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Great Riddlers: Plato


Plato is one of the best known historical figures in the fields of mathematics, philosophy, literature, and science. He was born in 428 BC and died 348 BC, living to the ripe old age of eighty years old, a feat rarely achieved in his time. Growing up in Greece in a well-off family he had access to a lot of educational resources most people did not. He also had fortunately to have studied under Socrates, another great Greek philosopher often credited with being one of the founders of Western philosophy. In a similar situation, one of Plato's students that studied at his center for higher education, the Academy, was none other than Aristotle. Aristotle was a great mathematician and philosopher as well who contributed a vast number of his insights to a large number of fields. A lesser known fact about Plato is that, like many great men of science and literature, he was intrigued by riddles and their relation to logic and human thinking. He mentions them frequently in his writings.

Plato recognized riddles primarily for two of their functions in society. The first of these two functions is child's play. In this sense he understands that riddles are a great form of entertainment and a good and educational way for children to spend their time. The fact that children in Greece had fun with riddles shows that society has changed a lot. Children do not really practice riddles outside of school anymore with all of the distractions offered by social networks. The other function of riddles that he recognizes is their ability to portray ultimate truths in a way that straightforward statements can not. In other words, riddles can help us understand philosophical views that are too hard to understand ordinarily. For these reasons Plato viewed riddles as tools of logic and entertainment.

Plato himself uses riddles for both of the reasons previously mentioned through his works. Many of these riddles can be found in his dialogues which are his writings portraying conversational exchanges between several people. One of his dialogues, the Republic, discusses his definition of justice and the characteristics necessary for a just state and just man. One of his riddles from this dialogue is a math-based riddle that discusses his theory that society and higher social classes will naturally degrade over time because they can not expect the correct time to reproduce to create better offspring. Obviously this is not valid logic but the riddle does help him portray the message of the riddle very strictly. This is just one of his many riddles from this dialogue.

Plato talks about riddles and their relation to intelligence, mathematics, children and logic through his works. He recognized how important riddles are. He was a great writer, mathematician and philosopher who has become immortal through his thoughts.


Source by Justin James Zablocki


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