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Plato: The Greek Philosopher

Plato: The Greek Philosopher

Posted on Jul 2018:- By: PaperHub
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Plato is one of the most significant Greek philosophers. He is famous for founding the Academy in Athens, which was an institution that devoted it’s time to research on philosophy and sciences. His works on mathematics, politics, and mathematics were significant and laid the foundation for the Euclid's systematic approach to mathematics among other systems. He was born ton an affluent family in Athens, Greece approximately in 428 BCE or 427 BCE but the exact dates are unknown known due to the lack of primary sources existing on the same. He was Socrates' student and the teacher of Aristotle best known as the author of philosophical works of the unparallel influence[1]. The works of Plato were diverse and ranged from a variety of fields as he explored justice, beauty, equality, theology, cosmology, political philosophy, philosophy of language, and epistemology among others. There was no much of primary sources existent at the time of birth and life of Plato and scholars through writings and the writings of the classical and contemporary historians constructed so much of his life. There are. However, some disputed on dates that exist especially on his birth time as some of the traditional scholars estimate that his birth wads in 428 B.C.E but the more modern scholars trace his birth to around 424 and 423 B.C.E after tracing the events of his later life. His parents came from Greek aristocracy with his father Ariston descending from the Kings of Athens in the lineage of Athens and Messenia while his mother Perictione is said to have been related to the 6th century B.C.E Greek Statesman named Solon. Some scholars argue that Plato was named after his grandfather while others claimed that Plato was his nickname because there was a record of the name before his grandfather Aristocles was born[2]. Plato was one of the most influential scholars and philosophical contributors of his time and beyond. He influenced a variety of other scholars and below are a research on the life, works, influences, and the contributions of Platonic philosophy on education.

Plato’s early life and adulthood had a significant contribution to his works in later life. His father died was he was still a young child, and his mother remarried a politician named Pyrilampes. He grew up during the Peloponnesian War (431-404). By the time Sparta defeated Athens and the political chaos that came with it ensued, Plato was old enough to take good care of himself. He got his education in philosophy, gymnastics, and poetry from some of them most distinguished Athenian Philosophers including Cratylus and it is this that shaped his interest and skills in [philosophy from an early age[3]. He also became a devoted follower of Socrates, and he was, in fact, one of the youths that Socrates accused of corrupting. It is the recollections of Socrates by Plato that set the stage for modern philosophy. The style of constant questioning borrowed by Plato from the early teachings of Socrates became the relentless style and the basis of the early dialogues that Plato wrote, and historians agree that it was the most accurate picture of Socrates’ works since he had not left any works written. Following the forced suicide of Socrates, Plato spent the following 12 years of his life traveling on a southern side of Italy, Egypt, and Sicily. It is during his traveling that he spent his time studying with other philosophers including the followers of the mystic mathematician Pythagoras. He later formed a lifelong relationship with the ruling family as sought for his advice on how to reform the city. It was not until 387 B.C.E that Plato returned to Athens and founded the philosophical school following the knowledge and skills he had amassed in his childhood and early life as a teenager.

Influences on Plato

Plato was a keen observant student of philosophy right from the moment that he started education at an early age. There are various individuals that had a significant influence and also had a relationship with Plato and hence influencing one another, on his works and life including:

