Brian Huang

Plato

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Plato was known as one of the most "penetrating, wide ranging, and influential authors in the history of philosophy" (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). He later adopts his teacher's ideas and his way of debate. Plato is a man who has accomplished a myriad of achievements from being an author of 36 known dialogues to the involvement of important political matters. Plato’s philosophical intelligence towered over many known philosophers at his time but only a few can be considered as “equals.” The great works of Plato were finally brought to an end upon death but he left behind teachings that greatly impact our way of thinking today.

Personal Background


Plato was “the son of Ariston and Perictione” who were descendants from Athenian nobles (Meinwald). Plato’s father died when Plato was at a very young age. After that, his mother remarried to Pyrilampes where he lived and matured. When Plato was born, he was named Aristocles “and gained the nickname Platon, meaning broad, because of his broad build” (The European Graduate School). When he was young, Plato studied music and poetry then suddenly grew interested in logic, rhetoric, politics, and reasoning. His family had an astonishing history of politics which honed Plato’s debating and logical skills. Plato knew he had met the perfect teacher after following the footsteps of Socrates. Under Socrates’ teachings, Plato focused his trainings towards philosophy and adopted many different styles of debate. He was the founder of an important philosophical school called the Academy and practically studied there every day. As a temporary break from his studies, Plato served in the military for the Peloponnesian war from about 409 BC to 404 BC. This war unfortunately resulted in the defeat of Athens and the loss of their democracy. A new oligarchy crafted by the victorious Spartans replaced the hole in the Athenian government. “His uncle, Critias, was the leader of the Thirty Tyrants” (Kahn) Because of this relationship and other political reasons, Plato joins the newly created oligarchy. During the war, The Thirty Tyrants had a goal to link as many Athenians as possible to violent acts. This goal floating around Athens eventually found its place on Socrates. He was ordered to bring a man from Salamis to Athens to be executed. When Socrates refused to do such a formidable act, his life was put on the line. He was “saved only by the overthrow of the Thirty Tyrants and the reestablishment of democracy” (Kahn). Plato’s “mistrust [for Athens] deepened… four years later when Socrates was tried on false charges and sentenced to death” (Kahn). This enraged Plato and eventually convinced him to leave Athenian politics once and for all. Plato’s extraordinary life that was filled with great accomplishments was brought to an end in approximately 347 B.C.E. He is still remembered as “the founder of an important philosophical school, which existed for almost one thousand years, and the most brilliant of Socrates's many pupils and followers” (Kahn).


Personality Traits


Plato was a dedicated and devoted historical figure (Meadows). At the age of 20, Plato served in the military in the Peloponnesian War. Although they lost, Plato still had faith in Athenian politics (Kahn). Even with all the pride and dedication towards his country, Plato was answered with several depressing results. The Thirty Tyrants threatened to kill his beloved teacher but was saved by the overthrow of the oligarchy. After this tragedy, Plato was not only shattered by depression but also considered giving up his dedication toward his country. He learned to be cautious and judgmental when it came to debating. Plato acquired many traits from his teacher which include self-discipline, achievement, and determination. As Socrates’s disciple, Plato also acquired his stubbornness. This stubbornness drove Socrates to his death as he refused to recognize the existence of gods. Plato was left shattered and broken from the loss of his treasured teacher. Driven by depression, he spent the rest of his life studying in the Academy (Kraut).schath.jpg


Obstacles


Plato had to overcome a myriad of obstacles. When Plato was at a young age, his “father died… and his mother remarried to Pyrilampes, in whose house Plato would grow up” (Plato-Biography). Plato struggles to face these challenges that had been caused up by none other but his own country. He wanted to continue his studies on politics and debate but was greeted by the threatening of Socrates. Socrates’ life was thrown into danger after refusing to capture and execute a target. Even as an important and valued destination in his life, Plato came close to giving up on Athenian politics. Socrates seems to not be able to escape death as his execution in 390 BCE resulted in a huge impact on the 28 year old Plato (Mark). His death left Plato broken where he gave up on Athens and set out to travel (Mark). Despite the situation his country put on him, Plato continued his studies. Plato’s died on 347 BCE but left behind a legacy for the world to remember. Even till this day Plato’s teachings still exists.

Historical Significance



Commonly known as the “father of philosophy” Plato is remembered for his influential dialogues and the founding of his Academy” (Mark). Plato’s life was mainly spent on the writing of dialogues. Before Plato’s death, he wrote 36 dialogues, changed the government, influenced religion, questioned the ideas of other philosophers, developed stoic reasoning, and left a legacy of philosophical teachings. Plato contributed in the idea of a republic that was left for the world. He also believed in the idea of “philosopher kings” to be the best form to run the government. The idea of “philosopher kings” was simply putting the more educated people of western society to run the government. Plato used his up most effort to reshape the corrupt Athenian government after the Peloponnesian war.
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Many believe Plato’s most influential teaching revolved around policy and logic but Plato’s long-term teaching has been religion. Plato’s teachings have been left behind and have influenced many religions including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Argodale). Many religious figures tried to blend Plato’s teachings with their religion. For instance, Philo of Alexandria was “heavily influenced by Greek language and culture” (Argodale). Philo tried to “blend Plato’s philosophy by interpreting the books of Torah as an allegory, or extended metaphor” (Argodale). Even the most popular religions today have relations with Plato’s teachings in 340 BCE.

Plato also introduced the Aristotelian logic along with Aristotle. Aristotelian logic mainly revolves around Aristotle’s theory of “syllogism” or deductive reasoning (Smith). The Aristotelian logic rivaled with many other teachings but it proved to be more dominant and was transmitted to the Arabic and the Latin medieval traditions (Smith).

The Academy founded in 387 BC was another one of Plato’s lifetime accomplishments. The academy was possibly the first university in the western world (Mark). After coming to an end after the death or Philo of Larissa, many philosophers continued to carry on Plato’s teachings. The Academy was later restored as an institute for the teachings of Neoplatonism. Plato’s Academy survived until it was closed in 529 AD by Emperor Justinian.

References

Coumoundourus, Antonis. "Plato: The Republic." Internet Encylopedia of Philosophy. Web. 30 September 2014.

Kahn, Charles H. "Plato and the Socratic Dialogue: The Philosophical Use of a Literary Form." New York: Cambridge University Press. Web. 16 November 2014.

Kraut, Richard. "Plato." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 20 March 2004. Web. 15 September 2014.

Meadows, Katherine. "Plato on Utopia." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 5 December 2002. Web. 13 October 2014.

Meinwald C. Constance. "Plato." Encyclopedia Britannica. 28 October 2014. Web. 5 December 2014.

Pappas, NIckolas. "Plato's Aesthetics." The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 27 June 2008. Web. 5 November 2014.