Seven Philosophers: Plato, Socrates, Voltaire, Frantz Fanon, Hannah Arendt, Muhammad Iqbal, Malek Bennabi
Plato is considered to be one of the key figures in the Western philosophy. He was born in Ancient Greece approximately in 429 – 423 BC. There is no much information about his early years. Plato was born in a wealthy family and received the best education. The philosopher was the follower of Socrates and was influenced by his ideas. Plato traveled a lot in his life and after he returned to Greece he found the first formal school. He was also an active citizen and participated in the life of the polis (Jackson, 2001).
Plato belongs to the classical period of the Antique thought, and his ideas developed in the context of the cult of the athletic body and exercises for brains. He developed the image of the harmonic human upbringing.
He introduced the theory of forms, according to which there are two levels of reality and the forms that exist in one of the worlds determine their looks in the other world. He tried to cultivate abstract thinking. Plato also emphasized the importance of education for everyone in the life of the healthy state. He writes about it in his works the Laws and the Republic.
He described the exercising plan from the early childhood to create the mind and the body that will be able to pursue wisdom and virtue. The philosopher pays much attention to the concept of virtuous life, which is the main thing that a person should try to attain (Jackson, 2001).
Plato introduced many ideas that are urgent even nowadays. I totally agree with his virtuous life theory and also think that constant learning and developing of the personality are the main things in life that lead to happiness. Only the hard work on oneself, fighting the weaknesses can make the person really happy.
Socrates (470/469 – 399 BC) was a Greek philosopher, whose ideas are known mainly from the works of his contemporaries Plato, Aristophanes and Xenophon. The philosopher was born in the Antiochis tribe and became a sculptor when he grew up. He married a woman with a bad temper Xanthippe and three sons. Socrates was on the military service and in the end of life he was executed (Cohn, 2001).
The image of the philosopher is can be constructed only from the works of his disciples. Plato describes him as an ideal man, the master of the word and philosophy. Xenophon writes that Socrates taught only those who seemed interesting to him, and Xenophon asserts that the philosopher took payment for his tuition.
The philosophical ideas of Socrates are quite contradictory due to the fact that there are no his own written works and the information from Plato’s Dialogues often varies. The contribution of Socrates to the ethics is difficult to underestimate. He introduces the dialectic approach to understanding the key concepts of justice and god. Socrates proposes to break the problem into numerous questions in order to understand it better. Such method is often used in contemporary pedagogy and it is called the Socratic method. The philosopher claimed that god arranges the life and the world in the most optimal way and he, in his turn, knows nothing. He only tries to understand the wisdom of the creation (Cohn, 2001).
Socrates is known for his paradoxes that are considered to conflict the common sense. Among them are sayings that all virtue is knowledge and virtue is enough for happiness. In my opinion, there is nothing contradictory in these thoughts. I also agree with the idea that nothing makes a person happy than being virtuous. The sins are often idealized nowadays, but I can not say that lack of self-restraint is the way to happy life.
Voltaire, or François-Marie Arouet (1694 – 1778) is a French philosopher of the Enlightenment age. He was born in a noble family and received a good classical education in the Jesuit college. After graduation, his father sent him to Normandy to study the law, but Voltaire wanted to become a writer. After graduation his father sent him to the Netherlands and made him the secretary of the French ambassador, where he fell in love with a French refugee. After the scandal his father made him return to France. The life of Voltaire was full of accusations, success and imprisonments, but in the end his reputation was undoubted (Pearson, 2005).
Voltaire was the person of the Age of Enlightenment. That is why his struggle against church dogmas and for human rights and dignity can be called usual to that period of time. This epoch is also called the age of scientific domination, when all spheres of the society was actively reformed.
The philosophy of Voltaire features the ideas of freedom of expression, religion and separation of the state from the church. He was a deist and tried to answer the questions about the nature of faith and its reason. Voltaire also wrote about toleration that people need to respect all other religions. At the same time he claimed that Christianity in the form in which it existed in his time in Europe did not let science and literature to develop (Pearson, 2005).
In my opinion, Voltaire was one of the reforming power of the Enlightenment Age. Without his efforts the changes in the minds of people would not occur. His works were popular among his contemporary and his publicist language was easy to understand for the majority of his readers.
Frantz Fanon (1925 – 1961) was the philosopher, psychiatrist and revolutionary of the Afro-Caribbean origin. He as born on Martinique in a middle-class family, so he had an opportunity to get education. In the 1940s he was shocked by the violent racist behavior of the French Navy on his island and from that time he disguised the colonial racism. When he was 18 years old, he joined the Free French Forces, where he fought for the entire war. After the war, Fanon graduated from the medical French institute and worked as a psychiatrist in Algeria. He was an active social worker until his death and worked mainly in the African countries (Lewis, 2015).
Fanon was influenced by the ideas of Marxism, Lacan, Sartre, and the Négritude movement. He was living in the colony and the problems of racism, colonialism and inequality were urgent for him (Lewis, 2015).
The philosophical works of Fanon concentrate around the ideas of cultural consequences of decolonization and the psychopathology among colonized people. His works focus on post-colonial studies. The philosopher is known for the analysis of decolonization and colonialism he proposed in The Wretched of the Earth that became classical. He wrote that the presence of the colonizers in the African countries is for military purposes and as the result the ruling of the colonies is in the military style. The extreme violence and aggression make people gain numerous psychiatric problems (Lewis, 2015).
