Advanced Search

Plato (427-347 BC), Greek philosopher, student and friend of Socrates, and author of The Republic; "Then, I said, let us begin and create in idea a State; and yet the true creator is necessity, who is the mother of our invention."

Plato had a profound influence on Western political and scientific thought, for as Alfred North Whitehead said, "All western philosophy consists of footnotes to Plato." His works cover various subjects like education, ethics, epistemology, mathematics, metaphysics, natural science, politics, and philosophy. Included among them are Laws; "I can show you that the art of calculation has to do with odd and even numbers in their numerical relations to themselves and to each other.", Parmenides; "You cannot conceive the many without the one." and The Republic; "The knowledge of which geometry aims is the knowledge of the eternal.", ultimately discussing man's relationship with his soul, the state, and the universe.

Although many of his ideas and theories are controversial, "Plato is philosophy, and philosophy, Plato, at once the glory and the shame of mankind, since neither Saxon nor Roman have availed to add any idea to his categories."--Ralph Waldo Emerson `Plato, or The Philosopher', he is also well known and respected as being a faithful disciple of Socrates and being the primary source of information on the man, his life and ideas. A number of Plato's works contain the conversations he purportedly heard between his teacher and others; his philosophy, the charges of his impiety, ensuing trial and his last days in the Socratic Dialogues including Apology;

"The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways--I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows."--Socrates before he drinks the cup of poison hemlock.

Plato was born into an aristocratic family in Athens, Greece around 427 BC, the son of Ariston and his wife Perictione. It is said that `Plato' is a nickname in reference to his wrestler's broad shouldered physique. Athens was in conflict with Sparta during the Peloponnesian War at the time, and Plato soon became disillusioned with the Empire and abandoned his political aspirations. Around the age of twenty he became a student of Socrates.

Devoting his life to seeking the truth and examining such issues as virtue and piety through the dialectic questioning of his pupils, Socrates was also critical of the religious and political institutions of the day. Soon he was charged with heresy and corrupting the youth of Athens, and thus began Plato's writing in earnest. Apology and Crito were among his Socratic works to follow. After his teacher's death, around the age of forty Plato founded the Academy, of which Aristotle was a pupil, in a grove sacred to the demigod Academus, near Athens. Astronomy, mathematics, and philosophy were among the subjects taught there. Apart from a few years spent travelling and studying in other parts of the Mediterranean, Plato spent the majority of his life in Athens until his death in 347 BC.

Plato further developed his ideas and theories in such works as Symposium; Phaedo--"False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil."; and The Republic, including his Theory of Forms and various Platonisms. From The Republic we get his metaphor of the cave: prisoners are chained inside a cave, their only reality that which they see directly in front of them on the wall. Shadows of men, animals, and objects are cast on it because there is a fire behind them. The prisoners believe that the shadows are speaking and thus learn to `name' things and form their ideas of what is `real'. Now, take the prisoner from this cave, and he will be blinded by the light, and slowly learn that his reality is not quite what it seems. So suggests Plato in his Theory of Forms, that the words we use to `name' things are not truly representative of reality, that the universal is found separately from the tangible, for as Socrates said;

"it is the greatest good for a man to discuss virtue every day and those other things about which you hear me conversing and testing myself and others, for the unexamined life is not worth living."

Biography written by C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc. Copyright Jalic Inc. 2006. All Rights Reserved.

The above biography is copyrighted. Do not republish it without permission.

Recent Forum Posts on Plato

Condemnation of poetry by plato

In his book, the republic, plato says that poetry is an imitation of imitation and thrice removed from he rejects u agree with plato or not?give reasons as well.

Plato's argumentation against theatre and representation

Plato is known mostly for his excellent argumentations which of course were fought back from his own student Aristotle.However,Plato's opinion for the theatre and the representers is very strict and sometimes odd.Plato claimed that the theatre is the destraction of the mind as it occurs to the expression of the feelings ONLY,as he believed.Plato was also against poetry,his representation was psychological.He was very concerned about the perversive role the poetry had in education.How can the poet teach since he doesnt know the truth?Continuing to the theatre,he considered it as "hubris"-disrespect to Gods and immoral as it doesnt include truth but only aesthetic distance and so on only emotions and not logic! Aristotle fought this argumentation with his own "catharsis",which means liberation of mind and soul! The same goes for tragic playwrights,then,since they are representers:they are two generations removed from the throne of truth and so are all of other representers. Plato

And Plato!

So I’ve been reading about Plato’s philosophies lately. As part of our preparation for SAT exam, we are trying to better our reading skills (and become faster readers) through an extensive reading from both literature and philosophy. Since I feel better and much improved when I write about what I am reading, and since I have always understood things better when people have discussed about it in front of me, I am hereby starting a discussion here, not only on Plato and his philosophies, but also on what LitNetters have to say about his approaches to the solution of the problem of the universals. So please be kind and contribute! The problem with studying anything on Plato’s philosophies is that I go from one thing to another, never remembering where it all started. That way, I lose track on things I have read, and get lost in his theories. It is not easy for me to just pass by these things and touch them and get a hint of what they’re all about. My curiosity (which most definitely kills the cat) leads me from one thing to another and I never get to read anything else other than Plato! Just this evening, for instance, as I was looking through the allegory of the cave, I kept reading that and went from there to his theory of ideas from which I started reading about what “Forms”-- according to Plato—are, before finishing which I started reading about the problem of universals and… after several hours I found myself reading about Parmenides. One main reason behind such curiosity on Plato is, without doubt, the way the anti-platonic Bertrand Russell plays with the words. (I have been reading his History of Western Philosophy.) Take these paragraphs for instance: Consider a man who loves beautiful things, who makes a point of being present at new tragedies, seeing new pictures, and hearing new music. Such a man is not a philosopher, because he loves only beautiful things, whereas the philosopher loves beauty in itself. The man who only loves beautiful things is dreaming, whereas the man who knows absolute beauty is wide awake. The former has only opinion; the latter has knowledge. What is the difference between ‘knowledge’ and’ opinion’? The man who has knowledge has knowledge of something, that is to say, of something that exists, for what does not exist is nothing. (This is reminiscent of Parmenides.) Thus knowledge is infallible, since it is logically impossible for it to be mistaken. But opinion can be mistaken. How can this be? Opinion cannot be of what is not, for that is impossible; nor of what is, for then it would be knowledge. Therefore opinion must be of what is and is not. One of the most interesting reads has been about Plato’s Forms. But I still get rather confused about them. May be you people could help a bit? Please chip in some of your thoughts on Plato’s Forms. :) (At Mods: I hope I have posted this in the right place. If I haven’t, by all means move.)

Family Structure in The Republic

Being a Christian, I naturally have some moral problems with Platoís idea of communal wives and children (to say the least), but I also think that his scheme is faulty on logical grounds. The family unit is the building block of society. Think of the father as the president of the family unit, and the mother as the vice-president. This structured family system paves the way for the larger system of government. The headship of the father is reflected in every level of government Ė city, state, country. I donít believe Platoís City, lacking this basic pattern of leadership, would hold together. You canít build a brick wall if you smash the bricks. I could say more, but first Iíll give people a chance to disagree. Please let me know if you think otherwise and why; Iíd be glad for the chance to flesh out my ideas and see how well they hold up.

Post a New Comment/Question on Plato

Quizzes on Plato

Please submit a quiz here.

Related links for Plato

Here is where you find links to related content on this site or other sites, possibly including full books or essays about Plato written by other authors featured on this site.

    Sorry, no links available.

Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Sonnet-a-Day Newsletter
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.