- NAME: Plato
- OCCUPATION: Philosopher, Writer
- BIRTH DATE: c. 428 BCE
- DEATH DATE: c. 348 BCE
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Athens, Greece
- PLACE OF DEATH: Athens, Greece
- AKA: Aristocles
- AKA: Platon
- AKA: Aristocles, son of Ariston
Best Known For
Ancient Greek philosopher Plato founded the Academy and is the author of philosophical works of unparalleled influence in Western thought.
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After Socrates's death, Plato traveled for 12 years throughout the Mediterranean region, studying mathematics with the Pythagoreans in Italy, and geometry, geology, astronomy and religion in Egypt. During this time, or soon after, he began his extensive writing. There is some debate among scholars on the order of these writings, but most believe they fall into three distinct periods.
The first, or early, period occurs during Plato's travels (399-387 B.C.). The Apology of Socrates seems to have been written shortly after Socrates's death. Other texts in this time period include Protagoras, Euthyphro, Hippias Major and Minor and Ion. In these dialogues, Plato attempts to convey Socrates's philosophy and teachings.
In the second, or middle, period, Plato writes in his own voice on the central ideals of justice, courage, wisdom and moderation of the individual and society. The Republic was written during this time with its exploration of just government ruled by philosopher kings.
In the third, or late, period, Socrates is relegated to a minor role and Plato takes a closer look at his own early metaphysical ideas. He explores the role of art, including dance, music, drama and architecture, as well as ethics and morality. In his writings on the Theory of Forms, Plato suggests that the world of ideas is the only constant and that the perceived world through our senses is deceptive and changeable.
Sometime around 385 B.C., Plato founded a school of learning, known as the Academy, which he presided over until his death. It is believed the school was located at an enclosed park named for a legendary Athenian hero. The Academy operated until 529 A.D., when it was closed by Roman Emperor Justinian I, who feared it was a source of paganism and a threat to Christianity. Over its years of operation, the Academy's curriculum included astronomy, biology, mathematics, political theory and philosophy. Plato hoped the Academy would provide a place for future leaders to discover how to build a better government in the Greek city-states.
In 367, Plato was invited by Dion, a friend and disciple, to be the personal tutor of his nephew, Dionysus II, the new ruler of Syracuse (Sicily). Dion believed that Dionysus showed promise as an ideal leader. Plato accepted, hoping the experience would produce a philosopher king. But Dionysius fell far short of expectations and suspected Dion, and later Plato, of conspiring against him. He had Dion exiled and Plato placed under "house arrest." Eventually, Plato returned to Athens and his Academy. One of his more promising students there was Aristotle, who would take his mentor's teachings in new directions.
Plato's final years were spent at the Academy and with his writing. The circumstances surrounding his death are clouded, though it is fairly certain that he died in Athens around 348 B.C., when he was in his early 80s.
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