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THE LIFE OF PLATO
Plato was born in 427 B.C. into a wealthy family that was both aristocratic and politically influential. His family had a rich history of political connections and consisted of his parents, Ariston and Perictione, his older brothers Adeimantus and Glawcon, and later a younger sister, Potone. “In keeping with his family heritage, Plato was destined for the political life”(Beavers and Planeaux). During Platos early years he was instructed by eminent teachers in grammar, music, and gymnastics. “Plato also had literary aspirations directed particularly toward creative work in poetry and tragedy”(Sahakian 32). Plato mainly engaged in many forms of poetry, only later turning to philosophy. As a young man, during the final years of the Peloponnesian War when Athens was in urgent need of manpower, Plato served in the army. According to Sahakian, Plato seemed destined to pursue a public career until he became a disciple of Socrates (Sahakian 32).
Plato was in his twenties when he directed his inquires toward the question of virtue. Plato became a faithful disciple of Socrates not only through Socrates’ remaining life, but after his death as well. Cornford believed:
“It was the unique good fortune of Socrates to have, among his young companions, one who was not only to become a writer of incomparable skill, but was, by native gift, a poet and a thinker no less subtle than Socrates himself”(Cornford 55).
Plato was twenty-eight when Socrates died and he was committed to refining and extending the Socratic principles. He also devoted his time to defining the Socratic method of inquiry against criticism. “From Socrates Plato learnt that problems of human life were to be solved by the morality of aspiration and the pursuit of an invariable ideal of perfection” (Cornford 63). Behind all of Plato’s beliefs is a Socratic motive in which he derived.
Plato unified his beliefs of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and politics into a single inquiry. He found that the formation of a noble character was to be before all else. The format in which Plato used to unify his beliefs is unknown, but events during his life, like the chaos of Athens final defeat in 404 B.C. are believed to help his unification. During this time of unification, Plato began to travel. “Plato was forty when he visited Italy for the first time and shortly thereafter he returned to Athens and founded the Academus Academy, located nearly a mile outside the city walls and named after the Attic hero Academus” (Beavers and Planeaux). The Academy was an independent institution of learning and can be seen as the precursor of today’s modern university. Falikowski writes that:
“The Academy was a quiet retreat where teachers and students could meet to pursue knowledge… Students throughout Greece enrolled to portake in the adventure of learning and to experience personal growth toward wisdom” (Falikowski 15).
The primary goal of the Academy was to educate citizens for statesmanship. Plato, like Socrates, did not except fees for his teaching. The Academy was left to the son of Plato’s sister, Speusippus, when Plato died in 347B.C. Emperor Justinian then closed the Academy in 529B.C.
Vision of the Soul
“In his writings, Plato addressed perennial questions like “What constitutes the good life?” and “What sort of individual should I strive to become?”(Falikowski 16). To answer such questions, Plato paid particular attention to the soul. Plato assigned the human soul an intermediary position between the World of Becoming and the World of Ideal Being. The soul to him was immortal by nature, even though it is not external. The soul unlike physical things, can survive change. Plato envisioned the soul as having three divisions with individual duties. These divisions were made up of the reason, spirit, and appetite. The reason is the part we might refer to as the intellect, “It seeks knowledge and understanding. The ability to think and make up our minds before we act, is by means of reason” (Falikowski 17). In other words, it is passion, which includes our self-assertive tendencies. “As the emotional element of the psyche, spirit manifests itself in our need to love and be loved” (Falikowski 17). When we wish to make an impression, to make us be accepted and or admired by others, or when we work hard to be liked, our spirit is
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Ancient Greek philosophers, Dialogues of Plato, Socratic dialogues, Plato, Socrates, Theory of Forms, Republic, Crito, Form of the Good, Speusippus, Early life of Plato, Phaedrus
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