1.    Plato and Socrates

The particular relationship between Plato and Socrates remains the main area of contention among the scholars. Plato makes it clear in his Apology of Socrates piece that he was a devoted young follower of Socrates. In the dialogue, Socrates is presented as having mentioned Plato by his name as one of the youths that were close enough to him corrupted if at all he was guilty of corrupting the young people. He questioned why the family members to Plato did not step forward to offer evidence and testify on how he had corrupted Plato. Plato is mentioned as being alongside Crito, Critobolus, and Apollodorus in offering to pay the fine on Socrates to avoid the death penalty. Moreover, Plato does not speak in his voice in the dialogues in most instances. In the Second Letter, it says, “no writing of Plato exists or ever will exist, but those now said to be his are those of a Socrates become beautiful and new.[4]" Some critics have argued that Plato was taking advantage of Socrates’ irony and dramatic nature to project his ideas in the dialogues. Moreover, Xenophon and Aristophanes present a different kind of portrait than the one that Plato produces which brings in the question ion the authenticity of either of the portraits. Aristotle also attributes the different doctrine with the respect of ideas of Plato and Socrates suggesting that Socrates’ ideas of forms discovered through the natural world unlike the forms by Plato that exist beyond and outside the ordinary range of human understanding. It brings in the slight contrast existing between the works of Plato and those of Socrates though inspired by the same objectives. Despite the differences and the controversies surrounding the relationship, it is clear-cut that there is no other significant influence on Plato than that of Socrates. It is evident not only of the doctrines and the arguments that Plato has in his dialogues but also present in an obvious manner in Plato’s choice of Socrates as the major character in most of his works. According to the Seventh Letter by Plato, he counted Socrates as "the justest man alive." Diogenes Laertius, argues that the respect was mutual. [5]

2.    Plato and Pythagoras

In as much as Socrates influenced Plato in a more direct manner related to his dialogues, the influence of Pythagoras on Plato also appears to have a significant discussion in the philosophical literature. The Pythagoreans led by Pythagoras exercised a significant influence on the works of Plato. The influence consisted of three key areas including the platonic republic, related to the idea of a tightly, organized community of thinkers with a similar approach such as the one established by Pythagoras in Croton.[6] There is also the evidence that Plato may have possibly the idea by Pythagoras that mathematics and, generally speaking, abstract thinking is a more secure basis for philosophical thinking as well as a for a more concrete basis for philosophical thinking in sciences and morals. Plato and Pythagoras also shared in the mystical approach to the concept of the soul and its place in the material world. It is because Orphism possibly influenced the two. Aristotle also claimed that the philosophy of Plato closely followed the teachings of the Pythagoreans and Cicero repeats the claim when he says that Plato learned all the Pythagorean things. Diogenes Laertius further asserts that Plato visited several Pythagoreans in the Southern of Italy among whom Theodorus, is mentioned as a friend of Socrates as Plato himself mentioned  in the Plato's Theaetetus. In the Seventh Letter, there is also an indication that Plato was a close friend to Archytas of Tarentum, who was a famous and respected Pythagorean political leaders and thinker. Moreover, in the Phaedo Plato has Echecrates who is another Pythagorean in the group surrounds Socrates on his final day in prison. The influence by Pythagorean seemed to be evident in the fascination with mathematics that Plato had and in some of his political ideas such as Plato’s political philosophy expressed in the various ways in several dialogues.

3.    Plato and Parmenides and Zeno

It is undoubted that Plato was influenced significantly by Parmenides and Zeno both that came from Elea in Plato’s theory of form. The theory of form is plainly intended to satisfy the Parmenidean requirement of the metaphysical unity and stability in the knowable and accessible reality. Parmenides and Zeno also appear in one of his dialogues as characters, in the Parmenides, which is arguably the most enigmatic of Plato’s dialogues. The dialogues go ahead to recount an almost certainly fictitious conversation between the venerable Parmenides the Eleatic Monist and the youthful Socrates. Followed by an array of interlinked arguments that are presented by the Parmenides to a young and compliant interlocutor named Aristotle. There is a majority of observers that agree that Socrates articulates a version of the theory of forms that is defended by his much older namesake as is indicated in the dialogues of Plato.  Diogenes Laertius also indicates that other important influences were stating that he mixed in his works arguments of Heracleitus, the Pythagoreans, and Socrates. About the sensible, Plato is argued to have borrowed from Heracleitus, on the intelligible from Pythagoras and regarding politics from Socrates. The role played by Zeno is indicated in the introduction of the dialogue whereby Zeno makes some arguments. In the dialogue, the narrator Cephalus who had just arrived in Athens after a long trip from his home in Clazomenae ruins into the half brothers of Plato asking them to confirm the existence of someone who had completely memorized a conversation that Parmenides and Zeno once had with Socrates. It is the conversation that they had with Socrates that had initiated his analysis of theirs of forms also a basis for the works of Plato since he heavily borrowed his ideas from Socrates. They, therefore, had an indirect effect on Plato. [7]

