Plato (ancient Greek: Plato; Platon 428/427 BC, Athens or Eghina - d. 348/347 BC, Athens) was a philosopher of ancient Greece and founder of the Academy of Athens. It is considered the pivotal figure for the development of philosophy, especially of the Western tradition. Unlike his other contemporary philosophers, Plato's entire work is supposed to survive intact for more than 2,500 years.

Along with his teacher, Socrates, and his most famous student, Aristotle, Plato laid the foundations of Western philosophy and science. According to Alfred North Whithead, "the most general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato's writings." Beyond his important contributions that helped to establish philosophy , science and mathematics on the European continent, Plato is also often regarded as one of the founding characters of Western religion and spirituality. Friedrich Nietzsche, along with other thinkers, characterized Christianity as "Platonism for the masses". Plato's influence on Christian thinking is often seen as being mediated by St. Augustine of Hipona, the latter being one of the most important theologians and philosophers in the history of Christianity.



Image of Plato

Plato has inherited written dialogue and dialectical forms in philosophy that originate with him. In particular, through the dialogues of the Republic and the Laws, Plato laid the foundations and Western political philosophy, producing some of the earliest political treaties written from a philosophical perspective.

In turn, Plato was profoundly influenced by predecessors such as Socrates, Parmenide, Heraclitus and Pythagoras, although few of their texts have been preserved, and most of the knowledge that they still derive from Plato's dialogues.


He was born in an aristocratic family, in Athens or on the island of Aegina, having father Ariston (descendant of mythical King Codros) and mother Periction (who came from a family related to Solon). His birth name was Aristocles; Plato was a nickname received because of his broad chest. His childhood is marked by the Peloponnesian war and by the civilian struggles between democrats and aristocrats.

At 20, he meets Socrates, staying with him for eight years until his death. The poetic inclinations, the talent in the field of theater have made them shaken and totally dedicated to philosophy. At the death of Socrates (399 BC) he could not be present, being ill. The unjust condemnation of the master urged him to rehabilitate him (Socrates Apology), the youth dialogues bearing the strong mark of socratic philosophy.

The refugee for a while at Megara knows the Euclid philosopher in Megara⁠ (450-366 BC), another disciple of Socrates. He makes several trips: in Egypt he is familiar with mathematics; in Cirene he comes in contact with the mathematician Teodor; in the colonies of South Italy he meets the Pythagoreans; in Sicily, Syracuse is invited by the tyrant Dionysios the Elder. A tradition says that Dionysius the Elder sold Plato as a slave to Aegina because he considered it annoying, but his friends bought and freed him from slavery. This could explain Platon's decision to withdraw from politics and open a philosophical school in Athens next to the gymnasium dedicated to the mythological hero Academos, hence the name Academia. The organization of the school was similar to the Pythagorean societies, with a well-structured hierarchy. The school will work for almost 1000 years, one of its most important goals being to contribute to the political preparation of politicians. Plato's Academy is closed in 529 AD at Emperor Justinian's order.

After he had already been 60, Plato made two trips to Syracuse, hoping to influence Dionysios the Young for his political and philosophical reform projects. Unfortunately, the project fails permanently. He died alive, as Cicero says, "scribens mortuus est".


He is the first philosopher from whom complete writings remain: 35 dialogues and 13 letters (of which only one, seventh, seems to be authentic). He created the literary species of the dialogue, in which philosophical issues are addressed through the discussion of several interlocutors, Socrates being most often the main character. Lewis Campbell was the first researcher to demonstrate through the stylistic study that the dialogues of Philebos, Critias, Laws, Timaeus, and Political Man can be grouped and clearly distinguished by Parmenides, Phaidros, The Republic and Theaitetos. Recent studies demonstrate the impossibility of establishing the chronological order of dialogues, which are traditionally grouped according to thematic criteria and attempt to pursue an evolution of Plato's thinking. The chronology of dialogue can no longer be established today only broadly.

