Plato's most self-critical dialogue is called Parmenides , featuring Parmenides and his student Zeno , who following Parmenides' denial of change argued forcefully with his paradoxes to deny the existence of motion. Plato's Sophist dialogue includes an Eleatic stranger, a follower of Parmenides, as a foil for his arguments against Parmenides. In the dialogue Plato distinguishes nouns and verbs , providing some of the earliest treatment of subject and predicate.
He also argues that motion and rest both "are", against followers of Parmenides who say rest is but motion is not. Plato was one of the devoted young followers of Socrates. The precise relationship between Plato and Socrates remains an area of contention among scholars. Plato never speaks in his own voice in his dialogues , and speaks as Socrates in all but the Laws.
In the Second Letter , it says, "no writing of Plato exists or ever will exist, but those now said to be his are those of a Socrates become beautiful and new";  if the Letter is Plato's, the final qualification seems to call into question the dialogues' historical fidelity. In any case, Xenophon's Memorabilia and Aristophanes 's The Clouds seem to present a somewhat different portrait of Socrates from the one Plato paints.
Some have called attention to the problem of taking Plato's Socrates to be his mouthpiece, given Socrates' reputation for irony and the dramatic nature of the dialogue form. Aristotle attributes a different doctrine with respect to Forms to Plato and Socrates. In the dialogues of Plato though, Socrates sometimes seems to support a mystical side, discussing reincarnation and the mystery religions , this is generally attributed to Plato. In the Meno Plato refers to the Eleusinian Mysteries , telling Meno he would understand Socrates's answers better if he could stay for the initiations next week.
It is possible that Plato and Socrates took part in the Eleusinian Mysteries. In Plato's dialogues, Socrates and his company of disputants had something to say on many subjects, including several aspects of metaphysics. These include religion and science, human nature, love, and sexuality. More than one dialogue contrasts perception and reality , nature and custom, and body and soul. The theory of Forms is first introduced in the Phaedo dialogue also known as On the Soul , wherein Socrates refutes the pluralism of the likes of Anaxagoras , then the most popular response to Heraclitus and Parmenides, while giving the "Opposites Argument" in support of the Forms.
It can also be said there are three worlds, with the apparent world consisting of both the world of material objects and of mental images, with the "third realm" consisting of the Forms. Thus, though there is the term "Platonic idealism", this refers to Platonic Ideas or the Forms, and not to some platonic kind of idealism , an 18th-century view which sees matter as unreal in favor of mind. For Plato, though grasped by the mind, only the Forms are truly real. Plato's Forms thus represent types of things, as well as properties , patterns, and relations , to which we refer as objects.
Just as individual tables, chairs, and cars refer to objects in this world, 'tableness', 'chairness', and 'carness', as well as e. One of Plato's most cited examples for the Forms were the truths of geometry , such as the Pythagorean theorem. In other words, the Forms are universals given as a solution to the problem of universals, or the problem of "the One and the Many", e.
For Plato this is because there is one abstract object or Form of red, redness itself, in which the several red things "participate". As Plato's solution is that universals are Forms and that Forms are real if anything is, Plato's philosophy is unambiguously called Platonic realism.
According to Aristotle, Plato's best known argument in support of the Forms was the "one over many" argument. Aside from being immutable, timeless, changeless, and one over many, the Forms also provide definitions and the standard against which all instances are measured. In the dialogues Socrates regularly asks for the meaning of a general term, intensional definitions - What is X? There is thus a world of perfect, eternal, and changeless meanings of predicates, the Forms, existing in the realm of Being outside of space and time ; and the imperfect sensible world of becoming, subjects somehow in a state between being and nothing , that partakes of the qualities of the Forms, and is its instantiation.
Plato advocates a belief in the immortality of the soul, and several dialogues end with long speeches imagining the afterlife. In the Timaeus , Socrates locates the parts of the soul within the human body: Reason is located in the head, spirit in the top third of the torso , and the appetite in the middle third of the torso, down to the navel. Several aspects of epistemology are also discussed by Socrates, such as wisdom. More than one dialogue contrasts knowledge and opinion. Plato's epistemology involves Socrates arguing that knowledge is not empirical, and that it comes from divine insight.
The Forms are also responsible for both knowledge or certainty, and are grasped by pure reason. In several dialogues, Socrates inverts the common man's intuition about what is knowable and what is real. Reality is unavailable to those who use their senses. Socrates says that he who sees with his eyes is blind. While most people take the objects of their senses to be real if anything is, Socrates is contemptuous of people who think that something has to be graspable in the hands to be real. In Plato's dialogues, Socrates always insists on his ignorance and humility, that he knows nothing , so called Socratic irony.
Several dialogues refute a series of viewpoints, but offer no positive position of its own, ending in aporia.
In several of Plato's dialogues, Socrates promulgates the idea that knowledge is a matter of recollection of the state before one is born, and not of observation or study. In the Meno , Socrates uses a geometrical example to expound Plato's view that knowledge in this latter sense is acquired by recollection. Socrates elicits a fact concerning a geometrical construction from a slave boy, who could not have otherwise known the fact due to the slave boy's lack of education.
The knowledge must be present, Socrates concludes, in an eternal, non-experiential form. In other dialogues, the Sophist , Statesman , Republic , and the Parmenides , Plato himself associates knowledge with the apprehension of unchanging Forms and their relationships to one another which he calls "expertise" in Dialectic , including through the processes of collection and division. In other words, if one derives one's account of something experientially, because the world of sense is in flux, the views therein attained will be mere opinions.
