Plato was a well-known wrestler, and the name by which we know him today was his ring name. Plato means broad or flat: presumably in this case the former meaning, referring to his shoulder. At his birth in 429 B. C. Plato was given the name Aristocles. He was born in Athens, or on the island of Aegina, which lies just twelve miles offshores from Athens in the Saronic Gulf. Plato was born into one of the great political families of Athens. His father Ariston was descended from Codrus, the last kin Athens, and his mother was descended from the great Athenian lawmaker Solon (Sahakian, 1977).
An eager student of philosophy under the guidance of Socrates. , Plato became thoroughthly familiar with the complex problems of the discipline taught his own students the value of philosophical examination of every moral and political opinion. In his Seventh Letter, Plato mentions that in his youth he entertained the hope of entering upon a political career as soon as he came of age, but the abuses perpetrated by the Thirty Tyrants and death of Socrates aborted this aspiration.
It was assumed that Plato was twenty when he met Socrates and remained his faithful disciple not only throughout the lifetime but also after the death of Socrates. For years a Socrates’ death, Plato was committed to refining and extending the Socratic principles and defending the Socratic method of inquiry against criticism. To the end of his life, Plato remained in completed agreement with the essential spirit of Socrates, vindicating Socrates’ memory and perpetuating his mission( Durant,2009). This fearful piece of political intrigue and spitefulness left an indelible impression upon the young man’s mind.
No one could long maintain his independence and integrity within the framework of party politics. It is from this time forward that Plato finally turned to a life devoted to philosophy. Plato’s close association with Socrates places him in a dangerous position, and he was forced to remove himself from Athens for his own good. Thus begins his travels, which were to last for the next twelve years. After learning all he could at the feet of his master, he would now learn from the world. Plato travel all around the world, learning and educating his self as a philosopher.
It was just before Plato turned forty that he undertook his travels to Italy and Sicily. One purpose for this sojourn was to discuss matters with scientist and statesman, Arthytas, a Pythagorean who inspired Plato’s founding of the Academy, a new concept for an educational center. It was on his return to Athens from Egypt in 395 B. C. that Plato bought a piece of land just beyond the city limits and establishes the world’s first University, called the Academy. The Academy’s primary goal was to educate citizens for statesmanship.
Plato, like Socrates, received no fee for teaching, but unlike Socrates, he did not go into the marketplace to teach; rather he remained aloof from active life of the city and let the students come to him. Plato delivered lectures on special occasion both to an elite group and to a wider audience- for example, Plato lectured on the good using Socratic Method wherever possible. The Academy, called the “University of Athens”, firmly established in the Platonic tradition, endured continuously for almost nine centuries (Sahakian, 36).
The Central feature of Plato’s philosophy is his Theory of Ideas (or Forms), which he continued to develop all his life. This means that Plato’s theory has come down to us in several differing versions, thus providing philosophers with sufficient material to argue over for centuries to come. The best explanation of Plato’s theory of Ideas is his own. Unfortunately Plato’s explanation comes in the form of an image, which places it in the realm of literature rather than philosophy, “Plato explains that most human beings live as if in a dim cave.
We are chained, he says, and facing a blank wall, with a fire at our backs. All we see are flickering shadows playing across the cave wall, and this we take to be reality. Only if we learn to turn away from the wall and the shadows, and escape from the cave, can we hope to see the true light of reality. ” In more philosophical terms, Plato believed that everything we perceived around us- the shoes and ships and sealing wax, and cabbages and kings, of everyday experience- is merely appearance (Durant, 2009).
The true reality is the realm of ideas or forms from which this appearance derives. Thus a particular black horse can be said to derive its appearance from the universal form of a horse and from the universal form of a horse and from the ideal of blackness. The physical worlds we perceive with the senses is in a continual state of change. By contrast, the universal realm of ideas, which is perceived by the mind, is unchanging and eternal. Each form-such as that of roundness, man, color, beauty, and so forth- is like pattern for particular objects of the world.