Youth Dialogues

These dialogues are united by the presence of Socrates and represent the most veritable source of his personality and philosophy, which is why they are called "socratic dialogues." Most of them portray Socrates discussing a subject of ethical nature (friendship, piety) with a friend or someone he believes as an expert in the field. With a series of interlocutor questions, they understand that their knowledge is superficial and not true.

  • Socrate's Defense (Socratous Acts)
  • Euthyphron
  • Criton (Kriton)
  • Protagoras (Protagoras)
  • Ion (Ἴων)
  • Lahes (Lahis)
  • Lysis (Lysis)
  • Charmides (Harmidis)
  • Republic (State), book I

Transitional Dialogues

In some of Socrate's youth dialogues Plato presents himself as offering clear answers to the questions of the interlocutors, laying the basis of a philosophical doctrine. In the discussions held by Socrates, Plato begins to promote his own ideas, such as that kindness is wisdom, and that no one does evil with goodwill. These ideas probably belonged to Socrates, but they are taken over by Plato and later elaborated. Specific to this group of dialogues are the Platonic ideas of soul immortality, justice, and knowledge. For the first time, Plato expresses the idea that knowledge comes from understanding the unchanging forms (or essences) of things, thus elaborating the well-known "theory of forms."

  • Gorgias (Gorgias)
  • Menon (Menon)
  • Euthydemos (Edithimos)
  • Hippias Minor
  • Cratylos (Crayylos)
  • Hippias Maior (Grand Prix)
  • Menexenos (Menexenos)

Maturity dialogues

  • Banquet (Symposium)
  • Phaidon (Phaidon)
  • Phaidros (Phaidros)
  • Republic (State), books II - X

Dialogues of old age

  • Theaitetos (Theeitetos)
  • Parmenide (Parmenides)
  • Sofistul (Sophist)
  • Timaios (Timaeus)
  • Political Man (Political)
  • Philebos (Phillips)
  • Critias (Critia)
  • Laws (Laws)



Dialectic is the method by which knowledge is acquired, the subject of true knowledge (episteme); the process through which the sensitive world is reached in the supersensible world; In metaphysical knowledge interjects the analytical intellect (dianoia) and the pure intellect. The myth of the cave is an allegorical picture of the world and how it can be known.


Platonism is a term used by scholars to refer to the intellectual consequences of denying the reality of the material world. In some dialogues, most remarkable in the Republic, Socrates reverses the intuition of people about what is known and what is reality. While all people accept the reality of the objects that are perceptible to their senses, Socrates has a despicable attitude towards the people, who believe that to become real things have to be palpable. In Theaetetus, he calls them "I mousoi: ad literam" happy without museums "(Theaetetus 156a). In other words, these people live without the divine inspiration, which gives it to other people like him access to superior meanings about reality.

The idea of ​​Socrates, that reality is not available to those who use the senses, has created divergences with the inhabitants of Athens and with the common sense. Socrate believed that blindfolded, and this idea is most often mentioned in connection with the allegory of the cave. The allegory of the cave (Republic 7,514a) is a paradoxical resemblance by which Socrates argues that the invisible world is the most intelligible ("noeton") and that the visible world ("(h) oraton") is the least possible for knowledge, and the more obscure.

The theory of ideas

The theory of ideas is the core of the Platonic philosophy found in Phaidon, the Republic (books VI - VII), the Banquet and Phaidros.

The distinction between existence and sensible existence is the basis of the theory of ideas; the plan of susceptible existence is that of the apparent reality, accessible to knowledge through the senses, the world of cave-based opinion (doxa); the plan of intelligible existence is accessible only to rational knowledge, the world outside the Cave, the world of Pure Forms, Ideas, the metaphysical world of essential reality.

Ideas are characterized by:

  • Designates an absolute existence (they are simple)
  • There is a substantial existence (exists in itself and by itself)
  • It is an eternal existence
  • It designates a universal existence (the idea closes in itself all the particular qualities)
  • Appoints an immutable existence (unchangeable)

The sensible world is a pale copy of the world of Ideas; physical bodies have no reality unless they participate ("methexis") in Ideas as prototypes ("paradigm") of things.