And opinions are characterized by a lack of necessity and stability. On the other hand, if one derives one's account of something by way of the non-sensible forms, because these forms are unchanging, so too is the account derived from them. That apprehension of forms is required for knowledge may be taken to cohere with Plato's theory in the Theaetetus and Meno. Many have interpreted Plato as stating—even having been the first to write—that knowledge is justified true belief , an influential view that informed future developments in epistemology.
Many years later, Edmund Gettier famously demonstrated the problems of the justified true belief account of knowledge. That the modern theory of justified true belief as knowledge which Gettier addresses is equivalent to Plato's is accepted by some scholars but rejected by others.
Several dialogues discuss ethics including virtue and vice, pleasure and pain, crime and punishment, and justice and medicine. Plato views "The Good" as the supreme Form, somehow existing even "beyond being". Socrates propounded a moral intellectualism which claimed nobody does bad on purpose, and to know what is good results in doing what is good; that knowledge is virtue.
In the Protagoras dialogue it is argued that virtue is innate and cannot be learned. Socrates presents the famous Euthyphro dilemma in the dialogue of the same name. The dialogues also discuss politics. Some of Plato's most famous doctrines are contained in the Republic as well as in the Laws and the Statesman.
Because these doctrines are not spoken directly by Plato and vary between dialogues, they cannot be straightforwardly assumed as representing Plato's own views. According to this model, the principles of Athenian democracy as it existed in his day are rejected as only a few are fit to rule. Instead of rhetoric and persuasion, Socrates says reason and wisdom should govern. As Socrates puts it:.
Socrates describes these "philosopher kings" as "those who love the sight of truth"  and supports the idea with the analogy of a captain and his ship or a doctor and his medicine. According to him, sailing and health are not things that everyone is qualified to practice by nature. A large part of the Republic then addresses how the educational system should be set up to produce these philosopher kings. In addition, the ideal city is used as an image to illuminate the state of one's soul, or the will , reason , and desires combined in the human body.
Socrates is attempting to make an image of a rightly ordered human, and then later goes on to describe the different kinds of humans that can be observed, from tyrants to lovers of money in various kinds of cities. The ideal city is not promoted, but only used to magnify the different kinds of individual humans and the state of their soul. However, the philosopher king image was used by many after Plato to justify their personal political beliefs.
The philosophic soul according to Socrates has reason, will, and desires united in virtuous harmony. A philosopher has the moderate love for wisdom and the courage to act according to wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge about the Good or the right relations between all that exists. Wherein it concerns states and rulers, Socrates asks which is better—a bad democracy or a country reigned by a tyrant.
He argues that it is better to be ruled by a bad tyrant, than by a bad democracy since here all the people are now responsible for such actions, rather than one individual committing many bad deeds. This is emphasised within the Republic as Socrates describes the event of mutiny on board a ship. Socrates' description of this event is parallel to that of democracy within the state and the inherent problems that arise. According to Socrates, a state made up of different kinds of souls will, overall, decline from an aristocracy rule by the best to a timocracy rule by the honorable , then to an oligarchy rule by the few , then to a democracy rule by the people , and finally to tyranny rule by one person, rule by a tyrant.
This regime is ruled by a philosopher king , and thus is grounded on wisdom and reason. In Book VIII, Socrates states in order the other four imperfect societies with a description of the state's structure and individual character. In timocracy the ruling class is made up primarily of those with a warrior-like character.
About This Item
It is characterized by an undisciplined society existing in chaos, where the tyrant rises as popular champion leading to the formation of his private army and the growth of oppression. Several dialogues tackle questions about art, including rhetoric and rhapsody. Socrates says that poetry is inspired by the muses , and is not rational. He speaks approvingly of this, and other forms of divine madness drunkenness, eroticism, and dreaming in the Phaedrus ,  and yet in the Republic wants to outlaw Homer's great poetry, and laughter as well. In Ion , Socrates gives no hint of the disapproval of Homer that he expresses in the Republic.
The dialogue Ion suggests that Homer's Iliad functioned in the ancient Greek world as the Bible does today in the modern Christian world: as divinely inspired literature that can provide moral guidance, if only it can be properly interpreted. For a long time, Plato's unwritten doctrines    had been controversial. Many modern books on Plato seem to diminish its importance; nevertheless, the first important witness who mentions its existence is Aristotle, who in his Physics writes: "It is true, indeed, that the account he gives there [i.
The importance of the unwritten doctrines does not seem to have been seriously questioned before the 19th century. A reason for not revealing it to everyone is partially discussed in Phaedrus where Plato criticizes the written transmission of knowledge as faulty, favoring instead the spoken logos : "he who has knowledge of the just and the good and beautiful The content of this lecture has been transmitted by several witnesses. Aristoxenus describes the event in the following words: "Each came expecting to learn something about the things that are generally considered good for men, such as wealth, good health, physical strength, and altogether a kind of wonderful happiness.
But when the mathematical demonstrations came, including numbers, geometrical figures and astronomy, and finally the statement Good is One seemed to them, I imagine, utterly unexpected and strange; hence some belittled the matter, while others rejected it. Their account is in full agreement with Aristotle's description of Plato's metaphysical doctrine.
