Everyone would like to live his or her life in the best way possible. This notion goes without saying, although there has been contemplation of the question since time immemorial. Which is the best possible kind of life to lead. As a result, philosopher and sages from all walks of life started devoting their lives to establishing the right answer. These philosophers, started writing books to demonstrate to the world their versions of how to live the good life. The two philosophers whose perceptions of living the best possible life are widely known are Plato and Lao Tzu. In both Lao Tzu’s Living as Water and Plato’s Euthyphro, the scrutiny of what facilitates our accomplishment of the good life is the major focal point. The two philosophies, one from the East and the other from the West, exhibit both conflicting and connecting ideologies on the ways to attain the good life. A great number of their grounds for arriving at the good life match although their major layouts of the good life entirely differ. The best life for Lao Tzu is that of a sage, and for Plato, a philosopher. This essay attempts to examine the perceptions of knowledge of these two philosophers and establish which one of their views in relevant in the modern society.
The Good Life According to Plato’s Euthyphro
Plato solely believed that knowledge is key to the good. Plato’s philosophy originates entirely from the notion that knowledge will necessarily lead to the good life if a person properly goes after it, though with a directions from a real master of philosophy. For a person to attain the true good, they ought to walk out of the darkness and realize the true forms. With a lot of details, Plato describes how a person should pursue cognition in order for them to live a good life. They ought to free themselves from the sensible world and enter the world of intellect. One must make a stride out of the cave’s Allegory for them to gain the psychological result of perception and learning and reasoning. According to Plato, once someone has achieved this, they possess the cognition of true forms and realize that all the things they view are just copies of real matters. The cave’s description by Plato suggests that knowledge is not only essential to becoming a ruler of philosophy, but also the only way to endure the good life that everyone wishes to live. Therefore, without knowledge, one cannot run away from the metaphorical cave and understand the life’s truest forms. In Plato’s mind, Knowledge bears the key to living a good life. (Allen)
Taoism’s Good Life
The ideas of Taoism widely vary from Plato’s major, broad set up of how to attain the good life. According to Lao Tzu, it all begins with realizing that the Tao one can speak of is not the eternal Tao. What this implies is that Tao is everywhere, it is something that can neither be defined nor understood. The good life begins to unfold once a person understands Tao. Lao Tzu described compared ‘Shan’, someone with superior goodness, to water. This is because water, without contending with any, benefits all beings. By using this comparison, Lao Tzu suggests that a person who lives a good life ought to be beneficial to each and every being; one ought to help everyone and take away from none. For a person to live the best life, according to Lao Tzu, one must practice and comprehend wu wei (Lao-tzu. and Bynner), a paradox in itself. He gives a masterful description of wu wei in terms of learning and knowledge. This essay will depict significant parallels between three accounts of these two philosophers namely: the metaphysical principle, the cosmic order which accompanies that principle, and the life human ought to live as a consequent of this order.
First Principles: The Good and the Tao
At the center of Plato’s Euthyphro, Socrates introduces the notion of the Good as the greatest study and so the anchor of philosophic education, with the debate that justice and other good things rely on the Good for goodness, as their usefulness to people depends on their understanding of the Good that makes them good. The Good is the mother of truth that connects intelligence to intelligible things, just as the sun is the origin of light that connects vision with things that are visible and also the mother of growth, nourishment and generation of such objects. Therefore, the Good is the source of all truth, knowledge, goodness and being, but it is itself known as “beyond being” and hence it is itself not a being at all. Nevertheless, even a self-proclaimed philosopher like Socrates, asserts only to have opinion, not cognition of the Good. This shows that he has not entirely escaped the cave. (Plato. et al.)