"Myth of the Cave" (Republic, Book VII) symbols:

  • the cave - the sensible world (of the apparent reality);
  • the darkness of the cave - the ignorance of the captive, limited man;
  • chains - the prejudices, the senses that limit us;
  • fire - the light of knowledge;
  • umbrellas on the wall of the cave - images of physical bodies, appearances that generate random opinions (opinion, fruit of perceptions and imagination);
  • bodies worn in front of fire - true appearances, physical reality, generate true views ("orthe doxa"), difficult to get out of the cave - the initiatory path to essential knowledge, knowledge through the analytical intellect;
  • contemplation of the world outside the cave - metaphysical knowledge, pure intellect (episteme, true knowledge through intellect and reason)
  • The Sun - The Idea of ​​Good (Perfection)

The soul resembles Ideas because it is simple, immortal, knows the intelligible world through a process of conversion whose force is the eros (love - has the effect of oblivion in order to acquire primary purity); the knowledge of Ideas is just an "anamnesis" of the soul imprisoned in the physical body (the idea of ​​the body - the prison is a reminiscence of the orphanage); the purpose of the soul is to prepare man for death (the release of the immortal soul and the return to the world of ideas); the condition of the definitive release of the soul is a virtuous life; philosophy is to prepare the soul for the recognition of its immortality. The theory of ideas was severely criticized by Aristotle, but also by Plato in the Parmenides dialogue.

Theory of forms

"The Theory of Forms" refers to Plato's belief that the material world that surrounds us is not a real one, but only a shadow of the real world. Plato talked about forms when he tried to explain the notion of universals. Forms, according to Plato, are prototypes or abstract representations of certain types or properties (ie, universals) of the things that we see around us.

The ideal state

It is the state in which righteousness prevails, a virtue according to which every human type deals with what is ordered by the dominant soul function: those capable of practicing the virtue of reason (wisdom) are making laws, those capable of practicing the virtue of the passionate part (the courage) is dealing with defense, and those endowed with the possibility of practicing virtue appropriate to the appealing part of the soul (temperance) are responsible for the provision of resources. There is a hierarchy of naturally determined social classes: the wise men, the military, the farmers and the craftsmen, respectively.

Another condition of oikeoporeia (apart from practicing by each human type those activities that fit it) is the preservation of the class hierarchy.

The goal of the state is to achieve the good of all:

  • The social classes, hierarchically arranged, correspond to the three parts of the soul: the class of craftsmen (demiurgs) corresponds to the appealing part, the class of the warriors (the defenders, the phylakes) corresponds to the passionate part, the class of the leaders (archontes, philosophers or sages) corresponds to the rational part.
  • Aristocratic communism - fighters and rulers will not have anything personal (property, money, women) to be tempted by power or preoccupations that are not the property of their virtues, but everything will be in common (house, fortune, women, children ).
  • Women have the same rights and obligations as men.
  • It is an aristocracy of reason, understood by some exegetes as secular theocracy, although the state of reason and contemplation of Plato Ideas has a religious sense.
  • The state's harmony is achieved only when the leaders are philosophers, the demiurgists feed on the defenders and the rulers, and the defenders only deal with state security.
  • The degenerate (imperfect) forms of the state:
  1. timocracy - leadership by soldiers
  2. oligarchy - the leadership exercised by the rich
  3. democracy - the leadership of the people (dangerous because it encourages ignorance - understood by the ignorant as free thinking, the promotion of personal goals, equality - with the sense of leaving the oikeoprague, the capricious choice of the leaders)
  4. despotism - the worst form of corruption of power (an individual captures power and leads for the sake of his own magnification)

The ideal city or state conceived in the Republic's dialogue is not a political project, but an analogy used by Plato to answer the question of the theme of dialogue: "What is justice?". Thus, the theory of the faculties and virtues of the soul, as well as its design of the state idea, is a model for identifying the form of justice as oikeoporeia. Neither the ideal state nor the perfectly harmonized soul in accordance with righteousness exists in the sensible world. In the sensitive field of bodily things, there are only the corrupt forms of Ideas or paradigms (whether it is the Idea of ​​Fortress or others).

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