            Plato is arguably focused on giving the historical dialogues of Socrates and; therefore, some of the early dialogues he made were an account of historical Socrates whereas others were his inventions that had nothing to do with Socrates. Contemporary scholars endorse one of the following four views about the dialogues and the representation of Socrates by Plato. The views endorsed by the scholars are:

a)   The Unitarian view

The view was more famous in the early 20th century than it is in the present society. The view holds that there is a single philosophy to be found in all the works of Plato despite the period that it was made if at all the period can be identified in a reliable manner. Therefore, there is no reason or excuse to talk about the “Socratic philosophy” in the works of Plato since everything that Plato did was in his view. The Unitarian view asserts that all the views of Plato were because of the Platonic view and not Socratic Philosophy at any incidence as found in the dialogues. Charles H. Kahn argued one of the lost recent versions of the view in 1996. In fact, the majority of the later interpretations and analysis of the works of Plato apart from that6 of Aristotle were of the Unitarian view. [8]

b)   The Literary Atomist View:

The approach is referred to as the "literary atomist view," because all those that propose it treat each of the Platonic dialogues as a complete literary whole whose proper interpretation must be achieved without the reference f any of Plato’s other works. According to the view, every dialogue was not interlinked or influenced by any of them other dialogues but was independent of each other. Those that endorse the view completely reject any relevance or the validity of sorting or grouping the dialogues on certain topics or groups that assume them to have some form of similarity congruence. They assert that any such sorting is of no value to the proper interpretation of the particular dialogue. In the view, there is no reason to make any distinction between the “Socratic philosophy’ and the “Platonic Philosophy.” According to the view, all philosophy found in the works of Plato must be attributed only to Plato and not to any other Philosopher before him.  Therefore, the dialogues by Plato and the philosophy of Plato should at no instance be compared or likened to that of Socrates since they are independent of one another.

c)   The Developmentalist View:

The Developmentalist View asserts that the most widely held of all the interpretive approaches, the differences between the early and later dialogues represent the developments in Plato’s philosophical and literary career. The approaches either may or may not be related at all to Plato’s attempt in any of his dialogues to preserve the memory of historical Socrates. Such disparities may only represent the changes in Plato’s philosophical views. The developmentalists may identify the earlier positions or works, in general, terms as “Socratic” and the later positions and views as “Platonic.” However, they are skeptical about the relationship that exists between the Socratic views and the works and the actual historical Socrates. [9]

d)   The Historicist View:

The most common of the Developmentalist point of view is the view that that the "development" noticed between the early and later dialogues may be attributed to Plato’s attempt in the early dialogues to embody the historical Socrates in a more accurate manner. However, with time, may be because if the development of the genre of the Socratic writings, whereby more authors were making no attempt at historical fidelity, Plato became more free at putting his views into the mouth of the character, that is Socrates. In fact, Aristotle the student to Plato began to understand the dialogues in this perspective.  Some scholars that are skeptical about the entire program of dating the dialogues into the chronological groupings and are strict historicists such as Cooper accept the view that the early works are Socratic in tone and content. There are, however, few exceptions of scholars that agree that if unable to distinguish a separate set of Socratic works but cannot identify the coherent philosophy within the works; it makes no sense to talk about the philosophy of the historical Socrates at all. Any serious philosophical interest in Socrates needs to be pursued through the study of Plato’s early Socratic dialogues. [10]

 

