The School Life, an organization whose mission is helping people develop emotional intelligence through culture, uses short videos to make timeless concepts by great minds more accessible, and entice people to learn further.
Plato’s four big ideas for making life more fulfilling reviewed in the short video below are:
1. Think more
We rarely give ourselves time to think carefully and logically about our lives and how to live them; sometimes we just go along with what the Greeks call doxa, or popular opinions.
In the 36 books he wrote, Plato found common sense to be riddled with errors, prejudice, and superstition: things like “fame is great,” “follow your heart,” “money is the key to a good life.” The problem is popular opinion edges towards the wrong values, careers, and relationships.
Plato’s answer is to know yourself.Using philosophy, we can subject our own ideas to examination vs. acting on impulse. Once we strengthen our self-knowledge, we don’t get pulled around by around by feelings.
This kind of examination is called a Socratic discussion, in honor of his mentor, Socrates. We can have it with ourselves or another person willing to help us clarify our ideas.
2. Let your lover change you
In The Symposium, Plato said “true love is admiration.” In other words, the person we should seek out has the qualities we lack. For example, brave, organized, sincere — if we feel we miss those qualities. By associating with them, we can then absorb some of those qualities.
The right person for us, helps us grow to our full potential. “A couple shouldn’t love each other as they are right now…” they should be committed to educating each other and weathering the process of doing so. Each person should want to seduce the other into becoming a better version of themselves.
3. Decode the message of beauty
Plato was the first one to wonder why we like beautiful things. He found a fascinating reason — beautiful objects are whispering important truths to us about the good life. We find things beautiful when we unconsciously sense in them qualities we need, but are missing in our lives.
For example, gentleness, harmony, balance, peace, and strength. Beautiful objects help us educate our souls.
Ugliness also plays a role. It parades dangerous and damaged characteristics in front of us, and makes it harder to be wise, kind, and calm. Plato sees art as therapeutic and the roles of poets, painters, novelists, and nowadays TV producers and designers to help us live good lives.
4. Reform society
Plato was the first utopian thinker; he spent time thinking about how society should be. His inspiration was Sparta, a city-machine that had as its purpose to turn out citizens who were war-machines. Everything they did in Sparta was tailored to that one goal. The city was hugely successful with its military.
The philosopher’s concern was to understand how a society could become better at creating more fulfilled people by using Sparta’s example of focus. He identified a number of changes to be made in The Republic.
He found it really matters who we admire, because that has influence on our outlook. “Bad heroes give glamor to flaws of character.” He wanted to give Athens new, wiser, celebrities who could become models for good development.
For example, people with a good record of public service, who distinguished themselves by their modesty and simple lives, the dislike of the limelight, and wide and deep experience.
He wanted to prevent people from voting until they could think rationally. To start the process, Plato opened a school in Athens, the Academy, which lasted a good 300 years. His ultimate goal was that politicians should become philosophers.
For Plato, the wise person uses the mind to understand moral reality, and then apply it to their lives.
Watch the full six-minute video below.
[image of Plato’s Academy by Michelangelo]