The great Greek philosopher Plato (428-348 BC X.) was a brilliant student from another major Hellenic sage - Socrates. The basis of the philosophy of Plato - the doctrine of ideas - has been a source of Socratic appeal to the true cognition of concepts that are not subjective (as contemporaries of Socrates and Plato - the sophists claimed), and constitute an independent incorporeal world that exists beyond the world of sense. Plato believed that only in the world of ideas and is the real truth.
Son of noble Athenian citizens and Perictione Ariston, Plato led by the legendary origin of the Attic king Kodra. Many of the mother’s relatives of Plato were prominent politicians. His uncle, Charmides, participated in the famous aristocratic government "thirty tyrants". Plato’s birthday - 7th fargeliona (May 21) is accounted for the number that the ancient Greeks celebrated as the birthday of the god Apollo. Many thought he was the epitome of the philosopher of this divinity.
Plato’s youth came in the years that followed the great era of Pericles. Athenian education at this time prospered. Plato and his family belonged to the aristocratic opposition, who dreamed to get rid of fellow citizens and their laziness, talkativeness, cowardice and greed.
Plato's real name is Aristokl. The nickname "Platon" ("wide") philosopher got in his youth whether for his broad chest, whether for a wide forehead. Coming from a wealthy class, Plato had the resources to make the Athenian excellent education. In addition to various natural sciences, he studied drawing and music, and has reached such perfection in sports that has even won the Olympic and the Nemean games. With poetic talent, Plato tried to compose poems and dramas, but after he met Socrates on the 20th year of life, he abandoned literature and devoted himself to philosophy. Socrates saw in Plato philosophical genius immediately after their acquaintance.
The death of beloved teacher, sentenced by the Athenian people to death (399 BC), strengthened Plato’s hostility to democracy. He left the public life of his native city, and more persistently indulged in scientific research. 30-year-old Plato left Athens and went on a long journey, hoping to meet wise people of different countries and learn from them a deep knowledge. He spent some time in Megara, with another disciple of Socrates - Euclid, who was trying to connect to dialectic Socratic Eleatic School. Plato then studied in the Libyan Cyrene geometry and mathematics. Then for about three years he lived in Egypt, and some biographers have argued that local priests familiarized him with his ancient secret doctrine. From Egypt, Plato wanted to go to Persia and the Indians to join the Eastern wisdom, but abandoned this long journey, although, according to some reports, met with the Chaldeans and magicians in Phoenicia. From the East Plato went to southern Italy, led scientific conversations in Tarentum with the governor of the city, famous Pythagorean Archytas. From Tarentum, Plato went to Sicily.
In Syracuse the famous tyrant, Dionysius the Elder was the ruler at that time. His son-in-law, a young man of great intelligence and high aspirations presented Plato’s philosophy in the hope to refine Dionysius idealism of Plato's teachings. However, Dionysius came into a terrible rage, when Plato told him that the common person is easier to achieve virtue, rather than a tyrant, and that happiness and unhappiness in life depends above all on whether it is fair or not.
Dionysius expelled Plato to the Spartan Ambassador Pollis. Plato was a citizen of Athens, and the Syracusan tyrant secretly inspired Pollis to grab a philosopher and sell him into slavery. At the 40th year of his life, Plato returned to his native Athens from wanderings, which lasted about a decade.
Plato founded in Athens a philosophical school. That was a public school. Everyone could listen philosopher’s lecturers, regardless of age, wealth and social status. Academy had great popularity among the Athenians.
Activities of Plato at the Academy lasted for about 40 years, but they were interrupted by two more trips to Syracuse. Dionysius the Elder, who died in 368 BC, was replaced by his son Dionysius II of Syracuse. His uncle, the admirer of Plato, Dion, initially heavily influenced new tyrant, a man that was still young. Having failed to act on the Platonic philosophy of Dionysius the Elder, Dion has now decided to renew it in Dionysius the Younger.
Learning from Dion, the new ruler of Syracuse has many commendable qualities, Plato thought to carry in Sicily his political ideals, developed by him in the book "The State". So he made his second trip to Syracuse (367-365 BC). Initially, Plato was welcomed there with great honor and respect. However, frivolous Dionysius surrendered soon to the influence of libertines who hated Plato and Dion. Drinking companions inspired young ruler that Dion was going to take his throne. So Dion, and then Plato had to leave Syracuse. Plato returned to Athens and continued teaching at the Academy.
