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Significance of Plato

Plato was a Classical Greek philosopher and mathematician. He was the student of Socrates and the teacher of Aristotle. Plato credited with founding the first institution of higher learning, and he remains important in the study of rhetoric because his writings remain significant in Western education. Plato's writings play an important role in many interdisciplinary fields including rhetoric, philosophy, law, and ethics.  Plato is believed to have written thirty-six Socratic dialogues and thirteen letters.


Brief Biography

Plato is believed to have been born to an aristocratic family in Athens or Aegina between 429 and 423 BC. His father, Ariston, traced his ancestry from Codrus, the king of Athens, and Melanthus, the king of Messenia. His mother, Perictione, had familial ties to Solon, a famous Athenian lawmaker and poet, and she was the sister of Charmides and niece of Critias who both were members of the Thirty Tyrants, an oligarchic regime. Plato had two brothers, Adeimantus and Glaucon, and one sister, Potone.


Key Platonic Thoughts

Plato described learning as a process of recalling what the soul had already seen and absorbed. He argues that the human senses are deceptive, defective, and erroneous in nature; however, through forms and ideas (entities), humans can attain a more real and perfect realm that is eternal and static. Plato addresses goodness, beauty, equality, bigness, likeness, unity, being, sameness, difference, change, and changelessness, which are not defined by time or space and are abstract objects within the psyche of man.  Plato contends many observable objects that appear beautiful and the one object that is what beauty really is, from which those many beautiful  things receive their names and their corresponding characteristics. In addition, Plato claims that humans must differentiate the soul (as object) from the body. As ethically superior to unenlightened human beings, people must obtain a greater degree of insight in order to understand what is good and why they are good.  


Plato never wrote in his own voice, but through Socratic dialogues, he imparted knowledge. The allegory of the cave is one of the well known teachings of Plato. In the Republic, Plato records Socrates. Socrates urges people to climb out of the cave of ignorance. Socrates contends that physical objects and events are temporary, cave-like shadows of their true ideal or perfect forms, and only people who climb out of the cave and cast their unfiltered eyes on goodness are fit to rule in society.


Reviewed Online Resources

  1. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/plato/
  2. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) http://www.iep.utm.edu/plato/
  3. Philosophy Pages http://www.philosophypages.com/ph/plat.htm
  4. Plato and His Dialogues http://plato-dialogues.org/plato.htm
  5. Encyclopaedia Britannica


Limited Bibliography of Books on Plato

Alfred Edward Taylor’s Plato (1908)

Enoch Pond’s Plato: His Life, Works, Opinions and Influence (1846)

Julia Annas’ Plato (2009)

Robert Hall’s Plato (2004)

David Seoley’s Plato’s Cratylus (2003)


Comments (1)

Marissa Pierce said

at 8:06 am on Nov 17, 2011

Great entry! I love the multimedia component, the concise info and the links to sources -> super easy to understand, allows different venues to gain info (reading and video info), and the links to resources are shortcuts to more info. Bravo :)

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