Many Philosophers made a difference in society but Plato is perhaps recognized as the most famous. His writings have had a profound effect on people, politics, and the philosophy throughout the centuries. He was a public figure and he made major contributions to society. Plato helped to lay the philosophical foundations of modern culture through his ideas and writings.
One of the most philosophical thinkers of Western civilization, Plato is the only author from ancient Greek times whose writings survive intact. His collection consists of thirty-five dialogues and thirteen letters, though the authorship of some is contested. Plato was born in Athens, into a prosperous aristocratic family. His Father’s name was Ariston and his Mother’s name was Perictione. His relative named Glaucon was one of the best-known members of the Athenian nobility. Plato's name was Aristocles, his nickname Plato originates from wrestling circles, Plato means broad, and it probably refers either to his physical appearance or his wrestling style. “Plato is, by any reckoning, one of the most dazzling writers in the Western literary tradition and one of the most penetrating, wide-ranging, and influential authors in the history of philosophy,” (Kraut, 2009). Plato was born during the Golden Age of Athens’s which saw the birth of classical architecture, drama, arts and politics. However, as he was growing up he observed the decline of Athens as a cultural center. He witnessed instances of cruelty, disloyalty, and dishonesty and it was in clear violation of his values. It was also during this time that Plato fell under the influence of Socrates, who engaged the people of Athens in philosophical discussions. “It was into this bright, sly, worldly atmosphere that Socrates appeared, moving questioningly about the streets of Athens”. (Plato 1984). In 339 Socrates was brought to trial and charged with having false Gods and corrupting the youth. Socrates was found guilty on the charge and was sentenced to death. The execution of Socrates weighed heavily on Plato and he turned away from politics, he thought the behavior of the courts was unjust. He decided not to get involved in political life, instead he decided to leave Athens with other friends of Socrates to travel and study. During his travels he met with all kinds of people and studied not only philosophy but geometry, astronomy, and religious teachings. Socrates was extremely influential to Plato and he was the main character in numerous writings, he was also influenced by Heraclitus, Parmenides, and the Pythagoreans. One of the most important goals Plato set for himself was to keep the memory of Socrates alive by recording and bringing about the kind of impact that Socrates had on people. Nearly all of Plato’s work takes the structure of dialogues in which Socrates is usually the main character. One of the goals of a Plato’s dialogue is to engross the reader in philosophical questions related to the ideas being discussed. The Socrates of the Platonic dialogues is modeled after the real Socrates but it is in part an imaginary character used to impart Platonic themes. Plato’s dialogues are divided into three groups, the early or Socratic dialogues; the dialogues of middle age; and the dialogues of old age.
In the early dialogues, Socrates is the main character, but it is generally believed that Plato is expressing his own views. These are the only remaining dialogues of Socrates teachings hence; they are referred to as the Socratic dialogues. In The Apology Socrates was accused of having false gods and corrupting the youth. While on trial Socrates claimed that he was innocent and was not at all wise, “Men of Athens, I honor and love you; but I shall obey God rather than you, and while I have life and strength I shall never cease from the practice and teaching of philosophy... Understand that I shall never alter my ways, not even if I have to die...
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