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,...
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.
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