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Plato (428/427 BC – 348/347 BC), was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the foundations of Western philosophy and science. Plato was originally a student of Socrates, and was as much influenced by his thinking as by his apparently unjust execution. Plato's sophistication as a writer is evident in his Socratic dialogues; thirty-six ####dialogues and thirteen letters have been ascribed to him. Plato's writings have been published in several fashions; this has led to several conventions regarding the naming and referencing of Plato's texts. Plato's dialogues have been used to teach a range of subjects, including philosophy, logic, rhetoric and mathematics.
Plato must have been instructed in grammar, music, and gymnastics by the most distinguished teachers of his time. Plato had also attended courses of philosophy; before meeting Socrates, he first became acquainted with Cratylus (a disciple of Heraclitus, a prominent pre-Socratic Greek philosopher) and the Heraclitean doctrines.
Plato and Socrates
The precise relationship between Plato and Socrates remains an area of contention among scholars. Plato makes it clear, especially in his Apology of Socrates, that he was Socrates' most devoted young follower. In that dialogue, Socrates is presented as mentioning Plato by name as one of those youths close enough to him to have been corrupted, if he were in fact guilty of corrupting the youth, and questioning why their fathers and brothers did not step forward to testify against him if he was indeed guilty of such a crime. Later, Plato is mentioned along with Crito, Critobolus, and Apollodorus as offering to pay a fine of 30 minas on Socrates' behalf, in lieu of the death penalty proposed by Meletus. In the Phaedo, the title character lists those who were in attendance at the prison on Socrates' last day, explaining Plato's absence by saying, "Plato was ill". Aristotle attributes a different doctrine with respect to the ideas to Plato and Socrates. Putting it in a nutshell, Aristotle merely suggests that his idea of forms can be discovered through investigation of the natural world, unlike Plato's Forms that exist beyond and outside the ordinary range of human understanding. "Platonism" is a term coined by scholars to refer to the intellectual consequences of denying, as Socrates often does, the reality of the material world.
Many have interpreted Plato as stating that knowledge is justified true belief, an influential view that informed future developments in modern analytic epistemology. This interpretation is based on a reading of the Theaetetus wherein Plato argues that belief is to be distinguished from knowledge on account of justification. Plato's philosophical views had many societal implications, especially on the idea of an ideal state or government. There is some discrepancy between his early and later views. Some of the most famous doctrines are contained in the “Republic” during his middle period, as well as in the Laws and the Statesman. However, because Plato wrote dialogues, it is assumed that Socrates is often speaking for Plato. This assumption may not be true in all cases.
For a long time Plato's unwritten doctrine had been considered unworthy of attention. Most of the books on Plato seem to diminish its importance.
The Dialogues of Plato:
Early dialogues: Apology, Charmides, Crito, Euthyphro , First Alcibiades, Hippias Major, Hippias Minor, Ion, Laches, Lysis
Transitional & middle dialogues: Cratylus, Euthydemus, Gorgias, Menexenus, Meno, Phaedo, Protagoras, Symposium
Later middle dialogues: Republic, Phaedrus
Late dialogues: Clitophon, Timaeus, Critias, Sophist, Statesman, Philebus, Laws
Of Doubtful Authenticity:
Axiochus, Demodocus, Epinomis, Epistles, Eryxias, Halcyon, Hipparchus, Minos
Rival Lovers, Second Alcibiades, Sisyphus, Theages
Thirty-six dialogues and thirteen letters have traditionally been ascribed to Plato, though modern scholarship doubts the authenticity of at least some of these. Plato's writings have been published in several fashions; this has led to several conventions regarding the naming and referencing of Plato's texts.
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