History of philosophy involves many aspects that are measured not only by changes and development of philosophy through the ages, but also the great variety of philosophical directions and schools all over the world. Each culture was formed under the influence of particular philosophical system, and therefore the importance of philosophy studies cannot be overestimated.
Probably, one of the main achievements of Socratic philosophy is the introduction of a dialectic method of inquiry or in other words Socratic method. This method was first described in Plato's Socratic Dialogues and applied to the examination of such key moral issues as Justice and Good. Many of Socratic ideas are considered paradoxical, and scientists find it difficult to define them accurately. The reason is that the majority of Socrates' opinions are described in Plato's works, and it means that these opinions may be distorted by literary style and personal worldview of Plato. The main paradoxes of Socrates are: "Virtue is sufficient for happiness"; "Virtue - all virtue - is knowledge"; "No one desires evil"; "No one errs or does wrong willingly or knowingly". Socrates' ideas gave birth to numerous philosophical schools. Among his followers are Xenophon, Megarian School founded by Euclides from Megara and many others. Socrates' teaching predominated in Cynics and Cyrenaics philosophies (Kraut).
Sophists were a category of teachers who used rhetoric and philosophy as the main tool to teach excellence of virtues. They were brilliant orators and public speakers, who perceived wisdom as the greatest virtue (even the word "sophism" comes from "Sophia" that means "wisdom"). Unlike Socrates, Sophists charged money for their education and did not teach those who were unable to pay for lessons. Sophists were a kind of privileged philosophical school that supported the ideas of skepticism, relativism, the importance of success, and the use of rhetoric (Duke).
Sophocles is a famous Greek playwright born in Colonus, Attica. His major genre was tragedy, and he won even more dramatic competitions than Aeschylus did. He completed more than 30 contests and won approximately 24 of them, never being judged lower than the second place. Sophocles wrote 123 plays, but only seven of them survived in a full form: Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, Ajax, The women of Trachis, Philoctetes, Antigone and Electra.
Sophocles was deeply concerned with the political situation in ancient Athens. In his plays, he underlined the importance of democracy and criticized tyrannical rulers. He tried to develop the idea that one leader does not have enough strength and wisdom to rule the country and that nation is the real ruler of the society. Sophocles was convinced that a council or an assembly would make better decisions than one dictator would. Sophocles also expressed an idea that the welfare of the congregation or city is more valuable than the destiny of one person. For example, in Oedipus the King, Oedipus is forced to leave his place because there was a plaque upon the city. However, he was a wise king and accepted his fate with the words "But my spirit grieves for the city, for myself and all of you to learn what I might do or say to save our city" (Sophocles, 1991, pp. 75-84). Another play by Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, shows how important it is to keep the promise and continues the idea that the whole city is more important than one person (Shearer, n.d.).
Therefore, Sophocles tried to express his political ideas through plays. Apart from being a successful playwright, he introduced democratic ideas and supported the philosophy of city over individual importance.
The Republic is a Socratic dialogue that concerns the nature of justice. The major themes presented in The Republic of Plato are justice as the advantage of the stronger, the principle of specialization, the idea of the tripartite soul, the theory of the sun, the line and the cave and the reason for the importance of being just.
Plato argues about the motifs of people behaving justly. He admits that the overwhelming majority of people fear social, governmental or divine punishment, and therefore they submit to the law. However, Plato urges that justice is worthwhile in and for itself and defines that it appeals rather to human psychology than to the human behavior. The Republic presents the model of the ideal society, which is based on the class division. According to Plato, perfect society consists of guardians (rulers), auxiliaries (warriors) and producers (craftsmen). Justice will prevail only when each group performs its function and does not interfere in the businesses of other classes. Plato also states that political justice is closely related to individual justice, and political justice cannot exist without individual. Further, in The Republic, Plato drives a parallel between the three classes and the three parts of a soul: an appetitive part, a spirited part and a rational part. Rational part that is represented by rulers seeks for truth and wisdom. Warriors personify spiritual part, which desires glory and therefore gives them courage. Craftsmen are predominated by an appetitive part that makes them lust after all sorts of things, especially pleasure, luxury and money (Brown, 2003). The perfect society will be possible only if all the classes live in harmony, without crossing the borders of their own specialization. Moreover, a just person will also be predominated by a rational part. Another part of The Republic is dedicated to the theory of the sun, the line and the cave. Plato uses the allegory of the cave, shadows, prisoners, philosophers and the sun to explain his idea of Forms and the ultimate Good. He identified two realms of the world that involve visible (that can be perceived by the human senses) and intelligible (that can be grasped by the mind).
