weekly blog--one for the ages
I never thought that Plato would ever be the focal point of one of my blogs. But here goes…He lived in Greece around 400 BC, and along with his teacher, Socrates, and his most famous student, Aristotle, laid the foundations of Western philosophy and science. He also had some choice things to say about democracy and aging that remain relevant today.
It starts with his allegory of the cave where only people who have climbed out of one and cast their eyes on a vision of goodness are fit to rule. According to Plato, a state made up of different people will eventually decline from an aristocracy (rule by the best) to a timocracy (rule by the honorable), and then to an oligarchy (rule by the few), a democracy (rule by the people), and finally to tyranny (rule by a tyrant or dictator).
Applicable to the current presidential election, Plato writes that in a democracy the state bears traits such as equality of political opportunity and freedom for the individual to do as he likes. Democracy then degenerates into tyranny from the conflict of rich and poor. It is characterized by an undisciplined society existing in chaos, where the tyrant rises as popular champion leading to the formation of his private army and the growth of oppression. Sound familiar?
As for aging, Plato didn’t think much of it. He believed that older people were considered wise only if they devoted a long life to study and thought.
In ancient Greece, dying in one’s 60's was considered natural; to die younger was seen as a harsh and unnatural fate. Aristotle characterized old people as overly pessimistic, distrustful, malicious, suspicious and small minded because they had been humbled by life and so their greatest hopes are raised to nothing more than staying alive. About three hundred years later, Cicero, the Roman Plato, said that old age will only be respected if it fights for itself, maintains its rights, avoids dependence on anyone, and asserts control over its own to the last breath. Sound familiar?