A similar transcendence and mysteriousness is noted as being linked to the Tao. Generally interpreted as ‘Way’, we cannot presume to understand the meaning or name of Tao. According to Lao Tzu, the Name that can be named is not the everlasting name. This contradiction, that the major theme of discussion cannot be named or discussed, in turn produces extra paradoxes; which together offers to strengthen the fundamental mysteriousness of the Tao. Nevertheless, this mysteriousness reveals the characteristic of the Tao as the Tao is not a being that one is able to know and name but instead the mother of all beings. Viewed in this manner, Tao is neither a being nor a thing but an event or activity, and its self-actualization which is generative is called Te, the Virtue, Efficacy or Power. (Watts and Huang)
Cosmology: Peras and Apeiron, Yin and Yang
In the context of a debate that was ongoing, Plato brought in the principles of peras and apeiron, Limit and Unlimited. The Limit and Unlimited were introduced with their assortment and the causal agency of the assortment as the four kinds that shape the characteristics of all beings. According to the presentation and analysis of these four forms, it is adequately candid that their role is to act as the metaphysical example for human life’s ethical ordering. The conclusion presented for their introduction is determine the comparative rating of intellect and pleasure within the life that regards the assortment of both; which is seen as the best life for humans. Since these four kinds are not only relevant to human beings but all kinds, we can conclude that the goodness of everything relies how Limit and Unlimited are combines in the natures of a certain living beings. (Plato. et al.)
Although depicted more elliptically and elusively, Lao Tzu’s philosophy compares to Plato’s. In verse 42, there is mentioning of Yin and Yang principles, which symbolize the relation of opposites. They literally refer to the shady and sunny parts of a mountain, although they also imply earth and fire, darkness and light, female and male, winter and summer, and other kinds of complementary opposites. In comparison to the previously discussed Platonic duality, we remark the following. Yin compares to the apeiron as the unlimited, unbounded, or indeterminate. On the other hand, Yang relates to the peras as the limited, bounded or determinate. Nevertheless, the demonstration of these principles requires special attention in the case of human beings. (Lao-tzu. and Bynner)
Ethics: The Sage and the Philosopher
A philosopher is defined by Socrates as a lover of learning, while the objects of learning philosophy as beings or the forms. Philosophy, in terms of loving is erotic, epistemic in terms of learning, metaphysical towards the forms of the Good, and political and ethical in terms of applying the Good and the beings to a person’s life. Knowledge of the Good offers the philosopher his most crucial competence to rule the city. (Allen)
There are parallels in the Tao Te Ching between the metaphysical and ethical, and the cosmic and human. The most straightforward statement says that those lose become the loss and those who gain become the gain. The three major characteristics of sage namely non-knowing, non-desiring and non-doing; are expressed in this paradox of loss within gain. The sage possess no knowledge, pursues no knowledge, and his mind resembles that of an infant, but he knows “not knowing” and knows himself. The sage, thus, rules without desiring, knowing, coercing, competing, or contending. He achieves this in the same way as Tao. (Watts and Huang)
The description of the sage-ruler as well the philosopher king by Lao Tzu and Plato, respectively, sound paradoxical. The two, philosopher and sage, seek to transform their people through inspiration of their readers to transmute themselves, in order to act like philosophers or sages in their own lives and consequently transform those around them. Lao Tzu’s sage serves to harmonize Yang and Yin in their respective manifestations so that they can live in Tao’s way, while Plato’s philosopher attempts seeks not to eliminate the Unlimited, but to reconcile the Limit in evaluated mixtures. Plato, therefore, is a theorizer of forms who is mathematically-minded, while Lao Tzu is a mysterious poet-philosopher who is paradoxical.
Allen, Reginald E. Plato's 'Euthyphro' And The Earlier Theory Of Forms. London: Routledge, 2013. Print.
Lao-tzu., and Witter Bynner. The Way Of Life According To Laotzu ; Translated By Witter Bynner ; Illustrated By Frank Wren. New York: Putnam, 1986. Print.
Plato., et al. Five Great Dialogues Of Plato. Claremont, CA: Coyote Canyon Press, 2009. Print.
Watts, Alan and Al Chung-liang Huang. Tao. London: Souvenir Press, 2011. Print.