But the particular objects are only imperfect, ever-changing copies of these universal ideas. With the rational use of the mind we can refine our notions of these universal ideas and begin to apprehend them better. In this way we can approach the ultimate reality of daylight which lies beyond the dim cave of our everyday world (Bertrand, 1997). Plato’s theory of creation, for instance, fits easily into Judeo-Christian version. According to Plato:”The father and creator made a moving living creature in image of the eternal gods.
When he saw this creature he was filled with joy and decided to make it even more like its original. Since this original was eternal, he endeavored to make the universe eternal, as far as devoured to make the universe eternal, as far as this could be done. So he made a moving image of eternity. When he laid out the heavens he made this image eternal but moving, in accord with numbers- distinct from eternity which one and rest (Durant, 2009). It is important role in the philosophy Plato, the Idea of Good is not sharply delineated; at least, it is not as circumscribed as we should like to have it.
Good is the cause of the world of existence is one of purposes; hence good is not only the etiological cause of the world’s coming into being but also the purpose for its existence, the goal toward which all things tend. Accordingly, Plato has presented a teleological cosmology: the true cause of the cosmos being purpose, the phenomenal contents within it being purposefully motivated, and purpose being the Ideal of Good. Moreover, the systemic unity accounting for phenomena working together in harmony and for the unity of substance is the Idea of the Good.
The Good is the ultimate and highest hypothesis, and is even beyond being hypothesized, for the soul ascends above and beyond hypotheses to the Ideal of Good. Everything the exists, exists for some good purpose, namely, the Idea of the Good, which is the ultimate purpose. Form a teleological rather than a logical standpoint. For Plato the human soul consisted of three distinct elements, the rational element strove for wisdom, the active spirit sought conquest and distinction, and the appetites craved gratification.
The righteous man is governed by reason, but all three elements have their part to play. We could not continue without satisfying our appetites, just as the entire state would grind to halt if the workers gave up working and enjoying themselves, and instead tried to become philosophers. The point is that righteousness can be achieved only when each of the three elements of the soul is fulfilling its own function-much as justice is achieved in the stated only when each of the three social elements is fulfilling its role in society.
By far the most enjoyable of Plato’s dialogues is The Symposium, which is devoted to a discussion of love in its various manifestations. The ancient Greeks were not prudish about erotic love, and the section where Alcibiades describes his homosexual love for Socrates ensured that this book would later be widely suppressed-becoming the original underground classic in the cellars of medieval monasteries. Plato’s idea on love was to have a profound influence. They crop up in the notion of courtly love, so popular with the troubadour poets of the early middle Ages.
Some even see in Plato’s understanding of eros an early blueprint for the more lurid sexual fantasies of Freud. Today the notion of platonic love has been debased to the point where it describes an almost extinct form of attraction between the sexes. Even Plato’s Theory of Ideas, intended to lead us to the mystical apprehension of beauty, truth, and Goodness, and has now been stripped of much of its ethereal grandeur. At the age of eighty-one Plato died and was buried in the Academy. Despite the unlikelihood of his philosophy, many of its assumptions still linger in our attitude toward the world.
And the abjection derived from his name continues to describe an increasingly unlikely form of love, which touchingly echoes his Theory of Ideas. Plato’s Academy was flourish in Athens until it was finally closed by the Emperor Justinian in 529 A. D. , in his attempt to suppress pagan Hellenistic culture in favor of Christianity. Apart from his dialogues, there survive some letters of Plato, mainly to his friends in Syracuse. These Valuable as historical documents but are other wise of no special philosophic interest (Sahakian, 1977).
The influence of Plato on philosophy is probably greater than that of any other man. The heir of Socrates and the pre-Socratic’s, the founder of the Academy and Aristotle’s teacher, Plato stands at the centre of philosophic thought. It is this, no doubt, that leads physic, but the one and only metaphysics. References Bertrand,Russell. Wisdom of the West,Crescent Books,1997, pg. 58-60. Sahakian, William. Plato. A Division of G. K. Hall& Co. , Boston, (1977). Durant, Will. The Story of Philosophy:The lives and Opinions of the Great Philosophers of the Western World,Simon and Schuster,2009.