Confucius is a Chinese philosopher, teacher, politician and editor of the Autumn and Spring period of Chinese history. His philosophy was based on governmental and personal morality. Confucius emphasized the importance of justice and correctness of social relationships. Later, his teaching developed into philosophical system called Confucianism.
Many scientists claim that the principles of Confucianism influenced the development of the Chinese history and culture in the same way as Socrates in the West. For example, Chinese nation deeply respects the elders, practices ancestor worshiping and keeps up to strong family loyalty. Furthermore, Confucius suggested the ideal model of government to be built upon the family principles. Probably, the main principle of Confucianism is reflected in the Golden Rule, which says, "Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself". The teachings of Confucius are recorded in the Analects or Lunuy. The moral ideas of Confucianism emphasized emulation of moral exemplars, self-cultivation and the fulfillment of skilled judgment rather than simple knowledge of rules. Confucianism is considered rather an ethical system than religion. Although it has many attributes of religion like belief in afterlife, this philosophical system is unconcerned with some spiritual matters as the nature of souls. Confucius serves as an ultimate example of human excellence but not a divinity or a set of abstract principles. Confucianism as a collection of moral ideas may be represented as a Chinese humanism. Another important Confucius' axiom, often interpreted as a Silver Rule, a positive variant of The Golden Rule, says, "What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others." (Richey, n.d.).
To conclude, the ideas of Confucius are based on developing such virtues of self as cultivation of knowledge and sincerity. Furthermore, the ethical theory of Confucianism is embodied in the concept of Li that comprises three conceptual aspects of life: the etiquette of daily behavior, political and social institutions and ceremonies of ancestor or deity worshipping.
Al-Ghazali is an Islamic philosopher and theologian, who is often referred to as the most influential Muslim after the prophet Muhammad. His main works include Incoherence of Philosophers, The revival of Religious Sciences and The Jerusalem Tract.
The main distinctive feature that connects Al-Ghazali and Plato is strong Al-Ghazali's criticism of philosophers. Being an orthodox Muslim believer, he always put Allah on the first place in his works. Al-Ghazali considered philosophy as the main source of heresy because philosophers denied the existence of God. There are several reasons why Al-Ghazali criticized philosophers and Plato in particular. The first reason is the belief in the eternity of the world. Greek philosophers believed that the world is eternal and therefore rejected divine creation. Second, philosophers denied that God knows particulars because the connection between God's knowledge and particulars leads to the change of plurality in God's essence. However, Al-Ghazali argued this opinion because he believed that God possesses ultimate knowledge of the whole life of a person from the birth to death. Thus, the God's knowledge will not change even though the life of a human can change at any moment. The third reason for criticism is resurrection. Plato was convinced that there is no resurrection because afterlife means the separation of body and soul. Greek philosophers believed in the eternity of human soul only as a spiritual substance, but Al-Ghazali was convinced that souls would be resurrected as personalities according to the Islamic theology (Nakamura, 1998). Furthermore, if to compare Plato's idea of the Sun as the greatest Good, there is the obvious conclusion that in Al-Ghazali's philosophy the greatest Good is not an abstract notion, but God Allah.
To conclude, the main point of Al-Ghazali's argument is based on rather theological concepts than philosophical ones. Al-Ghazali claimed that God is the only reason for everything and therefore has the full knowledge and is absolutely almightiness.
Brown, E. (2003, April 1). Plato's ethics and politics in The Republic. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved March 23, 2014, from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/plato-ethics-politics/
Duke, G. (n.d.). The sophists (ancient Greek). Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved March 23, 2014, from http://www.iep.utm.edu/sophists/
Kraut, R. (n.d.). Socrates. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved March 23, 2014, from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/551948/Socrates
Nakamura, K. (1998). Al-Ghazali, Abu Hamid. Muslimphilosophy.com. Retrieved March 23, 2014, from http://www.muslimphilosophy.com/ip/rep/H028#H028SECT3
Richey, J. (n.d.). Confucius (551—479 B.C.E.). Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved March 23, 2014, from http://www.iep.utm.edu/confuciu/
Shearer, J. (n.d.). Sophocles' politics. Union.edu. Retrieved March 23, 2014, from http://www1.union.edu/wareht/gkcultur/guide/18/sophocles.html
Sophocles. (1991). Oedipus the King (D. Grene, Trans.). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.