Plato vs. St. Augustine of Hippo

Topics: Augustine of Hippo, Roman Empire, Christianity Pages: 7 (1932 words) Published: June 15, 2014
Yebeman Asseged
Core 140 Roots of World Views and Culture
Professor Mark McCarthy
November 8, 2012

Compare and Contrast Plato vs. St. Augustine of Hippo
Our world has developed and flourished by the thoughts and contributions of many leaders. Among those leaders were Saint Augustine and Pluto. For many historians, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and Augustine’s The City of God, are historical pieces that point out what had happened during ancient times. These pieces are significant because they shed some light on different thoughts and beliefs of people. Even though these works do not have similar world views, they attempt to show guidance to human life and to their beliefs. In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, he teaches a world view with an example of a cave filled with darkness that people inside should get out by finding the truth and seeing the light. On the other hand, in Augustine’s The City of God, a Christian author, perceived this world as a place where the heavens and the earth coexist. Even though they both showed some similarities on the concept of dualism, these two philosophers had quite different principles and foundational beliefs. Augustine lived in the time around the fourth century. He was born in Tagaste, a Roman province in northern Africa. During his life time, the Roman Empire was on the verge of weakening and later collapsed for good. And according to Brian Levack, one of the main reason for the collapse of the once great empire was due to invasion from many sides in addition to the “unwise decisions, weak leadership, and Military Failure” in the empire (Levack 190). During this time, Constantine (AD 272-337) strived to Christianize the Roman Empire and thus Christianity was spreading all over the empire; however, there were debates and disagreements in the doctrine of Christianity and thus there existed splits among Christians that gave rise to the division in the Roman Empire. It was during this time the idea of Monasticism and Donatism flourished. Greek and Roman philosophical thoughts existed in the fourth century. The origin of the philosophy is traced back to the classical age of Greece. At that time, many thoughts emanated from different philosophers, each with their own views. However, as many would agree, Plato (ca.429-327 B.C.E) was the most prominent philosophers in the realm of ancient philosophy. He was influenced by the scientific thoughts of people that existed long before him. Since Plato was a student of Socrates, his teachings and beliefs have paved a way for Plato which in turn influenced Aristotle.

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, clearly explains his philosophical thoughts and understanding. Basically, this work is a dialogue between Socrates, his mentor, and Glaucon (Plato’s brother). The work paints a picture of prisoners tightly chained in a cave in an attempt to describe the nature of justice –one of the “absolute forms.” Above these prisoners is a fire that casts a shadow of objects that pass through the way between the fire and them. He describes that for the prisoners that are unable to see anything but only the shadows casted by the objects on the wall of the cave. Plato further explains that if any one among the prisoners is set free and is forced to look up to the light, he will be suffer from its glitter on his eyes till he adjusts to it. If told that what he used to observe in the caves was an illusion, he will not be well convinced and would rather choose to go back to the cave where he will claim what he sees in the cave is a reality. However, if he is forced to stay in the world above, he will see the reality, the objects themselves: “And first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves.” After having a thorough understanding of the reality in the above world, if he returned back to the cave, his vision will be filled with darkness and requires time to adjust. And even if he does, he,...


Cited: Augustine. "The City of God-excerpts on the Two Cities", Medieval Sourcebook, July 1998.
Stephen, Cooper. Augustine for Armchair Theologians, 2002. Print.
Plato. “The Allegory of the cave”, The History Guide, May 2004.
Goheen, Michael W., and Craig G. Bartholomew. Living at the Crossroads. Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2008. Print.
Gonalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity. Peabody: Prince Press, 2007. Print.
Levack, Brian, Edward Muir, Meredith Veldman, and Michael Mass. The West. N.p.: Pearson Education, 2007. Print.
Walsh, Brian J., and Richard Middleton. The Transforming Vision. Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press, 1984. Print.
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