Plato & Education

Plato is conferred to be the father of educational philosophy after his founding of the Academy in Athens in 387BCE and wrote some philosophical works. One of the major works was the Republic that outlines Plato’s utopian society and presents his thoughts about the political and educational issues. The cornerstone of the text promotes the tradition of reason within education whereby education became the process of perfecting or sharpening the natural powers of the intellect that all people hold. Plato was also a student of Socrates, who emphasized education in the broadest sense and Plato later became the teacher of Aristotle further passing on the knowledge skills and the education that he had gathered with time. Writing on the Platonic and the Socratic philosophies, as they represent the modern day education, the Platonic philosophy educates the childhood to transform it into what it should be while the Socratic education does not form childhood but rather makes the education to seem childlike. [11]

The tenets of Plato ion the philosophical thought are those of perennial, which is an educational philosophy, based on idealism whose concepts shape up education to date. Some scholars such as Loshan suggest that the Platonic education can undoubtedly serve a city at any given time in history as it is the ideal model. Some of the specific concepts borrowed from Platonic philosophy include the idea that there is a latent thought among all children[12]. The platonic philosophy also proposes that the teacher can also discover the process of acquiring the latent thought through the skillful method of asking or rat5her probing to stimulate the recollection of ideas held within. Another fundamental tenet attributed to the Platonic teachings is the idea that the teacher is the moral and cultural model of students.

Plato was a close follower of Socratic education that encompassed some of the views held by Socrates such as that human beings should seek to live in moral excellence. He was of the view that the general education cultivates the knowledge that every individual needs as a human being. Moreover, the information in education needs to cultivate moral excellence and hence the need to act by reason. Plato further held that the basis of knowledge existed in the mind and can be brought to the consciousness of a person with stimulating questions to enable the learner to discover the truth on their own. Therefore, the humans define themselves regarding the criteria of the universal truth, and it led to the Socratic education involving more mentoring or modeling than the just abstract passing of knowledge.[13]

Plato’s allegory of the cave also provides a classical example of the concept that students need to prove beyond the world of matter on the ideas they hold. In the allegory of the cave, the prisoners chained in darkness and they see shadows, and then one of the prisoners is set free from the chains and he moves out there he sees sunlight and on going back to tell his friends they do not believe and threaten to kill him. In the context of education, we live in chains and in a cave with an illusion darkness that is symbolic of the apathy and ignorance that individuals hold. When an individual loosens his chains of ignorance, then they get an education. To Plato, the knowledge is not created but is rather discovered through education. The education can be related to the process of turning the mind in the right direction in the search for the truth. It is the essence of education to nurture the student. Therefore, Plato sees education as the method for providing the natural and proper nurture of the souls.[14]

In conclusion, Plato is one of the most significant figures in philosophy. Plato has his works highly influenced by other philosophers such as Socrates and Pythagoras but still has his dialogues, and a school of thought referred to as the Platonic philosophy. The dialogues that Plato wrote about Socrates as a character are also predominant and interpreted according to the view held by such a scholar. The elements of the Platonic thought seen in today are classrooms under the pretext of idealism. The main goal of the idealist education as found in the platonic philosophy is to find the universal and absolute truth. The purpose of the idealist education is to expose the students to wisdom in the form mentorship. The aim of the education is to stimulate the ideas and potential within the individual so that they can make discoveries on their own and hence constitute to learning and education.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annotated bibliography

Corlett, J. Angelo (2005). Interpreting Plato's Dialogues. Parmenides Publishing

The book introduces the reader to some of the fundamental problem critical tom understanding Plato’s writing. It explores in depth the various ways of approaching Plato and the platonic philosophy. The book goes ahead to make a timely and vital contribution to the contemporary platonic scholarship. It provided an extended discussion of the vexed yet it was important question of why Plato wrote philosophy in the way he did.

The author Angelo Corlett is a Professor of Philosophy at San Diego State University. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Ethics, Founder, and President of the Society for Ethics, and a Fellow at the Institute for Ethics & Public Affairs. He has published four books and dozens of articles in academic journals, law reviews, and scholarly anthologies.

Kahn, Charles H. (1996). Plato and the Socratic Dialogue: The Philosophical Use of a Literary

Form. Cambridge University Press.

