Plato’s biography

Plato (Athens, Greece, 427 BC – Ibid., 347 BC) Greek philosopher, considered one of the three great classical philosophers, alongside Socrates and Aristotle. He is the founder of the Academy, a center of knowledge and training, considered by some historians as the first European university.

His writings, known as Platonic Dialogues, cover basic themes for the formation of a just society, and deal with political philosophy, theology, Epistemology, Philosophy of Language and Aesthetics, constituting one of the most influential works in the Western thought, which is why he is also listed as one of the most important philosophers in history.

Early life

He is believed to have been born in Athens, around 428 BC into a family of the Greek aristocracy. He would have been the son of Ariston (descendant of the last king of Athens) and his wife Perictione.

It is also suspected that his real name was Aristocles, like his grandfather’s, while Plato would be a nickname, attributed to his great physical complexion. At a very young age he lost his father. His mother then married Pirilampo, brother of Ariston and ambassador of Persia, in whose house Plato ended from forming.

His family was related to politics, and this seemed to be the path Plato would follow. He began his training in a gymnasium in Dionysus and on the palestra of Ariston de Argos. From an early age he studied Music and Poetry.

Likewise, according to Aristotle, he devoted himself to the reading of Cartylo, Pythagoras and Parménides, with which he trained in Metaphysics and Epistemology. However, his most important teacher was Socrates, who introduced him to the art of debate, and oriented his education towards the formation of virtue.

Peloponnesian War

During the Peloponnesian War between 409 BC and 404 BC, Plato served in the military. He participated in the new government of the Oligarkian, known as the Thirty Tyrants, where some of the leaders were his relatives.

However, the violence of this political group caused him to turn away. After regaining democracy in Greece, in 403 BC, Plato again felt inclined to pursue a political career, but the execution of Socrates in 399 BC caused him to dismiss that path.

For the next twelve years, he devoted himself to traveling. He reportedly studied in Italy with the Pythagoreans and came to visit Egypt, where he trained extensively in geology, geometry, astronomy and religion.

Written work

He wrote extensively from 309 BC and always did so in the form of Dialogue, trying to emulate in writing the method of debate learned with Socrates. According to some specialists the platonic work can be divided into three large periods:

1) A first moment, called by some Socratic or Youth Dialogues, which is believed to have been written during his travels, between 399 BC and 387 BC. The texts of this era reflect his concerns and appreciations about Ethics.

Likewise, they are characterized by having a strong influence of Socrates. From this stage stand out his Apology to Socrates (which is believed to have written shortly after the philosopher’s execution) as well as his Protágoras, Hipias Mayor, Ion, Laques, Tasímaco, Cármides, Lisis and Euthyfrón, among others.

2) Transitional Dialogues, in which writings sit a little less the influence of Socrates, while Plato’s own voice appears. His ideas cover political topics, as well as basic notions of the Philosophy of Language, among which are Gorgias, Menón, Eutidemo, Crátilo, Menexeno, Hipias Minor.

3) Critical or Mature Dialogues, where Plato fully captures his philosophical position, moving away from Socrates, who is hardly a referential character. In this work Plato reviews his own metaphysical ideas, while touching topics such as the arts, ethics, morals and doing a review of ancient myths.

In them Plato he edifies his theory of the world of ideas, where the idea is the only constant thing, while the perceived by our senses is a misleading copy, as one who sees a shadow reflected on the wall. From this time stand out El Banquete, Fedón, Fedro, Teeteto, Sophist, Politics, Timeo, Menón and Eutidemo.

Likewise, in this period he wrote La República, one of his most important writings, where he laid the foundations for the construction of an ideal society, governed by the values of virtue, wisdom and justice. He also reflects on the education that citizens and types of government should receive, noting that the ideal state is that governed by philosophers, only capable of governing.

The Academy and final years

About 385 BC, Plato decided to open a learning centre in Athens, which he called the Academy, which had as its north to serve as a school for future rulers. Plato ran his school until his death, and it operated for almost nine hundred years in total, until it was closed in 529 A.D. by Justinian I.

The training given at the Academy covered studies in Biology, Mathematics, Astronomy and Political Theory.

Beyond two opportunities, during which he moved to Syracuse, in order to train Dionysus II, quickly returning motivated to the social breakdown found by that city, Plato remained availy to study and writing at his Academy.

After his last voyage, he met Aristotle, who would be one of his brightest disciples, and who would remain by his side for twenty years, before forming his own stream of thought.

There is no precise evidence on the date of his death and the circumstances of his death. Plato is believed to have died in about 348 BC, around the age of eighty. Some versions place his death during a celebration, while others point out that Plato died of natural death in his sleep.

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Plato’s biography
Source: Education  
July 27, 2019

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