Discover the enduring legacy of Plato, one of the greatest philosophers in history. This article delves into 10 of the most important characteristics that defined Plato’s life and work, including his emphasis on reason, his views on justice and virtue, and his influence on Western philosophy.
Plato was a philosopher of ancient Greece who lived between 427 and 347 a.C. He was born in Athens into an aristocratic family, and his real name was Aristocles ..
Plato was a follower of Socrates, who would be his main influence, especially during his early years. As a distinctive feature, Plato’s thought embodies authentic, rationalist ideas and even an idealistic tinge. He is, undoubtedly, one of the thinkers who have marked the history of philosophy.
In the year 387 a.C founded the Academy. There, not only philosophy was taught, but also mathematics, astronomy and physics. Among his most notable disciples was Aristotle.
The contributions of Plato on the theory of ideas and the sensible world, as well as the myth of the cave or the tripartite theory of the soul, are within his compulsory philosophical literature to be able to understand his thought and ideals.
Characteristics Of Plato
One of the most notable characteristics is that Plato always wrote in the form of dialogue. But as the people of that time did not know how to read, he did it orally before the public to convey his ideas. Another characteristic of Plato’s writings is his poetic style. In addition, his dialogues are full of irony and humor.
There is a confusion often where it is believed that Socrates and Plato could become the same person. This, although it is not true, is based on the fact that many of Plato’s writings might not belong to him, but to Socrates since he did not write his own dialogues but this was the task of his disciple: Plato.
3. Stages of Plato’s thinking
From the form of writing it can be said that it is divided into 4 great moments:
Dialogues of his youth (between 28 and 38 years old). During these years the dialogues and his style remains true to what was apprehended with Socrates.
Transition dialogues (between 38 and 41 years old). Here you begin to see your own imprint of things. During this period the theory of ideas appears.
Dialogues of his maturity (between 41 and 56 years old). The influence of Socrates is already minimal at this stage and you can see the ideas of Plato in all its splendor.
Critical and old-age dialogues (between 56 and 78 years old). During this period Plato revises the theory of ideas, although he does not reject it, if he revises it. It is also a stage of much pessimism in their dialogues.
4. Topics on which he wrote
Political philosophy, psychology, ethics, epistemology, philosophical anthropology, gnoseology, cosmology, metaphysics, philosophy of language, philosophy of education.
5. Main writings
There are about 25 writings although it is not known if these were entirely Plato since some could be Socrates. His main books were: The Republic, The Phaedo, The Phaedrus, The laws, The banquet, the Meno, The Timaeus, Hippias and the Apology of Socrates.
6. The theory of ideas
As a remarkable contribution of his philosophy is the theory of ideas. He thought there were two worlds; the world of ideas and the world of things:
The world of ideas is that it is not possible to distinguish with the senses. This one (which can only be accessed through knowledge) is an intangible world.
On the other hand, there is also the sensitive world that is the one that can be perceived through the different senses. It is through this that the reality of the things of the world is known.
7. Objective of the philosopher
The purpose of the philosopher, according to Plato, is that people remember the true ideas of the world of ideas so that, in this way, they can reach the material world.
8. The myth of the cave
Myth of the cavern (or allegory of the cave) of Plato: It tells how prisoners were born inside a cave. They could only look towards the back of the cave. On this background they saw shadows passing by. Since they had never met real people, they believed that the shadows were real human figures. One day, one of the prisoners escapes from the cave. When it comes out of it, it is hard for him to get used to his natural light but little by little, he gets used to it and can see again.
There he understands that the images projected in the cave were not real; it was only shadows projected on a wall by flames behind the prisoners. When the prisoner returns and tells this to the rest of the prisoners, they do not believe him since they are convinced that the shadows projected on the wall are real.
Interpretation of the myth: For Plato, the allegory of the cave shows in some way what happened to him with knowledge. This myth expresses how men, according to Plato, do not know the truth of things but it is through knowledge that they have access to it.
This myth has been used (and continues to be used) in different areas, and to exemplify the lack of knowledge that all human beings always have in some aspect.
9. The tripartite theory of the soul
For Plato the soul is formed of 3 parts: the reason, the concupiscible appetite and the irascible appetite.
The irascible appetite. Represented in the figure of Apollo, he has the goal of always doing good.
The concupiscible appetite. This appetite, represented by Dionysus tends to always choose excesses and pleasure.
The reason. Its main function is to level the two previous appetites.
10. Conception of the soul and the body
As the soul can not be seen, for Plato it belongs to the world of ideas. On the other hand the body is a kind of prison and belongs to the sensible world.