The book offers a new form of interpretation of Plato’s early and middle dialogues as the expression of a more unified philosophical vision. In as much as the traditional view perceives the dialogues as marking the successive stages in Plato’s philosophical movement, the way that is more legitimate read them to reflect as artistic plan of the gradual and partial exposition of the Platonic Philosophy. The dialogues named the works of Plato are perceived from a Unitarian view.

McDowell, J. (1973). Plato: Theaetetus. Oxford University Press

 

The article introduces Plato’s dialogue the Theaetetus and then briefly summarizes its plot. The two leading interpretations of the dialogue that is the Unitarianism and Revisionist readings are then further compared in the section 3. The other section then explains and discusses the major arguments of the major divisions of the dialogue and ends with an afterthought of the dialogue as a whole.

Miller, Mitchell (2004). The Philosopher in Plato's Statesman. Parmenides Publishing.

Mitchell Miller the author of the book is also the author of Plato's Parmenides and a Professor of Philosophy at Vassar College. In the Statesman book, Plato brings together with an objective to challenge and displace his crowning contributions to philosophical method, political theory, and drama.  Mitchell Miller employs literary theory and conceptual analysis to expose the political, philosophical, and pedagogical conflict that is the underlying context of the dialogue, revealing that its chaotic variety of movements is actually a carefully harmonized act of realizing the mean

Mohr, Richard D. (2006). God and Forms in Plato - and other Essays in Plato's Metaphysics.

Parmenides Publishing.

The book is perhaps the most acutely argued and intelligent treatment extant of the consequences of a literal view of the Timaeus - that is, a view, which accepts the existence of the Demiurge, and the reality of a temporal creation of the world, with which existence, is bound up. As one who does not accept this view of the Timaeus. I find myself nevertheless able to applaud the insight with which Mohr pursues its implications, frequently setting right in the process such giants of Platonic scholarship as Comford, Cherniss, Vlastos and Owen, as well as other very competent authorities such as J.B. Skemp, T. M. Robinson (his own teacher), Hans Herter or Leonardo Taran.... Mohr does a great service... in exposing these difficulties with intelligence and clarity. John Dillon Trinity College, Dublin" Richard D Mohr is Professor of Philosophy and of Classics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Nails, Debra (2002). The People of Plato: A Prosopography of Plato and Other Socratics.

Hackett Publishing. 

 

The People of Plato is the first study since 1823 devoted exclusively to the identification of, and relationships among, the individuals represented in the complete Platonic corpus. It is a unique scholarly resource, brimming with information practically inaccessible elsewhere; this painstakingly constructed work keeps one constantly engaged with the historical reality behind Plato's speculative universe. It provides details of their lives, and it enables one to consider the persons of Plato's works, and those of other Socratics, within a nexus of important political, social, and familial relationships.

 



[1] Kahn, Charles H. (1996). Plato and the Socratic Dialogue: The Philosophical Use of a Literary Form. Cambridge University Press.

 

[2] Ibid

[3] Meinwald, Constance Chu (1991). Plato's Parmenides. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

 

[4] Corlett, J. Angelo (2005). Interpreting Plato's Dialogues. Parmenides Publishing.

 

[5] Meinwald, Constance Chu (1991). Plato's Parmenides. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

 

[6] Corlett, J. Angelo (2005). Interpreting Plato's Dialogues. Parmenides Publishin

 

[7] Nails, Debra (2002). The People of Plato: A Prosopography of Plato and Other Socratics. Hackett Publishing. 

 

[8] Ibid

[9] Mohr, Richard D. (2006). God and Forms in Plato - and other Essays in Plato's Metaphysics. Parmenides Publishing.

 

[10] Ibid. 35

[11] Ibid, 43

[12] Plato, “The Allegory of the Cave”from The Republic, Book VII

 

[13] Miller, Mitchell (2004). The Philosopher in Plato's Statesman. Parmenides Publishing.

 

[14] Meinwald, Constance Chu (1991). Plato's Parmenides. Oxford: Oxford University Press.