Writers 2 Remember: Plato

The “founder of the Academy” and one of the “most influential authors in the history of philosophy

“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”

Alfred North Whitehead

Plato was an ancient Greek philosopher born during the Classical period. He lived from approximately 428/427 BCE until 348/347 BCE. His father, Ariston, claimed his family was descended from the god Poseidon while his mother, Perictione, was a relative of the lawgiver Solon (c. 630–560 BCE).

A student of Socrates, much of what we know about this historic man (and other facets of history, such as Atlantis) is from the writings of Plato himself. We also know Plato was influenced by HeraclitusParmenides, and the Pythagoreans. Plato “trained his greatest student, the equally influential philosopher Aristotle.”

“Plato introduced the idea that their mistakes were due to their not engaging properly with a class of entities he called forms, chief examples of which were Justice, Beauty, and Equality. Whereas other thinkers—and Plato himself in certain passages—used the term without any precise technical force, Plato in the course of his career came to devote specialized attention to these entities. As he conceived them, they were accessible not to the senses but to the mind alone, and they were the most important constituents of reality, underlying the existence of the sensible world and giving it what intelligibility it has..”


Plat found his  Academy in the 380s BCE, which has become the “the ultimate ancestor of the modern university (hence the English term academic).” In addition, “He was not the first thinker or writer to whom the word “philosopher” should be applied. But he was so self-conscious about how philosophy should be conceived, and what its scope and ambitions properly are, and he so transformed the intellectual currents with which he grappled, that the subject of philosophy, as it is often conceived—a rigorous and systematic examination of ethical, political, metaphysical, and epistemological issues, armed with a distinctive method—can be called his invention.” According to Wikipedia, “through Neoplatonism Plato also greatly influenced both Christian and Islamic philosophy (through e.g. Al-Farabi).” For these reasons, I believe Plato is a writer to remember.

The School of Life:
Plato’s best (and worst) ideas

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