioning human being. I am really glad that I chose this course as my philosophy requirement, because I truly have learned so much over the length of this semester.