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Plato and Socrates - Who's Who?

It is important in research papers that in discussing Socrates’ pivotal role in civilization, the research paper should not confuse him with Plato.  Plato’s most famous and influential idea appears in the Allagory of the Cave found in The Republic research papers; this is his Theory of Forms.  But, although Plato made Socrates his voice, he should not be identified in the research paper too closely with one another.  Socrates’ role should be seen not in terms of his contributions to Platonic theory, but in terms of his advocacy of a spirit of free enquiry based upon an honest look at one’s own essential ignorance.  The theory that Socrates was the wisest Athenian because he was the only Athenian who knew that he was not wise—that paradox is perhaps the aspect of his thought that most contributes to his importance in the history of philosophy.

Plato and Socrates - Who's Who?

Socrates’ stature in the history of western philosophy was derived from his brilliant use of a method of argument that is still in use and now named after him, by his extraordinary character, and by his teaching that one must strip away one’s own assumptions and prejudices before starting out on the path of enquiry. The majority of Plato’s work shows us Socrates’ making use of this technique of argument.  The dialogues of Plato are not literal recordings of what Socrates said, but his name has stuck to the method because Plato so consistently made use of him, and because that use was so very skillful.  Socrates’ association with the method has accounted for a great deal of his reputation.

It was Plato’s perception of Socrates, and his writings based on that perception, that was the most important contributing factor to the stature that Socrates came to enjoy.  Research papers make the following point about Plato’s relationship to Socrates.  A research paper may suggest that Plato’s ideas, ideas that he expressed through the mouth of Socrates were subject to change, but that the impression made upon Plato by the example of Socrates’ life did not change.

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