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Plato-raphael

Raphael's depiction of Plato in The School of Athens.

Plato was a great Greek philosopher who lived from 428 to 347 BCE. His family name was Aristocles. He was a friend of Socrates and founded the Academy, where Plato taught his philosophy, which entailed many separate disciplines.

Influence

Plato is one of the half-dozen most influential philosophers in world history, and his work is studied today in every philosophy departme nt. Plato's most famous work is The Republic. One of Plato's pupils was Aristotle, an equally important philosopher with a very different philosophy.

Although Plato cannot be described as a theist, he influenced the Greek neo-Platonism from the second and third centuries BCE, which did have a major influence on early Christian teachings.

Style

Plato's works are different from the majority of philosophical works in style and structure. He wrote dialogs which combined elements of both Greek tragedy and philosophy. His works are conversational dramas filled with irony and 'hidden' content which only the experienced reader will recognize and understand. He did not write explicit treatises, instead slowly and indirectly revealing his ideas over the course of dozens of dialogues written across the course of his life through the words of his character.

Plato's allegory of the cave

Plato - Allegory of the Cave

Illustration of Plato's allegory of the cave by Markus Maurer.

Plato had his character Socrates present the myth of the cave in The Republic. In this myth there are men chained in a cave, with a fire somewhere behind them casting light and shadows on the walls in front of them. They cannot turn their heads and may only gaze upon these shadows. The prisoners establish a primitive social order in which respect is granted to those who can correctly predict which shape the flames random gyrations will next be projected onto the wall. In the myth one of these prisoners is set free, and eventually finds his way out of the cave into the realm of the sun and truth. In Socrates' thought experiment of a myth this freed man is then forced to return to the cave, where he tries to tell his companions of the truth he has seen, which they can only understand as the ravings of a madman.

Soul

Plato had his characters take the existence of the human soul on faith, following the example of Socrates, who believed in the soul because a benevolent spirit spoke directly to his. In the Phaedo Socrates tells a myth where only as disembodied souls can we possess true knowledge of the Forms. The soul in a human body cannot obtain true knowledge due to the body's failings and distractions. However, by study of philosophy one can regain the path to the true knowledge of the Forms, and prepare oneself for the realm to come after death.

List of works

Early

  • Apology
  • Charmides
  • Crito
  • Euthyphro
  • First Alcibiades
  • Hippias Major
  • Hippias Minor
  • Ion
  • Laches
  • Lysis

Middle

  • Cratylus
  • Euthydemus
  • Gorgias
  • Menexenus
  • Meno
  • Parmenides
  • Phaedo
  • Phaedrus
  • Protagoras
  • The Republic
  • Symposium
  • Theaetetus

Late

See also

Further reading

Primary sources

External links


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