Plato spent the rest of his life in Athens, continuing to teach at the Academy, where he had a great student - Aristotle. Plato died a quiet death at 81st year of birth in 348 BC X. Moreover, when the great philosopher was alive, and even after his death his identity was surrounded by universal respect. Greece has much vivid stories about modesty, mind, self-control and other high moral qualities of Plato.
The essence of Plato’s philosophy
According to Plato, philosophy is the highest science that embodies the pure desire for truth. It is the only way to understand ourselves, God and to true happiness. It’s not the need for philosopher to get rational desire for dead, abstract knowledge but the love attraction (Eros) to the highest mental welfare.
Plato is the founder of idealism. The main provisions of its idealistic teachings are:
Material things are changeable, unstable and eventually stop to exist;
The world ("world of things") and also the time are variable and do not really exist as a separate substance;
Actually there are only clean (disembodied) ideas (Eidos);
Clean (disembodied) ideas are true, eternal and permanent;
Everything that exists is just a material displaying the original idea (eidos) of the things;
The whole world is a reflection of pure ideas (Eidos).
Plato's ethical concept can be divided into two interconnected parts: individual ethics and social ethics. The first is the doctrine of the intellectual and moral perfection of man, which Plato relates to the harmonization of his soul.
The soul of a philosopher opposes the body just because the human body relates to the lower world of the senses and the soul can be exposed to the real world - the world of eternal ideas. The main aspects of the human soul form the basis of his virtues: reasonable - wisdom, affective - moderation, strong-willed - courage. Human virtues thus have an innate nature, they harmonize the specific steps of his soul and the ascent to the world of eternal ideas. In the ascent of man to the ideal world is the meaning of his existence.
In addition, the way to his elevation is contempt of physical, the power of the mind over the lower passions. Determining these principles, social ethics philosopher believes the presence of certain virtues in each class. According to the teachings of Plato, the rulers must have the wisdom, class warriors - the courage, and the lower classes - moderation.
It is possible to achieve the highest virtue by using moral hierarchy. This virtue - justice, which indicates, according to Plato, social harmony. It is necessary to sacrifice the interests of the individual to reach it.
Thus, in Plato's ideal society there is no room for individuality. It should be noted that the perfect state, which depicted the thinker, was very unattractive not only because of the spirit of intellectual aristocracy, but because of the inferiority of finding in it the representatives of each class, as proposed by Plato "order" in society would not bring happiness to anyone.
Thus, the key to understanding the essence of morality is that Plato's position that the content of individual existence must be socially significant. This idea of Plato, like his other ideas, were comprehended and developed by his student, Aristotle.
Works of Plato reflect the era in which they were written, and therefore are very interesting to historians. In the period of V - IV century. BC. e. Greece crisis ended for the polis organization. One of the reasons for this crisis were the events of the Peloponnesian War (431 - 404 years.), that divided Greece into two camps - under the leadership of Athens, under the leadership of Sparta. This war marked the beginning of new stage relations. This resulted in the inability solve economic, political and social problems properly. Changed the old value system, which was the guarantor of the unity and harmony of citizens.
In Plato’s opinion, the education of citizens should play an important role. The theme of education has always been important. Plato outlined his views in the two most extensive and fundamental works - "The State" and "The Law."
The "State" is written in dialogue form - conversation of real people who lived in Greece at the time - and consists of ten books. Philosopher was writing this work for quite a long period of time, the main part was written in the 70 - 60s years IV. BC. e. The purpose of writing this dialogue is to create an ideal image of the policy, and education is one of the basics. The ideal policy appeared to him as a group of citizens, divided into three classes. Education should be the privilege of two classes - "custody". Thinker focuses on art education in detention, in detail considering the selection of children, suitable for physical, mental and age parameters for individual improvement.
"State" gives only a theoretical setting, and Plato considers practical aspects of education in his other work, "The law." It was written mainly in 354 BC. e. and refers to the works of the late period of his work. "Law" is also written in dialogue form and consists of twelve books. Plato pays great attention to the detailed analysis of the laws that are necessary to achieve the ideals. A number of proposed laws by Plato are directly related to the problems of education of citizens of the polis. Thus, education occupies an important role.
The idealism of Plato suggests something higher, should be pursued by men. A person must have high and bright targets. Because of this he is worthy of existence in this world, by providing the good to the people.
Guthrie, W. K. C. A History of Greek Philosophy. Cambridge: University Press, 2010.
Hadot, Pierre. What Is Ancient Philosophy? Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2002.
Marshall, John. A Short History of Greek Philosophy. Luton: Andrews UK, 2011.
Schofield, Malcolm. Plato Political Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.