How Plato Treats Tradition and Formulates His Argument

Subject: Philosophy
Pages: 2
Words: 448
Reading time:
2 min

Categories of philosophical doctrine describe many components of social being, among which tradition occupies a special place. The attitude toward traditional beliefs and faiths forms an integral part of Plato’s philosophy. From extant writings, it is inevitable that Plato was not a supporter of direct traditionalism, preferring to it an alternative way of perceiving the world order, namely rational ways of thinking.

According to Plato’s philosophy, tradition should be seen as the knowledge that is historically transmitted between generations, within family bonds, and as a national idea, but not verified by individuals separately. Particular attention should be paid to the choice of the term “knowledge” in the preceding sentence. This word does not characterize the Socratic sense of knowledge but reflects a specific complex of information, ideals, and attitudes that have the property of subjectivity: thus, it does not refer to transcendent phenomena. Consequently, according to Plato, traditionalism must be taken on faith and not subjected to careful critical analysis on the part of the individual.

There are many examples of such traditional beliefs in society. Many of them are located in the consciousnesses of people as early as childhood as presets and stereotypes that govern the mind in the future. Plato gave examples of such traditions, demonstrating that lying is bad; having promiscuous sex is wrong; eating meat is not bad. In the ancient Greek philosophical value system, traditional faith allowed societies to be united and create a unified environment, so a radical revision of such attitudes has the potential to lead to civic disunity.

Nevertheless, Plato argued that the ability to evaluate tradition critically is essential in order not to follow societal norms blindly but to approach the center of knowledge. There are at least two ways in which tradition can be tested. The first is through personal experience: in order to understand how tenable biases are, one needs to experience them through oneself. For example, determining the ability of a plant to heal wounds can be tested through experience. Another strategy of critical rationalism is to theorize the truth of the mechanisms and connections that determine a preset. Particularly in the context of the medicinal properties of a plant, this would mean laboratory testing of molecules that have the potential to heal wounds.

To conclude, it bears repeating that research into the nature of tradition was an essential part of Plato’s philosophy. The ancient Greeks associated tradition with ideals that were transmitted between generations and not processed by the critical thinking of the individual. Thus, Plato is skeptical of tradition and believes that following it can disrupt the development of rationalist thinking.