IAS Target



Plato (424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought, and the Academy, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. He is widely considered the pivotal figure in the history of Ancient Greek and Western philosophy, along with his teacher, Socrates, and his most famous student, Aristotle. Plato has also often been cited as one of the founders of Western religion and spirituality. Plato was the innovator of the written dialogue and dialectic forms in philosophy. His most famous contribution is the theory of Forms known by pure reason, in which Plato presents a solution to the problem of universals known as Platonism.

Plato philosophy

Plato introduced the idea that their mistakes were due to their not engaging properly with a class of entities he called forms, chief examples of which were Justice, Beauty, and Equality. In metaphysics Plato envisioned a systematic, rational treatment of the forms and their interrelations, starting with the most fundamental among them (the Good, or the One).
In ethics and moral Psychology, he developed the view that the good life requires not just a certain kind of knowledge (as Socrates had suggested) but also habituation to healthy emotional responses and therefore harmony between the three parts of the soul (according to Plato, reason, spirit, and appetite). His works also contain discussions in aesthetics, political philosophy, theology, cosmology, epistemology, and the philosophy of language. His school fostered research not just in philosophy narrowly conceived but in a wide range of endeavour that today would be called mathematical or scientific.

Plato's Life

The son of Ariston (his father) and Perictione (his mother). Plato’s family was aristocratic and distinguished. Socrates trial and execution on charges of impiety and corrupting the youth in 399, due to this incident Plato was profoundly affected by both the life and the death of Socrates. The activity of the older man provided the starting point of Plato’s philosophizing. Moreover, if Plato’s Seventh Letter is to be believed (its authorship is disputed), the treatment of Socrates by both the oligarchy and the democracy made Plato wary of entering public life, as someone of his background would normally have done.

Plato’s thought: A philosophy of reason

Plato was a Greek philosopher known and recognized for having allowed such a considerable philosophical work. The sensible world, according to Plato is the world of contingent, contrary to the intelligible world, which contains essences or ideas, intelligible forms, models of all things, saving the phenomena and give them meaning. At the top of Essences is the idea of Good, which surpasses in dignity and power: the supreme principle is identical with the divine.

The Platonic dialogue:

Plato often presented his doctrine in a particular form, that of dialogue in which Socrates occupied a more prominent that in fact the master philosopher, he embodied, in some sense, the “playmaker.” In drafting his work with dialogue so, Plato has thus demonstrated an important dimension inherent in the search for truth: it takes two (or more) and this mediation is only able to move us beyond the particular views to us access to the universal.

Plato, Dialectics, Essences and the Good:

Dialectic refers to a process and an itinerary, a gradual ascent towards the truth, away from illusions and beliefs purely sensitive or imaginative.
The thought arises and the views (the doxa) …
  • Statement unsupported by rigorous reasoning
  • Mixture of truth and error
  • Sort of in-between intermediate between absolute nothingness and what is

To a knowledge of intelligible order and justified because

The first stage of rational knowledge is the data entry math, but this is so, even beyond these mathematical truths, the culmination of the dialectic: the Ideas or essences and the Good. For Plato, the sensible world is, indeed, an appearance of the ideas themselves, objects of pure thought, intelligible models of all things not perceived by sense, but far more real and more real than the empirical objects as such. So the idea of a table is the ideal table, as we understand it by thinking, model or paradigm that the concrete tables imitate and reproduce. In sum, the Idea or Essence (two terms served by the neighbor) are “things” in their purest form, patterns of thought and reflection.
  • This is the dialectic, and methodically set route, which concepts into concepts and propositions into propositions, can achieve these ideal essences as well as the Good, the culmination of rational approach.
  • Although the means and, in the eyes of Plato, the Divine which is, strictly speaking, neither a concept nor a concept, but a supreme principle, higher and the existence and essence, the excess of away in dignity and power. Although this idea, because of all what is right and good, communicates his truth and life to all things knowable.

Plato, Love and Beauty:

The route to the Essences can be understood as the dialectic of love, as Plato so aptly described in the Symposium.
  • Indeed, the momentum toward love of beauty is in the eyes of the philosopher, a powerful instrument of access to truth.
  • Intellectualized and discipline, love is confused with the Dialectic, which embodies the vitality and life.

Plato, Reminiscence, and Maieutic:

The dialectic of ideas and theory of love leads to talk of a Platonic idealism (in the strong sense of the word idealism) as the doctrine of Ideas or Essences attributing an existence in itself, independence of mind and of individual things (NB: the word “idealism” is not Plato himself). But one wonders what arguments can thus Plato developed this theory “idealist” Essences.
Two major elements for such development and doctrine:
  • The Maieutic
    It means that midwifery minds
    • Art by which Socrates led his interlocutors to discover themselves and become aware of their implicit wealth.
    • For example, in the Meno dialogue, ignoring the little slave discovers he himself, by virtue of his own intelligence, how to build a double square of a given square.

    If each of us can, through dialogue and Socratic, born to himself and regain truths (hidden), does it not because he remembers when a truth once contemplated? This is the doctrine of Reminiscence
  • Reminiscence
    We, in our previous lives, contemplated the ideas, which are not, therefore, that recollections. Learning is remembering the truth once perceived. Every philosophical exercise is to control and organize the content secret, hidden, the result of a distant contemplation.

Plato, Morality and Politics:

Thus, the answer to the problem and the formation of speculative dialectics based on reminiscence also allows Plato to resolve the moral and political problem. The Sophists, those masters of rhetoric and eloquence, criticized by Plato, who saw them as mere producers of lies and false illusions and delusions (sophistry being defined by him as trade and traffic of speech) had, in effect, undermined the belief in an Absolute allowing the moral edification:
  • The truth, they believed, is nothing else than subjectivity.
  • Their relativistic doctrine often led to pure immorality.

With Plato, morality becomes, quite the contrary, possible …

When, after contemplating the ideas, the philosopher comes down in the “cave”, he is now able to build a moral and political. The famous Allegory of the Cave means, in effect, this narrative by which Plato describes our condition:
  • Men are like prisoners who make the shadows before them on the wall of the cave for the truth.
  • The prisoner is loose and coming out outside symbolizes the philosopher accessing Essences.

Virtue in this context refers to participation in Essences and true knowledge, a science of good and evil inseparable from the dialectic. Plato, and generally throughout the Hellenic thought, virtue, and morality are, indeed, of the order of knowledge. No one is voluntarily evil. Being brave is to possess the science of what is awesome? Being fair is access to the knowledge of the harmony of our inner strengths.

Justice (individual) represents a right to know. In the just soul, the rational part (the mind) knows and control, mastering:
  • desire, wild and reckless (lust)
  • Anger, Part rash that can sometimes become the ally of reason
    Justice means, in this perspective, assuring its function under each part of the soul. In the state, justice is a harmony and a balance:
  • Artisans and workers obey variously
  • Warriors defend the city
  • The magistrates ordering subordinates to these two classes.