In Metaphysics he writes: "Now since the Forms are the causes of everything else, he [i. Plato] supposed that their elements are the elements of all things. Accordingly the material principle is the Great and Small [i. Further, he assigned to these two elements respectively the causation of good and of evil". The most important aspect of this interpretation of Plato's metaphysics is the continuity between his teaching and the Neoplatonic interpretation of Plotinus [j] or Ficino [k] which has been considered erroneous by many but may in fact have been directly influenced by oral transmission of Plato's doctrine.
A modern scholar who recognized the importance of the unwritten doctrine of Plato was Heinrich Gomperz who described it in his speech during the 7th International Congress of Philosophy in The trial of Socrates and his death sentence is the central, unifying event of Plato's dialogues. It is relayed in the dialogues Apology , Crito , and Phaedo. Apology is Socrates' defense speech, and Crito and Phaedo take place in prison after the conviction. Apology is among the most frequently read of Plato's works. In the Apology , Socrates tries to dismiss rumors that he is a sophist and defends himself against charges of disbelief in the gods and corruption of the young.
Socrates insists that long-standing slander will be the real cause of his demise, and says the legal charges are essentially false. Socrates famously denies being wise, and explains how his life as a philosopher was launched by the Oracle at Delphi. He says that his quest to resolve the riddle of the oracle put him at odds with his fellow man, and that this is the reason he has been mistaken for a menace to the city-state of Athens. In Apology , 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.
If Plato's important dialogues do not refer to Socrates' execution explicitly, they allude to it, or use characters or themes that play a part in it. Five dialogues foreshadow the trial: In the Theaetetus and the Euthyphro Socrates tells people that he is about to face corruption charges. In the Protagoras , Socrates is a guest at the home of Callias , son of Hipponicus , a man whom Socrates disparages in the Apology as having wasted a great amount of money on sophists' fees. Two other important dialogues, the Symposium and the Phaedrus , are linked to the main storyline by characters.
In the Apology , Socrates says Aristophanes slandered him in a comic play, and blames him for causing his bad reputation, and ultimately, his death. The character Phaedrus is linked to the main story line by character Phaedrus is also a participant in the Symposium and the Protagoras and by theme the philosopher as divine emissary, etc. The Protagoras is also strongly linked to the Symposium by characters: all of the formal speakers at the Symposium with the exception of Aristophanes are present at the home of Callias in that dialogue.
Charmides and his guardian Critias are present for the discussion in the Protagoras. Examples of characters crossing between dialogues can be further multiplied. The Protagoras contains the largest gathering of Socratic associates. In the dialogues Plato is most celebrated and admired for, Socrates is concerned with human and political virtue, has a distinctive personality, and friends and enemies who "travel" with him from dialogue to dialogue. This is not to say that Socrates is consistent: a man who is his friend in one dialogue may be an adversary or subject of his mockery in another.
For example, Socrates praises the wisdom of Euthyphro many times in the Cratylus , but makes him look like a fool in the Euthyphro. He disparages sophists generally, and Prodicus specifically in the Apology , whom he also slyly jabs in the Cratylus for charging the hefty fee of fifty drachmas for a course on language and grammar. However, Socrates tells Theaetetus in his namesake dialogue that he admires Prodicus and has directed many pupils to him.
Socrates' ideas are also not consistent within or between or among dialogues. Mythos and logos are terms that evolved along classical Greece history.
Plato | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
In the times of Homer and Hesiod 8th century BC they were essentially synonyms, and contained the meaning of 'tale' or 'history'. Later came historians like Herodotus and Thucydides, as well as philosophers like Heraclitus and Parmenides and other Presocratics who introduced a distinction between both terms; mythos became more a nonverifiable account , and logos a rational account.
Instead he made an abundant use of it. This fact has produced analytical and interpretative work, in order to clarify the reasons and purposes for that use. Plato, in general, distinguished between three types of myth. Then came the myths based on true reasoning, and therefore also true. Finally there were those non verifiable because beyond of human reason, but containing some truth in them.
Regarding the subjects of Plato's myths they are of two types, those dealing with the origin of the universe, and those about morals and the origin and fate of the soul. It is generally agreed that the main purpose for Plato in using myths was didactic. He considered that only a few people were capable or interested in following a reasoned philosophical discourse, but men in general are attracted by stories and tales. Consequently, then, he used the myth to convey the conclusions of the philosophical reasoning. Some of Plato's myths were based in traditional ones, others were modifications of them, and finally he also invented altogether new myths.
The theory of Forms is most famously captured in his Allegory of the Cave , and more explicitly in his analogy of the sun and the divided line. The Allegory of the Cave is a paradoxical analogy wherein Socrates argues that the invisible world is the most intelligible 'noeton' and that the visible world h oraton is the least knowable, and the most obscure.
Socrates says in the Republic that people who take the sun-lit world of the senses to be good and real are living pitifully in a den of evil and ignorance. Socrates admits that few climb out of the den, or cave of ignorance, and those who do, not only have a terrible struggle to attain the heights, but when they go back down for a visit or to help other people up, they find themselves objects of scorn and ridicule. According to Socrates, physical objects and physical events are "shadows" of their ideal or perfect forms, and exist only to the extent that they instantiate the perfect versions of themselves.
Just as shadows are temporary, inconsequential epiphenomena produced by physical objects, physical objects are themselves fleeting phenomena caused by more substantial causes, the ideals of which they are mere instances. For example, Socrates thinks that perfect justice exists although it is not clear where and his own trial would be a cheap copy of it. The Allegory of the Cave is intimately connected to his political ideology, that only people who have climbed out of the cave and cast their eyes on a vision of goodness are fit to rule.
