Philosophy of Plato
Episode #5 of the course “Brief history of Ancient philosophy”
Plato was the most famous student of the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, and he was teacher to the famous philosopher and social critic Aristotle. In addition to being a highly regarded philosopher throughout history, Plato was also a mathematician, which influenced his teachings. He was probably born in Athens sometime around 425 BCE, but not much is known about Plato’s early life except that he came from a wealthy family and was well-educated. It is only through Plato’s writings in Dialogues and The Republic that students of philosophy today know about Socrates’ influence, as Socrates appears as the main character throughout many of Plato’s allegories, stories, and fables.
Plato’s theories of philosophy were mostly concerned with ethics and social morality, as well as the importance of truth and wisdom. In Plato’s view of reality, there is an ideal eternity, which is full of the perfect version of everything, and there is the reality in which we live, which is full of imperfect versions of the true ideals. Because reality is imperfect, nothing which appears perfect is so to Plato, and he believed in a systematic, thorough examination of all philosophical, political, and psychological assumptions. He questioned accepted standards of truth, beauty, and justice, because however perfect they appeared, he did not believe they were an exact representation of the ideal.
However, because Plato witnessed how Socrates was condemned for his confrontational style, he developed a method of approaching sensitive issues indirectly but with rigorous scrutiny. Those who follow Plato’s prescriptions for dialoguing about the ideal forms will find themselves engaging in philosophy not as a study, but as an active practice.
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