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Plato 428-347 BCE
Plato is one of the best known of the ancient Greek
philosophers. He was born into a wealthy Athenian family and
soon became a pupil of Socrates. Socrates was renowned for his
method of teaching by questioning and encouraging his pupils
to examine their own ideas.
However, Socrates was unpopular with the leaders of Athens for
his radical ideas on how states should be ruled. Consequently
in 399BCE Socrates was forced to drink the poisonous hemlock.
Plato had attended his trial and the fact that Athens could
condemn its noblest citizen to death had a profound effect on
Plato. Soon after, he began to produce philosophical dialogues
where the main character, Socrates, was presented with various
moral, political and philosophical questions by someone who at
first appeared to be wiser than Socrates. It soon becomes
apparent however, that Socrates is wiser because he recognises
his own limitations and is prepared to question his ideas.
Plato used these dialogues to defend Socrates and to protest
about his death. They show Socrates to be a great educator, a
man who thought for himself and encouraged others to do the
same. Overtime Plato included most of his own philosophic
ideas and in his most famous dialogue, the Republic, he sets
out some of his most important ideas.
In 387 BCE he founded the Academy of Athens which became the
first European University and where Aristotle was later a
pupil.
One 20th century philosophy, Whitehead, famously said, “Modern
Philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato”.
What you need to know about Plato:
- The analogy/ allegory of the cave.
- The concept of the Forms, especially the Form of Good.