<history of philosophy, biography> the son of wealthy and influential Athenian parents, Plato (427-347 BC) began his philosophical career as a student of Socrates. When the master died, Plato travelled in Italy, studied with students of Pythagoras, and spent several years advising the ruling family of Syracuse. He returned to Athens and established his own school of philosophy, the Academy, in 387. For students enrolled there, Plato tried both to pass on the heritage of a Socratic style of thinking and to guide their progress through mathematical learning to the achievement of abstract philosophical truth. The written dialogues on which his enduring reputation rests also serve both of these aims. In his earliest literary efforts, Plato tried to convey the spirit of Socrates's teaching by presenting accurate reports of the master's conversational interactions, for which these dialogues are our primary source of information. Early dialogues are typically devoted to investigation of a single issue, about which a conclusive result is rarely achieved. Thus, the Euthyphro raises a significant doubt about whether morally right action can be defined in terms of divine approval by pointing out a significant dilemma about any appeal to authority in defence of moral judgments. The Apology offers a description of the philosophical life as Socrates presented it in his own defense before the Athenian jury. The Crito uses the circumstances of Socrates's imprisonment to ask whether an individual citizen is ever justified in refusing to obey the state. Although they continue to use the talkative Socrates as a fictional character, the middle dialogues of Plato develop, express, and defend his own, more firmly established, conclusions about central philosophical issues. Beginning with the Meno, for example, Plato not only reports the Socratic notion that no one knowingly does wrong, but also introduces the doctrine of recollection in an attempt to discover whether or not virtue can be taught. The Phaedo continues development of Platonic notions by presenting the doctrine of the Forms in support of a series of arguments that claim to demonstrate the immortality of the human soul. The masterpiece among the middle dialogues is Plato's Republic. It begins with a Socratic conversation about the nature of justice but proceeds directly to an extended discussion of the virtue (Gk. aretÍ) of justice (Gk. dikaiÙsunÍ), wisdom (Gk. sophÌa), courage (Gk. andreia), and moderation (Gk. sophros™nÍ) as they appear both in individual human beings and in society as a whole. This plan for the ideal society or person requires detailed accounts of human knowledge and of the kind of educational program by which it may be achieved by men and women alike, captured in a powerful image of the possibilities for human life in the allegory of the cave. The dialogue concludes with a review of various forms of government, an explicit description of the ideal state, in which only philosophers are fit to rule, and an attempt to show that justice is better than injustice. Among the other dialogues of this period are Plato's treatments of human emotion in general and of love in particular in the Phaedrus and Symposium. Plato's later writings often modify or completely abandon the formal structure of dialogue. They include a critical examination of the theory of forms in Parmenides, an extended discussion of the problem of knowledge in Theaetetus, cosmological speculations in Timaeus, and an interminable treatment of government in the unfinished Laws. Recommended Reading: Primary sources: Platonis opera, ed. by J. Burnet (Oxford, 1899-1906); Plato, Complete Works, ed. by John M. Cooper and D. S Hutchinson (Hackett, 1997);The Collected Dialogues of Plato, ed. by Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns. (Princeton, 1961); Great Dialogues of Plato, tr. by W. H. D. Rouse (Signet, 1999); Plato, The Republic, tr. by G. M. Grube (Hackett, 1992). Secondary sources: The Cambridge Companion to Plato, ed. by Richard Kraut (Cambridge, 1992); Bernard A. O. Williams, Plato (Routledge, 1999); R. M. Hare, Plato (Oxford, 1983); David Melling, Understanding Plato (Oxford, 1988); Feminist Interpretations of Plato, ed. by Nancy Tuana (Penn. State, 1994); Plato I: Metaphysics and Epistemology, ed. by Gregory Vlastos (Anchor, 1971); Plato II: Ethics, Politics, and Philosophy of Art, Religion, ed. by Gregory Vlastos (Anchor, 1971); John M. Cooper, Reason and Emotion (Princeton, 1998); Nickolas Pappas, Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Plato and the Republic (Routledge, 1999); Daryl H. Rice, Guide to Plato's Republic (Oxford, 1997); Plato's Republic: Critical Essays, ed. by Richard Kraut (Rowman & Littlefield, 1997); Alexander Nehamas, Virtues of Authenticity (Princeton, 1998); Engendering Origins: Critical Feminist Readings in Plato and Aristotle, by Bat-Ami Bar On (SUNY, 1994). Additional on-line information about Plato includes: Exploring Plato's Dialogues, the fine source from Anthony F. Beavers. Richard Hooker's excellent treatment. A thorough explanation of Plato's philosophy from Christopher S. Planeaux. David Bostock's article in The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Also see: the Academy, anamnesis, ancient philosophy, appearance and reality, the allegory of the cave, the demiurge, philosophy of education, form and matter, Platonic Forms, human nature, immortality, innate ideas, philosophy of language, love, philosophy of mathematics, mimesis, moral philosophy, Neoplatonism, the noble lie, the one-over-many problem, the philosopher-king, Platonism, political philosophy, Speusippus, teaching philosophy, the third man argument, tragedy, universals, and virtues. Bernard Suzanne's alternative interpretation of Plato and his dialogues. The article in the Columbia Encyclopedia at Bartleby.com. William Turner's article in The Catholic Encyclopedia. The thorough collection of resources at EpistemeLinks.com. MHBER on Plato, the Platonic Academy, and Renaissance Platonism. Eric Weisstein's discussion at Treasure Trove of Scientific Biography. The Bloomsbury Guide to Human Thought on Platonism. Bj–rn Christensson's brief guide to on-line work on Plato. A brief entry in Oxford's Concise Dictionary of Linguistics. A literary analysis of Plato's work in The Perseus Encyclopedia. The Bloomsbury Guide to Human Thought on Academe. Snippets from Plato in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. An entry in The Oxford Dictionary of Scientists. Discussion of Plato's mathematical thought at Mathematical MacTutor. The Macmillan Encyclopedia 2001 on Plato and Platonism.
[A Dictionary of Philosophical Terms and Names]
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