Socrates claims that the enlightened men of society must be forced from their divine contemplation and be compelled to run the city according to their lofty insights. Thus is born the idea of the " philosopher-king ", the wise person who accepts the power thrust upon him by the people who are wise enough to choose a good master. This is the main thesis of Socrates in the Republic , that the most wisdom the masses can muster is the wise choice of a ruler. A ring which could make one invisible, the Ring of Gyges is considered in the Republic for its ethical consequences.
He also compares the soul Psyche to a chariot. In this allegory he introduces a triple soul which composed of a Charioteer and two horses. Charioteer is a symbol of intellectual and logical part of the soul logistikon , and two horses represents moral virtues thymoeides and passionate instincts epithymetikon , Respectively. Socrates employs a dialectic method which proceeds by questioning. The role of dialectic in Plato's thought is contested but there are two main interpretations: a type of reasoning and a method of intuition. Each new idea exposes a flaw in the accepted model, and the epistemological substance of the debate continually approaches the truth.
Hartz's is a teleological interpretation at the core, in which philosophers will ultimately exhaust the available body of knowledge and thus reach "the end of history. Plato often discusses the father-son relationship and the question of whether a father's interest in his sons has much to do with how well his sons turn out.
In ancient Athens, a boy was socially located by his family identity, and Plato often refers to his characters in terms of their paternal and fraternal relationships. Socrates was not a family man, and saw himself as the son of his mother, who was apparently a midwife. A divine fatalist , Socrates mocks men who spent exorbitant fees on tutors and trainers for their sons, and repeatedly ventures the idea that good character is a gift from the gods.
Plato's dialogue Crito reminds Socrates that orphans are at the mercy of chance, but Socrates is unconcerned. In the Theaetetus , he is found recruiting as a disciple a young man whose inheritance has been squandered. Socrates twice compares the relationship of the older man and his boy lover to the father-son relationship,   and in the Phaedo , Socrates' disciples, towards whom he displays more concern than his biological sons, say they will feel "fatherless" when he is gone.
Though Plato agreed with Aristotle that women were inferior to men , he thought because of this women needed an education. Plato thought weak men who live poor lives would be reincarnated as women. Plato never presents himself as a participant in any of the dialogues, and with the exception of the Apology , there is no suggestion that he heard any of the dialogues firsthand. Some dialogues have no narrator but have a pure "dramatic" form examples: Meno , Gorgias , Phaedrus , Crito , Euthyphro , some dialogues are narrated by Socrates, wherein he speaks in first person examples: Lysis , Charmides , Republic.
One dialogue, Protagoras , begins in dramatic form but quickly proceeds to Socrates' narration of a conversation he had previously with the sophist for whom the dialogue is named; this narration continues uninterrupted till the dialogue's end. Two dialogues Phaedo and Symposium also begin in dramatic form but then proceed to virtually uninterrupted narration by followers of Socrates.
Phaedo , an account of Socrates' final conversation and hemlock drinking, is narrated by Phaedo to Echecrates in a foreign city not long after the execution took place. Apollodorus assures his listener that he is recounting the story, which took place when he himself was an infant, not from his own memory, but as remembered by Aristodemus, who told him the story years ago.
The Theaetetus is a peculiar case: a dialogue in dramatic form embedded within another dialogue in dramatic form. In the beginning of the Theaetetus ,  Euclides says that he compiled the conversation from notes he took based on what Socrates told him of his conversation with the title character. The rest of the Theaetetus is presented as a "book" written in dramatic form and read by one of Euclides' slaves. Thirty-five dialogues and thirteen letters the Epistles 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. The usual system for making unique references to sections of the text by Plato derives from a 16th-century edition of Plato's works by Henricus Stephanus known as Stephanus pagination.
One tradition regarding the arrangement of Plato's texts is according to tetralogies. No one knows the exact order Plato's dialogues were written in, nor the extent to which some might have been later revised and rewritten. The works are usually grouped into Early sometimes by some into Transitional , Middle , and Late period. Whereas those classified as "early dialogues" often conclude in aporia, the so-called "middle dialogues" provide more clearly stated positive teachings that are often ascribed to Plato such as the theory of Forms.
The remaining dialogues are classified as "late" and are generally agreed to be difficult and challenging pieces of philosophy. This grouping is the only one proven by stylometric analysis. The following represents one relatively common division. Increasingly in the most recent Plato scholarship, writers are skeptical of the notion that the order of Plato's writings can be established with any precision,  though Plato's works are still often characterized as falling at least roughly into three groups. A significant distinction of the early Plato and the later Plato has been offered by scholars such as E.
Dodds and has been summarized by Harold Bloom in his book titled Agon : "E. Dodds is the classical scholar whose writings most illuminated the Hellenic descent in The Greeks and the Irrational In his chapter on Plato and the Irrational Soul Dodds traces Plato's spiritual evolution from the pure rationalist of the Protagoras to the transcendental psychologist, influenced by the Pythagoreans and Orphics, of the later works culminating in the Laws. Lewis Campbell was the first  to make exhaustive use of stylometry to prove objectively that the Critias , Timaeus , Laws , Philebus , Sophist , and Statesman were all clustered together as a group, while the Parmenides , Phaedrus , Republic , and Theaetetus belong to a separate group, which must be earlier given Aristotle's statement in his Politics  that the Laws was written after the Republic ; cf.
