Plato is one of the most important founding figures in Western philosophy and has had an impact on nearly every philosopher from all time periods. Alongside his mentor Socrates and his student Aristotle, Plato created some of the most significant works in philosophy; ultimately building the framework for western philosophic education. The dialogues of his works are wide ranging, from focuses on life and reality beyond what we see and hear, and subjects as practical rules, laws, education and punishment.
Historians believe that Plato was born between 427 and 429 BC in Athens, Greece. Born in to an aristocratic family, Plato was involved in politics from an early age; however, he did not stay on the traditional political path for long. In Plato’s work The Republic, his ideas were to transform and improve political life, as he knew there was no escaping it. As the result of an early failure, Plato came to the conclusion that political action would not stop violence and greed, which is what changed his philosophic approach.
It is believed that Plato met his mentor, Socrates, in his youth and his education under Socrates shaped his ideas about the world. Socrates played a role in almost all of Plato’s works and was a robust influence in Plato’s life and ideas. Plato was a believer in the importance of ethics and true self-introspection. In many of his writings, he references the importance of self-reflection; “First and best victory is to conquer self, to be conquered by self is, of all things, the most shameful and objectionable.
”1 Plato was also passionate about music and its importance in education. He stated, “I would teach children music, physics and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning. ” 2 Many of Plato’s later works were profoundly influenced by the idea of the soul and the concept of dualism, meaning the separation of the mind and the body. 3 He believed that the real reality is not what we see or what we hear but is something that subsists in a higher realm beyond our day to day life.
Many of his ideas on the soul influence a multitude of religions today as he believed that a human’s soul is immortal and that the soul is separate from our physical being. In 387 BC Plato founded what is credited as the first European university, The Academy, in Athens, Greece. The Academy focused on subjects such as astronomy, biology, mathematics, political theory, and philosophy. While at the Academy, Plato wrote many of his most significant works, including The Republic. 4 Plato spent his time at The Academy encouraging students to learn through discussion in order to become freethinkers.
Plato even felt that his works and dialogues should be used more as supplementary aids and that no one should rely solely on what they read in a book or dialogue. Plato’s dialogues are used to this day to aid in the teaching of subjects ranging from philosophy to math. Plato’s out of the box thinking will continue to be thought provoking and influential for thousands of years to come. Many of his idealisms are still taking place in teachings and the living of every day life. His diverse subjects and desire for equality will continue to bring positive motivation to those study his works.
Bibliography Cooper, John M. , and D. S. Hutchinson. Complete works. Indianapolis, Ind. : Hackett Pub. , 1997. Hunt, Lynn , Thomas Martin, Barbara Rosenwein, and Bonnie Smith. “From the Classical to the Hellenistic World. ” In The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010. 114-115. Richard, Kraut. “Plato (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). ” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato. stanford. edu/entries/plato/#PlaCenDoc (accessed September 23, 2013).