BEd 2nd Year Life Sketch of Plato Study Material Notes
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Life Sketch of Plato
Plato (428/427 or 424/423–348/347 BC) was a philosopher and mathematician in Classical Greece, and the founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. He is widely considered the most pivotal figure in the development of philosophy, especially the Western tradition. (BEd 2nd Year Life Sketch of Plato Study Material Notes)
Unlike nearly all of his philosophical contemporaries, Plato’s entire oeuvre is believed to have survived intact for over 2,400 years. Along with his teacher, Socrates, and his most famous student, Aristotle, Plato laid the very foundations of Western philosophy and science. Alfred North Whitehead once noted: “the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” In addition to being a foundational figure for Western science, philosophy, and mathematics,
Plato has also often been cited as one of the founders of Western religion and spirituality, particularly Christianity, which Friedrich Nietzsche, amongst other scholars, called “Platonism for the people”. Plato’s influence on Christian thought is often thought to be mediated by his major influence on Saint Augustine of Hippo, one of the most important philosophers and theologians in the history of Christianity. (BEd 2nd Year Life Sketch of Plato Study Material Notes)
Plato was the innovator of the dialogue and dialectic forms in philosophy, which originate with him. Plato appears to have been the founder of Western political philosophy, with his Republic, and Laws among other dialogues, providing some of the earliest extant treatments of political questions from a philosophical perspective.
Plato’s own most decisive philosophical influences are usually thought to have been Socrates, Parmenides, Heraclitus, and Pythagoras, although few of his predecessors’ works remain extant and much of what we know about these figures today derives from Plato himself. (BEd 2nd Year Life Sketch of Plato Study Material Notes)
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy describes Plato as “…one of the most dazzling writers in the Western literary tradition and one of the most penetrating, wide-ranging, and influential authors in the history of philosophy.
He was not the first thinker or writer to whom the word “philosopher” should be applied. But he was so self-conscious about how philosophy should be conceived, and what its scope and ambitions properly are, and he so transformed the Intellectual currents with which he grappled, that the subject of philosophy, as it is often a conceived-a rigorous and systematic examination of ethical, political, metaphysical, and epistemological issues, armed with a distinctive method-can be called his invention.
Few other authors in the history of Western philosophy approximate him in depth and range: perhaps only Aristotle (who studied with him), Aquinas, and Kant would be generally agreed to be of the same rank.
Due to a lack of surviving accounts, little is known about Plato’s early life and education. The philosopher came from one of the wealthiest and most politically active families in Athens. (BEd 2nd Year Life Sketch of Plato Study Material Notes)
Ancient sources describe him as a bright though modest boy who excelled in his studies. His father contributed all which was necessary to give his son a good education, and, therefore, Plato must have been instructed in grammar, music, gymnastics, and philosophy by some of the most distinguished teachers of his era, (BEd 2nd Year Life Sketch of Plato Study Material Notes)
Birth and family
The exact time and place of Plato’s birth are unknown, but it is certain that he belonged to an aristocratic and influential family. Based on ancient sources, most modern scholars believe that he was born in Athens or Aegina between 429 and 423 BCE. His father was Ariston. (BEd 2nd Year Life Sketch of Plato Study Material Notes)
According to a disputed tradition, reported by Diogenes Laertius, Ariston traced his descent from the king of Athens, Codrus, and the king of Messenia, Melanthus. (BEd 2nd Year Life Sketch of Plato Study Material Notes)
Plato’s mother was Perictione, whose family boasted of a relationship with the famous. Athenian lawmaker and lyric poet Solon. Perictione was the sister of Charmides and niece of Critias, both prominent figures of the Thirty Tyrants, the brief oligarchic regime, which followed the collapse of Athens at the end of the Peloponnesian War (404–403 BCE).
Besides Plato himself, Ariston and Perictione had three other children; these were two sons, Adeimantusand Glaucon, and a daughter Peotone, the mother of Speusippus (the nephew and successor of Plato as head of his philosophical Academy). The brothers Adeimantus and Glaucon are mentioned in the Republic as sons of Ariston, and presumably brothers of Plato, but some have argued they were uncles. (BEd 2nd Year Life Sketch of Plato Study Material Notes)
But in a scenario in the Memorabilia, Xenophon confused the issue by presenting a Glaucon much younger than Plato. The traditional date of Plato’s birth (428/427) is based on a dubious interpretation of Diogenes Laertius, who says, “When [Socrates] was gone, (Plato) joined Cratylus the Heraclitean and Hermogenes, who philosophized in the manner of Parmenides. Then, at twenty-eight, Hermodorus says, [Plato) went to Euclides in Megara.” As Debra Nails argues, “The text itself gives no reason to infer that Plato left immediately for Megara and implies the very opposite.”
In his Seventh Letter, Plato notes that his coming of age coincided with the taking of power by the Thirty, remarking, “But a youth under the age of twenty made himself a laughingstock if he attempted to enter the political arena.” Thus, Nails dates Plato’s birth to 424/423. According to some accounts, Ariston tried to force his attention on Perictione, but failed in his purpose; then the god Apollo appeared to him in a vision, and as a result, Ariston left Perictione unmolested. (BEd 2nd Year Life Sketch of Plato Study Material Notes)
Another legend related that, when Plato was an infant, bees settled on his lips while he was sleeping: an augury of the sweetness of style in which he would discourse about philosophy. Ariston appears to have died in Plato’s childhood, although the precise dating of his death is difficult. (BEd 2nd Year Life Sketch of Plato Study Material Notes)
Perictione then married Pyrilampes, her mother’s brother, who had served many times as an ambassador to the Persian court and was a friend of Pericles, the leader of the democratic faction in Athens. (BEd 2nd Year Life Sketch of Plato Study Material Notes)
Pyrilampes had a son from a previous marriage, Demus, who was famous for his beauty. Perictione gave birth to Pyrilampes’ second son, Antiphon, the half-brother of Plato, who appears in Parmenides. (BEd 2nd Year Life Sketch of Plato Study Material Notes)
In contrast to reticence about himself, Plato often introduced his distinguished relatives into his dialogues or referred to them with some precision: Charmides has a dialogue named after him; Critias speaks in both Charmides and Protagoras, and Adeimantus and Glaucon take prominent parts in the Republic. (BEd 2nd Year Life Sketch of Plato Study Material Notes)
These and other references suggest a considerable amount of family pride and enable us to reconstruct Plato’s family tree.
According to Burnet, “the opening scene of the Charmides is a glorification of the whole [family] connection. Plato’s dialogues are not only a memorial to Socrates but also the happier days of his own family.”