What is remarkable about Campbell's conclusions is that, in spite of all the stylometric studies that have been conducted since his time, perhaps the only chronological fact about Plato's works that can now be said to be proven by stylometry is the fact that Critias , Timaeus , Laws , Philebus , Sophist , and Statesman are the latest of Plato's dialogues, the others earlier.
Protagoras is often considered one of the last of the "early dialogues". Three dialogues are often considered "transitional" or "pre-middle": Euthydemus , Gorgias , and Meno. Proponents of dividing the dialogues into periods often consider the Parmenides and Theaetetus to come late in the middle period and be transitional to the next, as they seem to treat the theory of Forms critically Parmenides or only indirectly Theaetetus.
The first book of the Republic is often thought to have been written significantly earlier than the rest of the work, although possibly having undergone revisions when the later books were attached to it. While looked to for Plato's "mature" answers to the questions posed by his earlier works, those answers are difficult to discern.
Some scholars  indicate that the theory of Forms is absent from the late dialogues, its having been refuted in the Parmenides , but there isn't total consensus that the Parmenides actually refutes the theory of Forms. Jowett mentions in his Appendix to Menexenus, that works which bore the character of a writer were attributed to that writer even when the actual author was unknown. The following works were transmitted under Plato's name, most of them already considered spurious in antiquity, and so were not included by Thrasyllus in his tetralogical arrangement.
These works are labelled as Notheuomenoi "spurious" or Apocrypha. Some known manuscripts of Plato survive. These sources are medieval manuscripts written on vellum mainly from 9th to 13th century AD Byzantium , papyri mainly from late antiquity in Egypt , and from the independent testimonia of other authors who quote various segments of the works which come from a variety of sources. The text as presented is usually not much different from what appears in the Byzantine manuscripts, and papyri and testimonia just confirm the manuscript tradition.
In some editions however the readings in the papyri or testimonia are favoured in some places by the editing critic of the text. Reviewing editions of papyri for the Republic in , Slings suggests that the use of papyri is hampered due to some poor editing practices. In the first century AD, Thrasyllus of Mendes had compiled and published the works of Plato in the original Greek, both genuine and spurious. While it has not survived to the present day, all the extant medieval Greek manuscripts are based on his edition. Clarke 39 , which was written in Constantinople in and acquired by Oxford University in B contains the first six tetralogies and is described internally as being written by "John the Calligrapher" on behalf of Arethas of Caesarea.
It appears to have undergone corrections by Arethas himself. The oldest manuscript for the seventh tetralogy is Codex Vindobonensis To help establish the text, the older evidence of papyri and the independent evidence of the testimony of commentators and other authors i. Many papyri which contain fragments of Plato's texts are among the Oxyrhynchus Papyri.
The Oxford Classical Texts edition by Slings even cites the Coptic translation of a fragment of the Republic in the Nag Hammadi library as evidence. During the early Renaissance, the Greek language and, along with it, Plato's texts were reintroduced to Western Europe by Byzantine scholars. In September or October Filippo Valori and Francesco Berlinghieri printed copies of Ficino's translation, using the printing press at the Dominican convent S. Jacopo di Ripoli. The edition  of Plato's complete works published by Henricus Stephanus Henri Estienne in Geneva also included parallel Latin translation and running commentary by Joannes Serranus Jean de Serres.
It was this edition which established standard Stephanus pagination , still in use today. The Oxford Classical Texts offers the current standard complete Greek text of Plato's complete works. In five volumes edited by John Burnet , its first edition was published , and it is still available from the publisher, having last been printed in Dodds ' of the Gorgias , which includes extensive English commentary. There is also the Clarendon Plato Series by Oxford University Press which offers English translations and thorough philosophical commentary by leading scholars on a few of Plato's works, including John McDowell 's version of the Theaetetus.
Despite Plato's prominence as a philosopher, he is not without criticism. The most famous criticism of Platonism is the Third Man Argument. Plato's Socrates, in this period, was adept at reducing even the most difficult and recalcitrant interlocutors to confusion and self-contradiction. In the Apology, Socrates explains that the embarrassment he has thus caused to so many of his contemporaries is the result of a Delphic oracle given to Socrates' friend Chaerephon Apology 21ab , according to which no one was wiser than Socrates. As a result of his attempt to discern the true meaning of this oracle, Socrates gained a divinely ordained mission in Athens to expose the false conceit of wisdom.
The embarrassment his "investigations" have caused to so many of his contemporaries—which Socrates claims was the root cause of his being brought up on charges Apology 23cb —is thus no one's fault but his "victims," for having chosen to live "the unexamined life" see 38a.
The way that Plato's represents Socrates going about his "mission" in Athens provides a plausible explanation both of why the Athenians would have brought him to trial and convicted him in the troubled years after the end of the Peloponnesian War, and also of why Socrates was not really guilty of the charges he faced. Even more importantly, however, Plato's early dialogues provide intriguing arguments and refutations of proposed philosophical positions that interest and challenge philosophical readers. Platonic dialogues continue to be included among the required readings in introductory and advanced philosophy classes, not only for their ready accessibility, but also because they raise many of the most basic problems of philosophy.
Unlike most other philosophical works, moreover, Plato frames the discussions he represents in dramatic settings that make the content of these discussions especially compelling. So, for example, in the Crito, we find Socrates discussing the citizen's duty to obey the laws of the state as he awaits his own legally mandated execution in jail, condemned by what he and Crito both agree was a terribly wrong verdict, the result of the most egregious misapplication of the very laws they are discussing.
