Hello: Plato taught about a realm of ideas vs. a material realm, and the realm of ideas subsequently working as a basis for our ethics. Is this called "Gnosticism" or does Gnosticism build on Platonic thought? What is the platonian teaching called if not gnosticism? Also, do you have any references about links between buddhism and platonic thought? Thank you/ Tony

Gnosticism was certainly influenced by Platonic philosophy, but the two are not the same thing. Rather than going into details here, I suggest that you go to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (advertised on the lower right of this page--just click on it) and look up "Gnosticism." There is a philosopher named May Sim at College of the Holy Cross who has done some work on comparisons between Asian philosophies and ancient Greek philosophy. You might try contacting her to find out more about that topic.

In the beginning of The Republic , Socrates demonstrates to Thrasymachus, I think, that his theory of justice, i.e., "do good to one's friends and evil to one's enemies", is false because it may be that one has evil friends and good enemies, or be mistaken about in fact who is our friend and who is our enemy. I wonder, though, about this: We are faced with three potential questions. One possible question is "who are our true friends and our true enemies?". Another possible question is "are our true friends good and our true enemies evil?". A third possible question is "what is justice, considered apart from irrelevancies like our friends?". It seems to me that we are much more likely to be right in our judgments about the first two questions than we are in our third. We might be wrong in all three, of course, but if asked to either 1) accurately identify one's friends and evaluate their worthiness or 2) create a theory of justice, I would suggest that the vast majority of people (perhaps why we...

I think the passage you have in mind in one in which Socrates refutes Polemarchus, not Thrasymachus. But at any rate, I guess I don't share your confidence in our ability to judge the first and second questions much more accurately than we can the third. Of course, if we mean by "friend" simply "someone for whom we feel a certain kind of affection" then figuring out who our friends are will require only that we accurately recognize our own feelings of affection. But if the real answer to the first question naturally takes us to the second, I don't see why judgments of good and evil are going to be easier to answer than questions about what justice is.

I've been reading Plato's Republic and I find he had quite drastic views when it came to censorship. Is this really so or just a misinterpretation on my behalf? Is Plato trying to eliminate freedom from his ideal city?

Scholars have been deeply divided over how we are supposed to understand Plato's writings in general, and the Republic in particular. Some have gone so far as to suggest that Plato intended the Republic as a kind of comedy--poking fun at utopian thought by showing how outrageous and contrary to common sense it inevitably ends up. But I think most scholars are inclined to take what Plato says more seriously, and this more sober approach seems to be supported by the way Aristotle seems to have read and understood the Republic : Aristotle plainly took it seriously enough to criticise it carefully and searchingly. But I personally think there is something like a middle ground here--Plato intends his dialogues to work as "thought-experiments," in which hypotheses and ways of conceiving of problems are posed for discussion, criticism, and possible amendment. And I am convinced the Republic is like this--a thought-experiment. And yes, in this particular thought-experiment, Plato is...

While reading Nichomachean Ethics and Politics , I found myself agreeing with Aristotle far more than I did with Plato when I read The Republic . Can you convince me otherwise? How would Plato have critiqued Aristotle's works?

I would first encourage you to see what is common to what the two philosophers say. Each one thinks that eudaimonia (happiness or flourishing) is what makes a human life good, and each one thinks that the best way to win that goal is to be virtuous. Each also thinks that being virtuous requires acting in accordance with reason. But there are differences, and there is nothing wrong in responding to these with a preference for one account in favor of the other!