Book Review: “Plato in 90 Minutes” by Paul Strathern

Plato was born of privileges. He wanted to be wrestlers and acquired “Plato” (means broad or flat), his ring name. He became the Socrates’ disciple for 9 years. Plato was heavily influenced by Pythagoras’ “All is number” thought.

Plato believes that everything we perceive around us is merely appearance. The true reality is the realm of ideas or forms from which this appearance derives. The Universal realm of ideas, which is perceived by the mind, is unchanging and eternal. Plato’s explanation of time – a “moving image of eternity” – is more than a profound religious explanation.

Plato founded the first university called Academy, where several of disciples learned his philosophy. His ideal republic resembles a Utopia where no one has private possessions and all men and women are equal. These were templates for communism and fascism in recent times.

Plato believed that human soul consisted of three distinct elements: 1) The rational element strove for wisdom, 2) the active spirit sought conquest and distinction, 3) the appetites craved gratification. The righteousness can be achieved only when each of the three elements of the soul fulfilling its own function.

In Plato, eros is regarded as the soul’s impulse toward good. In its lowest form this is expressed in our passion for a beautiful person (infatuation?). A higher form of love involves a union devoted a more spiritual aspirations, giving rise to social good (soul mate?). The highest form is devoted to philosophy.

Plato died at the age of 81. He was buried in the Academy.

This is a quick overview of Plato, his life and philosophy. It’s a good 90-minute read.