The dramatic features of Plato's works have earned attention even from literary scholars relatively uninterested in philosophy as such. Whatever their value for specifically historical research, therefore, Plato's dialogues will continue to be read and debated by students and scholars, and the Socrates we find in the early or "Socratic" dialogues will continue to be counted among the greatest Western philosophers. The philosophical positions most scholars agree can be found directly endorsed or at least suggested in the early or "Socratic" dialogues include the following moral or ethical views:.
In these dialogues, we also find Socrates represented as holding certain religious beliefs, such as:. In addition, Plato's Socrates in the early dialogues may plausibly be regarded as having certain methodological or epistemological convictions, including:. Scholarly attempts to provide relative chronological orderings of the early transitional and middle dialogues are problematical because all agree that the main dialogue of the middle period, the Republic, has several features that make dating it precisely especially difficult.
As we have already said, many scholars count the first book of the Republic as among the early group of dialogues. But those who read the entire Republic will also see that the first book also provides a natural and effective introduction to the remaining books of the work. If this central work of the period is difficult to place into a specific context, there can be no great assurance in positioning any other works relative to this one. Nonetheless, it does not take especially careful study of the transitional and middle period dialogues to notice clear differences in style and philosophical content from the early dialogues.
The most obvious change is the way in which Plato seems to characterize Socrates: In the early dialogues, we find Socrates simply asking questions, exposing his interlocutors' confusions, all the while professing his own inability to shed any positive light on the subject, whereas in the middle period dialogues, Socrates suddenly emerges as a kind of positive expert, willing to affirm and defend his own theories about many important subjects.
In the early dialogues, moreover, Socrates discusses mainly ethical subjects with his interlocutors—with some related religious, methodological, and epistemological views scattered within the primarily ethical discussions. In the middle period, Plato's Socrates' interests expand outward into nearly every area of inquiry known to humankind.
The philosophical positions Socrates advances in these dialogues are vastly more systematical, including broad theoretical inquiries into the connections between language and reality in the Cratylus , knowledge and explanation in the Phaedo and Republic, Books V-VII. This theory of Forms, introduced and explained in various contexts in each of the middle period dialogues, is perhaps the single best-known and most definitive aspect of what has come to be known as Platonism.
In many of his dialogues, Plato mentions supra-sensible entities he calls "Forms" or "Ideas". So, for example, in the Phaedo, we are told that particular sensible equal things—for example, equal sticks or stones see Phaedo 74ad —are equal because of their "participation" or "sharing" in the character of the Form of Equality, which is absolutely, changelessly, perfectly, and essentially equal. Plato sometimes characterizes this participation in the Form as a kind of imaging, or approximation of the Form. The same may be said of the many things that are greater or smaller and the Forms of Great and Small Phaedo 75c-d , or the many tall things and the Form of Tall Phaedo e , or the many beautiful things and the Form of Beauty Phaedo 75c-d, Symposium e, Republic V.
When Plato writes about instances of Forms "approximating" Forms, it is easy to infer that, for Plato, Forms are exemplars. If so, Plato believes that The Form of Beauty is perfect beauty, the Form of Justice is perfect justice, and so forth. Conceiving of Forms in this way was important to Plato because it enabled the philosopher who grasps the entities to be best able to judge to what extent sensible instances of the Forms are good examples of the Forms they approximate. Scholars disagree about the scope of what is often called "the theory of Forms," and question whether Plato began holding that there are only Forms for a small range of properties, such as tallness, equality, justice, beauty, and so on, and then widened the scope to include Forms corresponding to every term that can be applied to a multiplicity of instances.
In the Republic, he writes as if there may be a great multiplicity of Forms—for example, in Book X of that work, we find him writing about the Form of Bed see Republic X. He may have come to believe that for any set of things that shares some property, there is a Form that gives unity to the set of things and univocity to the term by which we refer to members of that set of things. Knowledge involves the recognition of the Forms Republic V.
In the early transitional dialogue, the Meno, Plato has Socrates introduce the Orphic and Pythagorean idea that souls are immortal and existed before our births. All knowledge, he explains, is actually recollected from this prior existence. In perhaps the most famous passage in this dialogue, Socrates elicits recollection about geometry from one of Meno's slaves Meno 81ab. Socrates' apparent interest in, and fairly sophisticated knowledge of, mathematics appears wholly new in this dialogue. It is an interest, however, that shows up plainly in the middle period dialogues, especially in the middle books of the Republic.
Several arguments for the immortality of the soul, and the idea that souls are reincarnated into different life forms, are also featured in Plato's Phaedo which also includes the famous scene in which Socrates drinks the hemlock and utters his last words. Stylometry has tended to count the Phaedo among the early dialogues, whereas analysis of philosophical content has tended to place it at the beginning of the middle period.
Similar accounts of the transmigration of souls may be found, with somewhat different details, in Book X of the Republic and in the Phaedrus, as well as in several dialogues of the late period, including the Timaeus and the Laws. No traces of the doctrine of recollection, or the theory of reincarnation or transmigration of souls, are to be found in the dialogues we listed above as those of the early period. The moral psychology of the middle period dialogues also seems to be quite different from what we find in the early period.
