Presentation Paper: Plato
Plato is one of the world’s best-known and most widely studied philosophers and intellectuals throughout history. Although very little is actually known about his life, which has forced scholars to construct most of his biography; with the help of his writings and the writings of other great philosophers and intellects. This has created a lot of controversy throughout the academic community, and scholars still debate whether all of Plato’s works are authentic. They also debate what order his major works were written, and if Plato was writing before the execution of Socrates 399 B.C.E. () On the other hand, most agree that Plato’s major works can be divided into three distinct groups, Socratic Dialogues, Middle Period and Later Dialogues. A large majority of scholars also agree that Plato’s earliest works are the most reliable and accurate recordings of Socrates teachings.
It is widely accepted amongst scholars that Plato was born between 428-427 B.C.E, to an aristocratic family that lived in Athens for generations. Although his father, Ariston, was not an overly wealthy man or of high status. (Mason 4) Plato’s birth name was Aristocles, and that Plato derived from Platon, a nickname he gained which roughly translates into “the broad.” It is believed that this nickname comes from either his wide shoulders, his wide range of styles, or possibly from the size of his four head. (Ritchie 3) He had two brothers, Glaucon and Adeimantus, and a sister, Potone. Plato was of the youngest of three children. He uses his brothers as characters in three of his dialogues. (Ritchie 2) Plato’s father, Ariston, died when he was just a young boy. His mother, Pericitione, remarried a man named Pyrilampes. She had a child with her new husband, Antiphon, who also appeared as a character in one of Plato’s dialogues. (Press 14) Plato would have received an education typical of boys in his social class. This would likely consisted of first poetry and music, both subjects were thought to be character building rather than career preparation. (Press 14) Aristotle, a student of Plato’s, writes that when Plato was a young man he studied under Cratylus, who was a student of Heracleitus, famous for the study of cosmology which is based on the idea of the universe being made of fire. (Taylor 2) Plato was in the Athens military from 409 BC to 404 BC, during the Peloponnesian war between Athens and Sparta between 431 BC and 404 BC. After the war, Plato decided he no longer wanted to be in the military and would pursue a political career. (Mason 4) He joined the Oligarchy of the 30 tyrants in Athens in 404 BC. Plato would quickly leave the organization due to their violent acts. Due to the political unsuitability of Athens, Plato was unsure if he wanted a career in politics, and with the execution of Socrates in 399 B.C. (Ritchie 15) Plato had completely given up on Athens politics. After the execution of Socrates, Plato, along with other friends of Socrates left Athens to travel for the next 12 years. During this time Plato traveled to Egypt, Sicily and Italy, studying a wide variety of topics, such as, the works of other scholars, geometry, geology, astronomy and religion. (Mason 5)
Plato returned to Athens in roughly 387 BC, settling on land that used to be owned by Academos. There he built what many referred to as The Academy. (Taylor 6) The Academy was an institution Plato founded to devote research and thought to philosophy and the sciences. Plato’s Academy was unlike any other institution of its kind. There was no formal organization, anyone who could participate and be self-supporting could attend. () At Plato’s Academy there was no regular lectures, seminars, nor public readings. The Academy was not like a typical academic institution in which the teachers pass on information to the students, rather teachers make suggestions and guide students to make their own decisions. By doing this Plato is