Greek Philosopher: Plato

Platonism is the Philosophy of Plato
Platonism is the Philosophy of Plato

Born at Athens of a noble family, he intended to enter politics but was disgusted with Athenian political intrigue and disillusioned with the democratic regime.

He became a disciple of Socrates and was present at his trial. Visited Italy and on his return founded his school called the "Academy" (388 BC). The Academy taught a wide variety of subjects and aimed at fostering the disinterested study of science and ultimately at producing men who would be true statesmen.

After some time at the court of tyrants Dionysius and Dion of Syracuse, Plato continued his work in the Academy until his death.

With Socrates and Aristotle, Plato was one of the three great ancient Greek philosophers whose thinking shaped the course of Western civilisation.

Plato and Aristotle
Plato and Aristotle

Democracy... is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder; and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.

-Plato

429 - 348 BC

Aristocles, better known as Plato, was born in Athens of distinguished lineage. Plato was born into a wealthy family and was attracted to political life. But he was discouraged by the corruption of politics in Athens and then horrified by the forced suicide of Socrates in 399 BC. He received the usual education of a high-born Athenian in athletics, music and literature. He distinguished himself in both poetry and athletics.

When Plato was twenty he became a disciple of Socrates, whose philosophy we know largely through Plato's writings. Much of Plato's early work was based on the teachings of his master Socrates which he recorded in the form of dialogues. He developed his ideas further after Socrates death. The teachings were based on the belief that absolute standards of virtue existed; that goodness came from true wisdom; and that evil came from ignorance and folly. After the death of his teacher, Plato traveled extensively in Egypt, Italy and Sicily. He is said to have been captured and sold as a slave in Aegina, and the ransom paid by friends.

Shortly afterwards he established his famous Academy in Athens, where he taught philosophy for forty years to small band of disciples. Among his distinguished pupils were Aristotle, Demosthenes and Lycurgus.

Plato's philosophy developed largely from that of his teacher, Socrates. Under their influence Greek philosophy shifted its focus from problems of the physical world to ethics, politics, knowledge and ideas. In his great books, the Laws and the Republic, Plato elaborated his doctrines of education, the role of laws and the structure of the ideal state.

In 367 BC Plato had the chance to undertake the training of such a ruler, in the person of Dionysius II of Syracuse, but the experiment was a dismal failure. Undiscouraged, Plato went back to Athens to teach in his philosophy school, the Academy, which he had founded in about 387 BC.

Plato died at a wedding feast in 347 BC in his eighty-first year. Tradition tells us that the old philosopher retired to a corner to rest and was found dead in the morning when the revels had ended. All Athens mourned her distinguished scholar.

The Academy continued to flourish after Plato's death until AD 529 when it was closed by the Byzantine emperor Justinian.

The Name

According to Diogenes, Plato's real name was Aristocles. So named after his grandfather. The Greek meaning was "the best glory" derived from aristos "best" and kleos "glory".

It was Plato's wrestling coach, Ariston of Argos, who dubbed him "Platon", meaning "broad" on account of his robust figure.

Neoplatonism

A school philosophy founded by Plotinus developed in Alexandria in the 3rd century AD was known as Neoplatonism. It lasted until the 6th century. Its practitioners sought to reconcile the philosophy of Plato with Christian beliefs.

Read more about Neoplatonism here.

A Roman mosaic showing Plato's Academy
A Roman mosaic showing Plato's Academy

The Academy

The great Greek philosopher Plato taught his pupils in a garden just outside Athens. This garden was supposed to belong to a Greek hero called Academus, and it is from his name that the word "academy" orginates, for later people called Plato's school itself the Academy.

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Comments 22 comments

prasadjain profile image

prasadjain 8 years ago from Tumkur

Very good article Mr.Darkside.I am very happy on the fact that a technical person like you take interest in topics like these and present such simple and interesting articles like these for common readers.FINE!


Lissie profile image

Lissie 8 years ago from New Zealand

Is this a capplet Glen? I await the following episode with interest!


darkside profile image

darkside 8 years ago from Australia Author

Lissie, indeed it is!

I've written one on Plato. And I have a hub published on Aristotle. Though it was published before they announced the Capstone program.

After hearing the announcement it gave me the incentive to go after a batch of 15 of the Greek philosophers. After I had a cursory look to see if indeed there are another 15 to cover. And there is, just that when I get to near a dozen I'll be hard pressed to find good solid info on the last few. But it's a challenge!

Thanks for the positive feedback there Prasadjain. I did enjoy ancient history at High School and it's quite therapeutic to engage in such an interesting topic. It's quite laid back and not caught up in the hustle and bustle and artificial urgency that is prevalent in a lot of the web's hot topics.


robie2 profile image

robie2 8 years ago from Central New Jersey

These are really great, Darkside--well written and full of good meat as usual. I'm waiting for Diogenes--I bet he's coming next:-)


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut

This is a great change from the hot topics, like you said! i am glad to hear it will be a series - looking forward to it. :)


Trsmd profile image

Trsmd 8 years ago from India

Plato was one of the early stars of Western philosophy. The son of an aristocrat, he studied under the great Greek thinker, Socrates


jedgrey profile image

jedgrey 8 years ago from Texas

Excellent article, well written without fluff and to the point. Plato is one of the most influential thinkers and writers in all recorded history.


Nickny79 profile image

Nickny79 7 years ago from New York, New York

Nice intorduction. I would love to see more in depth hubs aobut particular dialogues.


Iphigenia 7 years ago

I love this stuff - not studied the classics since schooldays in the 1970's. can't believe that I've found it here. I'm going to bookmark your other philosophy articles and enjoy them at my leisure. Thank you.


RKHenry profile image

RKHenry 7 years ago from Your neighborhood museum

Excellent tidbit about the name. I dig stuff like that!


nazishnasim 7 years ago

I get inspired by your 'loaded comments' but somehow decide to keep a distance (nothing to do with you, I can be weird sometimes for no reason). So where was I?

Ah, great hub and a question who is your favorite philosopher?


darkside profile image

darkside 7 years ago from Australia Author

Do I have a specific favourite philosopher?

I admire Thales for being, according to history, the first. To have the ideas he had would be "groundbreakingly" profound. The others that I've covered have all added their own profound thoughts and ideas. But I think I'd lean more towards a being a cynic than being stoic.


dgraphicrookie 6 years ago

What I really like about Plato is his Theory of Love. Great and well written hub! =)


jared 5 years ago

bla bla bla people give it up


henry 5 years ago

I think greeks are not freiks they have one of the best colture.


sligobay profile image

sligobay 5 years ago from east of the equator

I am reading Plato's Republic again and enjoyed your concise summary.


Andrew 5 years ago

ploto don try well well. the land mark made can never be eraised no matter the matter


barresie 5 years ago

i love the story i cant wait to hear more!!!!


IMONLY15 5 years ago

An intriging find but I must say I am apalled that some of the information was flawed. Please research thoroughly next time.


darkside profile image

darkside 5 years ago from Australia Author

Thanks for the feedback 15 Year Old Expert.


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    References

    • Systems & Theories of Psychology, Second Edition, 1970, Chaplin & Krawiec
    • Library of Essential Knowledge, Volume 2, Readers Digest, 1980
    • The New International Illustrated Encyclopaedia, Volume 2, 1954

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