In the early dialogues, Plato's Socrates is an intellectualist —that is, he claims that people always act in the way they believe is best for them at the time of action, at any rate. Hence, all wrongdoing reflects some cognitive error. But in the middle period, Plato conceives of the soul as having at least three parts:. Republic IV. It seems clear from the way Plato describes what can go wrong in a soul, however, that in this new picture of moral psychology, the appetitive part of the soul can simply overrule reason's judgments.
One may suffer, in this account of psychology, from what is called akrasia or "moral weakness"—in which one finds oneself doing something that one actually believes is not the right thing to do see especially Republic IV. In the early period, Socrates denied that akrasia was possible: One might change one's mind at the last minute about what one ought to do—and could perhaps change one's mind again later to regret doing what one has done—but one could never do what one actually believed was wrong, at the time of acting.
The Republic also introduces Plato's notorious critique of the visual and imitative arts. In the early period works, Socrates contends that the poets lack wisdom, but he also grants that they "say many fine things. Most of poetry and the other fine arts are to be censored out of existence in the "noble state" kallipolis Plato sketches in the Republic, as merely imitating appearances rather than realities , and as arousing excessive and unnatural emotions and appetites see esp. Republic X. Several passages and images from these dialogues continued to show up in Western culture—for example, the image of two lovers as being each other's "other half," which Plato assigns to Aristophanes in the Symposium.
Also in that dialogue, we are told of the "ladder of love," by which the lover can ascend to direct cognitive contact with usually compared to a kind of vision of Beauty Itself. In the Phaedrus, love is revealed to be the great "divine madness" through which the wings of the lover's soul may sprout, allowing the lover to take flight to all of the highest aspirations and achievements possible for humankind. In both of these dialogues, Plato clearly regards actual physical or sexual contact between lovers as degraded and wasteful forms of erotic expression. For this reason, Plato thinks that most people sadly squander the real power of love by limiting themselves to the mere pleasures of physical beauty.
One of the novelties of the dialogues after those of the middle period is the introduction of a new philosophical method. This method was introduced probably either late in the middle period or in the transition to the late period, but was increasingly important in the late period. In the early period dialogues, as we have said, the mode of philosophizing was refutative question-and-answer called elenchos or the "Socratic method".
Although the middle period dialogues continue to show Socrates asking questions, the questioning in these dialogues becomes much more overtly leading and didactic.
Reading Lists Online
The highest method of philosophizing discussed in the middle period dialogues, called "dialectic," is never very well explained at best, it is just barely sketched in the divided line image at the end of Book VI of the Republic. The correct method for doing philosophy, we are now told in the later works, is what Plato identifies as "collection and division," which is perhaps first referred to at Phaedrus e.
In this method, the philosopher collects all of the instances of some generic category that seem to have common characteristics, and then divides them into specific kinds until they cannot be further subdivided. This method is explicitly and extensively on display in the Sophist, Statesman, and Philebus. One of the most puzzling features of the late dialogues is the strong suggestion in them that Plato has reconsidered his theory of Forms in some way. Although there seems still in the late dialogues to be a theory of Forms although the theory is, quite strikingly, wholly unmentioned in the Theaetetus, a later dialogue on the nature of knowledge , where it does appear in the later dialogues, it seems in several ways to have been modified from its conception in the middle period works.
Perhaps the most dramatic signal of such a change in the theory appears first in the Parmenides, which appears to subject the middle period version of the theory to a kind of "Socratic" refutation, only this time, the main refuter is the older Eleatic philosopher Parmenides, and the hapless victim of the refutation is a youthful Socrates.
The most famous and apparently fatal of the arguments provided by Parmenides in this dialogue has come to be known as the "Third Man Argument," which suggests that the conception of participation by which individual objects take on the characters of the Forms falls prey to an infinite regress: If individual male things are male in virtue of participation in the Form of Man, and the Form of Man is itself male, then what is common to both The Form of Man and the particular male things must be that they all participate in some other Form, say, Man 2.
But then, if Man 2 is male, then what it has in common with the other male things is participation in some further Form, Man 3, and so on. That Plato's theory is open to this problem gains support from the notion, mentioned above, that Forms are exemplars. If the Form of Man is itself a perfect male, then the Form shares a property in common with the males that participate in it. But since the Theory requires that for any group of entities with a common property, there is a Form to explain the commonality, it appears that the theory does indeed give rise to the vicious regress.
There has been considerable controversy for many years over whether Plato believed that the Theory of Forms was vulnerable to the "Third Man" argument, as Aristotle believed it was, and so uses the Parmenides to announce his rejection of the Theory of Forms, or instead believed that the Third Man argument can be avoided by making adjustments to the Theory of Forms.
Of relevance to this discussion is the relative dating of the Timaeus and the Parmenides, since the Theory of Forms very much as it appears in the middle period works plays a prominent role in the Timaeus. Thus, the assignment of a later date to the Timaeus shows that Plato did not regard the objection to the Theory of Forms raised in the Parmenides as in any way decisive. In any event, it is agreed on all sides that Plato's interest in the Theory shifted in the Sophist and Stateman to the exploration of the logical relations that hold between abstract entities.
In the Laws, Plato's last and unfinished work, the Theory of Forms appears to have dropped out altogether. Whatever value Plato believed that knowledge of abstract entities has for the proper conduct of philosophy, he no longer seems to have believed that such knowledge is necessary for the proper running of a political community.
