Plato is one of the greatest philosophers of Ancient Greece. He was a student of Socrates from whom he learnt the secrets of philosophy. Plato founded his own academy in which one of his prominent students was Aristotle. Apart from his most significant work ‘The Republic’, Plato was also famous for his other dialogues. They are divided into three periods – early, middle and late ones. All these dialogues display his metaphysical theory of forms. According to different researches, Plato wrote at least 25 philosophical texts. Thanks to him, we know about Socrates and his philosophy nowadays.
Unlike Socrates who had a middle-class origin, Plato was born in an aristocratic family. His father was believed to be a descendant of god Poseidon, and his mother was a relative of Solon, a famous lawgiver of that time. According to certain accounts, some of the closest relatives of his mother were among members of the Thirty Tyrants who ruled Athens for a short period of time before democracy was restored. Little is known about Plato’s personal life. According to most documents, he never married and he didn’t have any children. However, we know that he had a lot of siblings – three brothers – Antiphon, Glaucon, Adeimantus of Collytus and also one sister- Potone.
Socrates’s Influence on Plato
When Plato was young, he was one of the closest people of Socrates who as we have already mentioned was also his teacher. As Socrates didn’t write anything, everything that we know about him nowadays is thanks to his disciples, especially Plato. Socrates’s life and death influenced Plato to lay the foundation of his philosophizing.
According to one of Plato’s documents, known as The Seventh Letter, he didn’t want to enter public life namely because he was disgusted by the way the oligarchy treated Socrates. After Socrates died, Plato started travelling all over Italy, Greece and Egypt.
Plato founded his Academy around 380 BCE and it quickly became a prominent research center. Being one of the best places to study, it gathered very talented students, among who were the mathematicians, Theaetetus and Eudoxus of Cnidus. It is considered that this academy is the ancestor of today’s university. Plato himself was not a mathematician but he used the results that others achieved in the academy and he included them in his works. So Plato became famous as ‘the maker of mathematicians’.
Plato’s ‘The Republic’
Indisputably Plato’s most essential work is ‘The Republic.’ This dialogue depicts how our society can be led by a philosopher. The reader won’t be surprised to find out that the main character in this work is Socrates. Unlike the dialogues from Plato’s earlier period, in this one Socrates gives a very detailed argument of his theory that justice is related to happiness.
‘The Republic’ tries to give answers to two main questions. The first one is what the definition of justice is and the second one is how justice and happiness are related to each other. Plato attempts to answer these questions both in terms of ethics and politics.