BESIDES his brilliant ideas on government and politics, Plato had serious thoughts and suggestions about what we know and how we know.
Brilliant thinker that he was Plato went down to the level of the common man in order to explain his ideas. Like Rabbi Eli Wiesel who, many centuries after Plato, said, “God must love us so much that He gave us wonderful stories.” Likewise, in order to bring home his thoughts on what we know, how we know, and whether our knowledge is true and certain, Plato turned to story-telling.
In three of his works, namely, Phaedo, Phaedrus and Timaeus, our philosopher-turned story teller claims that “Once upon a time in an ideal world far, far away” we lived each one in his or her own star. There in that beautiful and ideal world, we contemplated the True, the Good, the Beautiful; thus we knew, and with certainty.
One day, however, one by one, we rode through the heavens in a chariot pulled by two winged horses: one good -- the brave horse, the other bad -- the sensual horse. In this heavenly flight, the bad or sensual horse started misbehaving and distracted our attention. In the commotion, the horses lost their wings, and we fell into the earth where our souls got wrapped or imprisoned in material bodies, making us forget the ideas we once contemplated.
In our present earthly life, our task is to REMEMBER the eternal ideas we once knew.
So, today, following Plato’s story, education consists, at times, in remembering what we knew before. Thus, the importance of memory.