In several of the late dialogues, Socrates is even further marginalized. He is either represented as a mostly mute bystander in the Sophist and Statesman , or else absent altogether from the cast of characters in the Laws and Critias. In the Theaetetus and Philebus, however, we find Socrates in the familiar leading role. The so-called "eclipse" of Socrates in several of the later dialogues has been a subject of much scholarly discussion.
Plato's famous myth of Atlantis is first given in the Timaeus, which scholars now generally agree is quite late, despite being dramatically placed on the day after the discussion recounted in the Republic. The myth of Atlantis is continued in the unfinished dialogue intended to be the sequel to the Timaeus, the Critias. The Timaeus is also famous for its account of the creation of the universe by the Demiurge. Unlike the creation by the God of medieval theologians, Plato's Demiurge does not create ex nihilo, but rather orders the cosmos out of chaotic elemental matter, imitating the eternal Forms.
Plato takes the four elements, fire, air, water, and earth which Plato proclaims to be composed of various aggregates of triangles , making various compounds of these into what he calls the Body of the Universe. Of all of Plato's works, the Timaeus provides the most detailed conjectures in the areas we now regard as the natural sciences: physics, astronomy, chemistry, and biology. In the Laws, Plato's last work, the philosopher returns once again to the question of how a society ought best to be organized.
Unlike his earlier treatment in the Republic, however, the Laws appears to concern itself less with what a best possible state might be like, and much more squarely with the project of designing a genuinely practicable, if admittedly not ideal, form of government. The founders of the community sketched in the Laws concern themselves with the empirical details of statecraft, fashioning rules to meet the multitude of contingencies that are apt to arise in the "real world" of human affairs.
A work enormous length and complexity, running some Stephanus pages, the Laws was unfinished at the time of Plato's death. According to Diogenes Laertius 3. Thomas Brickhouse Email: brickhouse lynchburg. Nicholas D. Smith Email: ndsmith lclark. Plato — B. Biography a. Birth It is widely accepted that Plato, the Athenian philosopher, was born in B. Family Little can be known about Plato's early life. Influences on Plato a. Heraclitus Aristotle and Diogenes agree that Plato had some early association with either the philosophy of Heraclitus of Ephesus, or with one or more of that philosopher's followers see Aristotle Metaph.
Parmenides and Zeno There can be no doubt that Plato was also strongly influenced by Parmenides and Zeno both of Elea , in Plato's theory of the Forms, which are plainly intended to satisfy the Parmenidean requirement of metaphysical unity and stability in knowable reality.
Diogenes Laertius also notes other important influences: He mixed together in his works the arguments of Heracleitus, the Pythagoreans, and Socrates. The Pythagoreans Diogenes Laertius 3. Socrates Nonetheless, it is plain that no influence on Plato was greater than that of Socrates. Plato's Writings a. Plato's Dialogues and the Historical Socrates Supposedly possessed of outstanding intellectual and artistic ability even from his youth, according to Diogenes, Plato began his career as a writer of tragedies, but hearing Socrates talk, he wholly abandoned that path, and even burned a tragedy he had hoped to enter in a dramatic competition D.
Dating Plato's Dialogues One way to approach this issue has been to find some way to arrange the dialogues into at least relative dates. Our own view of the probable dates and groups of dialogues, which to some extent combine the results of stylometry and content analysis, is as follows all lists but the last in alphabetical order : Early All after the death of Socrates, but before Plato's first trip to Sicily in B. Phaedo, Republic Bks. Parmenides, Theaetetus, Phaedrus Late c. Transmission of Plato's Works Except for the Timaeus, all of Plato's works were lost to the Western world until medieval times, preserved only by Moslem scholars in the Middle East.
Other Works Attributed to Plato a. Bernard Williams. The Greek Philosophers.
- International Competitiveness and Technological Change.
- Plato His Contemporaries - AbeBooks?
- After Monte Alban: Transformation and Negotiation in Oaxaca, Mexico (Mesoamerican Worlds: from the Olmecs to the Danzantes);
- Mathematics in Medicine and the Life Sciences.
- Textual Practice 10:3 (Textual Practice 103).
Parmenides Mobi Classics. The Politics. Initiation Into Philosophy. Emile Faguet. John Marshall. Sayings and Anecdotes. Diogenes the Cynic. Early Socratic Dialogues. Ancient Greek Philosophy. Thomas A. On Tyranny. Leo Strauss. Posterior Analytics Mobi Classics. Aristotle; E. Bouchier Translator. David Sedley. Sextus Empiricus and Greek Scepticism. Mary Mills Patrick. Euthydemus Mobi Classics. Concerning Being and Essence.
Thomas Aquinas. The Greek Sophists. John Dillon. Plato: A Guide for the Perplexed. Professor Gerald A. Plato: The Symposium. Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics. Meno and Other Dialogues. Protagoras Mobi Classics. Gorgias Mobi Classics. Statesman Mobi Classics. Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture. Werner Jaeger. Outlines of the History of Greek Philosophy. Eduard Zeller. Alfred Taylor. Aristotle - On the Soul.
Stoic Virtues. Dr Christoph Jedan. Plato For Beginners. Robert Cavalier. Gregory Vlastos. Ancient Ethics. Roy Jackson. Constitution of Athens and Related Texts. Cicero: On Moral Ends. Marcus Tullius Cicero. The Routledge Guidebook to Plato's Republic. Nickolas Pappas. Lives of the Eminent Philosophers. Diogenes Laertius. Sir David Ross.