Fanon is considered to be one of the most prominent anti-colonial thinkers of the 20th century. His ideas impressed me, because as a person who lives in a free country, I have not thought much about the colonies and people who live there. Constant pressure of the military government an the violence an average citizen sees from an armed soldier is really horrible.
Hannah Arendt (1906 – 1975) is a German political theorist, as she describes herself. She claims that the philosophy deals with the only person, while she is concerned with the problems of many people. She was born in the family of German Jews, received a good education and studied philosophy in the University of Marburg. She had a romantic relationship with another future famous philosopher Heidegger, who supported the Nazis years after. After she arrived to New York, she became an active member of the German-Jewish community. Arendt was the doctor of philosophy and a professor in many universities (Young-Bruehl, 2006).
Arendt immigrated to the United States when the Holocaust started. Her works are influenced by the questions she faced in Germany of that time like anti-Semitism, totalitarianism, authority, democracy and the nature of power.
Arendt introduced an interesting notion of the banality of evil. According to her, an racist is not a sociopath or fanatic, he/she is absolutely an average person who does not have his/her own thoughts, but prefers to act according to a cliché. The banality in this case is not in the fact that such evil hides in every person, but in the fact that acting because of own stupidity is absolutely average. That is why the characteristics of being an anti-Semit and racist are secondary to being stupid. The same thing is with violence, that is the main attribute of power, when a stupid and a cruel person gets it (Young-Bruehl, 2006).
I liked the original approach of Arendt towards the well-known problems of racial discrimination and totalitarianism. She has both a humanist and original point of view concerning these questions, which is quite difficult to achieve, because thousands of philosophical works have been written on the theme of being humane.
Muhammad Iqbal (1877 – 1938) is a British Indian philosopher and one of the ideologists of the Pakistan Movement. He was born in the Punjab Province in the family of the tailor, who brought there Islam from Kashmir and lived according to Quran. He got a religious primary education and then graduated from the Punjab University. He also studied in the European universities, and in that period he started to write poems in the Persian language. His life was full of learning, teaching and political work until his death (Shafique, 2014).
It is impossible to think about Iqbal out of the context of Islam. He is closely connected with the Muslim ideology and his poetry is based on these dogmas. In addition, he used to be an active participant of the Islamization of Pakistan in the beginning of the 20th century (Shafique, 2014).
The philosopher paid much attention to the Muslim League and connected the political involvement with the ideological poetry. He did not support the fact that India participated in the World War I and discussed it with the current Muslim Indian politicians. Iqbal also criticized the National Congress of India for the domination of Hindus. He proposed to change Indian governmental system and to make it a federation. According to him, there should be Muslim Provinces, and only such measures would help the Muslims to survive in the country without conflicts with the others (Shafique, 2014).
The ideas of Iqbal seem dubious to me. From one point of view I understand that he is considered to be the Muslim philosopher, and for this reason he is popular in the Muslim world until now. From another point of view, I do not think that religion and philosophy are interconnected that much. In addition, I do not understand the desire of Muslims to conflict with the Hindus, when all of them live in one country.
Malek Bennabi (1905 – 1973) is an Algerian philosopher. He was born in Constantine and received a good education in Algeria and France, where he studied engineering. Then he moved to Cairo and studied sociology, history and philosophy (Benlahcene, 2013).
When Bennabi returned to Algeria in 1963, he suddenly understood that the technological progress has already changed the humankind. This made him think about the state of culture in the end of the 19th century when the scientific progress did not start. He devoted his life to understanding the questions like the origins of the humankind and the essence of culture. Bennabi was also influenced by the political perturbations in the North Africa and came to the idea of the “civilizational bankruptcy” (Benlahcene, 2013).
Bennabi is well known for his investigation into the reasons of the decay of the Muslim civilization. He also researches the problem of so-called coloniability, which means that certain nations have an inborn inclination to be colonized. He writes about the inferiority of one nation comparing to another in the result of the level of their economical and cultural development. The 20th century has changed the nature of relationships between countries and when the developed states communicate on the basis of the international norms of human rights, the underdeveloped countries still communicate with the help of arms (Benlahcene, 2013).
The ideas expressed by Bennabi seem to be interesting for me. He does not claim that one nation is born to be inferior and another superior, but they explain that the current state of human development in the country is only the result of its cultural and economical development that lasts for centuries. It seems to be a rational explanation of the inequality of the modern world.
Benlahcene, B. (2013). The socio-intellectual foundations of Malec Bennabi’s approach to civilization. Herndon: International Institute of Islamic Thought.
Cohn, Dorrit (2001). Does Socrates speak for Plato? Reflections on an open question. New Literary History 32 (3), 485–500.
Jackson, Roy (2001). Plato: a beginner’s guide. London: Hoder & Stroughton.
Lewis, G. (2015 ). What Fanon said. New York, Fordham.
Pearson, R. (2005). Voltaire almighty: a life in pursuit of freedom. Bloomsbury.
Shafique, K. (2014). Iqbal: his life and our times. ECO Cultural Institute & Iqbal Academy Pakistan.
Young-Bruehl, E. (2006). Why Arendt matters. New Haven, CT; London: Yale University Press.