In a world that spins on endless argument, apology and debate, it’s ironic that so little is known about the man who made the term ‘Socratic Dialogue’ official. Plato lived in approximately the fifth and fourth century B.C. in a time of oral storytelling, so there are a thousand theories on how he was named, what he believed in, who he made love to and how he died. Looking at his life, one thing’s clear: he’s the perfect precursor to today’s millennials. Here’s how.
The original slasher
Like today’s millennials, he struggled to find his true calling. Born into political aristocracy, Aristocles was nicknamed ‘Plato’, meaning ‘broad’. He was first a wrestler: six-pack abs and a chiseled face, short hair, a Bandholz beard and a tall, stately stance.
He then joined the army to fight Sparta, and returned dejected when they lost. It was after this that he met Socrates, and appreciated his method of back and forth conversation and turned to the path of philosophy, basically spending his days in thought, in the sun. When Socrates was hanged, he wrote his most famous text, The Republic, in which a nation is comprised of three tiers, the lowest being lovers of money, in between, the lovers of honor and the greatest, the lovers of wisdom. A charming narcissist, he ranked himself in the later.
Seeking the good life
Though it is rumored that Plato never laughed out loud, all 45 or so of his works essentially explore a single question: “What is a good life?” His dialogues have become Philosophy’s staples, most famously the Allegory of the Cave, in which only the philosopher—harnessing what we now call mindfulness—can see reality outside of the prison of a cave of dancing shadows, in the light where the perfect version of everything, Forms, exist. Also widely read is The Symposium, in which seven men try to define Love. In Phaedrus, Plato tells us—through his character, Socrates—that we should not write, as it makes our memory lazy. In Parmenides, he tries to define the One and concludes that it cannot be one thing. Think: a fifth century group chat in the heat of an American presidential primary.
Thoughts fuelled by sex and alcohol
Plato was a heavy wine drinker: almost every dialogue is interrupted for refills and continues drunkenly into the wee hours of the night.
Plato is that friend that consoles the rest of the crew having a meltdown at the bar, and urges them to quit their jobs and think about the ultimately unattainable pursuit of what they love.
Plato never married but was poly-amorous and pan-sexual: he slept with younger boys—pedophilia was yet to be diagnosed and he thought of them as muses—and older men and also women. He believed everybody is inherently pan-sexual. He was post-feminist, not subscribing to gender binaries, as displayed in his description of humans as originally androgynous, and having been split in two as a punishment for angering ‘the gods’ (let’s call it the government).
Social media has plenty to thank him for
Plato gave us the dialogue and the Socratic method of egalitarian discussion, without the need for definite opinion and answers. You could say he is the root of Facebook and Twitter, a modern day platform for anyone’s speech, much like the Greek agora, where folks assembled for discussion. And on the side, he’d probably advertise his own academy, letting his white drape slip slightly, just revealing a bit of that broad.