Plato’s Warning: Ignorance Will be the Source of Great and Monstrous Crimes

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“A man may truly say that ignorance is a third case of crimes. Ignorance, however, may be conveniently divided… into two sorts: There is simple ignorance, which is the source of lighter offenses, and double ignorance, which is accompanied by a conceit of wisdom; and he who is under the influence of the latter fancies that he knows all about matters of which he knows nothing. This second kind of ignorance, when possessed of power and strength, will be… the source of great and monstrous crimes…”

A number of websites mistakenly attribute this quotation to Aristotle (384-322 BC), a famous Greek philosopher, who was a student of Plato. However this quotation was written by Plato; it is found in The Dialogues of Plato, Volume 4, (1895) translated by B. Jewett, professor of Greek, University of Oxford. Plato (428-348 BC). Plato was a student of the classical Greek philosopher Socrates (470-399 BC). Plato and Socrates are considered the founders of Western philosophy — their ideas and concepts have shaped Western civilization for centuries. We know of Socrates’ teachings through Plato’s writings (The Dialogues) that employ the Socratic method: the deep exploration of topics through endless questioning. Between 390 and 380 BC, Plato who was about 40 years old at the time, established the Academy, considered the world’s first university. The school was located in a garden of olive trees that was dedicated to Academus, a hero in Greek mythology. Academus spared Athens from destruction by telling Castor and Pollux (known as the Dioscuri) that their sister Helen was being held captive at Aphidnae by the Athenian king Theseus. Plato’s Academy is immortalized by Raphael in his stunning masterpiece The School of Athens, one of four frescos that adorn the Stanza dell Senator in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. Raphael painted the fresco, commissioned by Pope Julius II for his library, between 1509 and 1511. At the center of the fresco are the images of Plato and Aristotle walking while having a deep conversation. On the left is Plato holding a copy of Timaeus with his left hand and pointing to the heavens with his right hand. To his right is Aristotle holding a copy of Nicomachean Ethics with his left hand and gesturing toward the earth with his right hand. You can take a virtual tour of the Vatican in the last link below.

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Read related posts: Plato’s Warning: If You Don’t Vote, You Will be Governed by Idiots
Will We Have Free and Fair Elections Ever Again?
A Republic, If You Can Keep It
Is the United States a Democracy or Republic?

For further reading: The Dialogues of Plato by Plato
The Cave and the Light by Arthur Herman

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