The Role of Plato in Western Philosophy

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Plato is considered to be the greatest philosopher of the Western philosophical tradition.He was the son of wealthy Athenian parents and he began his philosophical career as a student of Socrates.Plato was greatly influenced by Socrates, and many of his dialogues had this man as a character in the content. Therefore, many of his early works were likely borrowings or adaptations from Socrates himself. This is questionable as to how much of the content and argument of any given dialogue is actually Socrates' point of view and how much of it is Plato's. Socrates, himself, did not write down any of his teachings.After Socrates’ death,Plato founded a school in Athens in a grove sacred to the demigod Academus. It was called the Academy (which is where we get the word, academics). It was considered a university of higher learning including physical science, astronomy, and mathematics as well as philosophy. English philosopher A.Whitehead wrote,that “even the western philosophy consists of footnotes to Plato.What Jesus was for Christianity,was Plato for the Western philosophy.” Plato’s writings dealt with debates,concerning the best possible form of government,featuring adherents of aristocrasy, democracy, monarchy, etc.The central theme in his writings are the conflict between nature and convention,matter and spirit,the role of heredity and environment on human behavior. Plato divided reality into two spheres - matter and spirit.Plato even launched the idea that the human body is a dungeon of the soul. That is all the more remarkable because the Jewish tradition,whose Christianity would be a continuation, that distinction of matter and spirit, body and soul, not at all knew. The Phaedo of Plato, however, enjoyed the early church fathers great popularity. Plato explains in the Phaedo how the human body a barrier on the road to the truth. The truth is purely spiritual in nature. Who wants to know this truth, must therefore be separated from his body. Only those who...
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