You may already know that Plato (428/427 BCE – 348-347 BCE) was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece. You may also be familiar with him thanks to the Italian Renaissance fresco in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican called “The School of Athens”. Here are five facts about Plato that you may or may not know. Stay till the end and comment down below whether you knew some of the facts already.
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Facts about the Athenian philosopher Plato:
- Plato was the student of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle
- Plato is one of the most influential authors to have ever existed
- Plato was an aristocrat in body and mind
- Plato was the founder of “the Academy”, the first higher learning institution in the West
Plato was the student of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle
The Athenian philosopher was closely connected to two other highly influential ancient Greek philosophers. Plato was a student of the Athenian philosopher Socrates, whom we know mostly through Plato’s writings. Plato later taught many influential philosophers and leaders, including Aristotle, who is credited with the earliest study of logic.
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Plato is one of the most influential authors to have ever existed
Although his teacher, Socrates, did not leave any written heritage, Plato dedicated his life to writing. The philosopher did not view writing merely as a tool to organize and record his ideas, but also as a creative process that he really enjoyed. You might have heard of Plato’s dialogues; a collection of written conversations between different philosophers on various topics, including ethics, politics, physics, and metaphysics. Perhaps, the most well-known dialogue of Plato is “The Republic”, which we will cover in detail in a future video.
The philosopher is also the creator of some highly-influential allegories, such as the “Cave” (which we will also discuss in another video), and his writing style is often described as “poetic”. At the same time, Plato often expressed his disapproval of poets and poetry, because “it is based on falsehood”. Based on this idea, poetry is an “illusion” that drives us away from the “truth”.
Plato was an aristocrat in body and mind
Plato was born into an aristocratic Athenian family. His father was Ariston, a descendant of king Codrus of Athens, and his mother was Perictione, who descended from an oligarchic family. The philosopher considered Aristocracy the best form of governance. Aristocracy places the power of a city-state in the hands of a few. The main difference from monarchy is that, in monarchy, the rulers inherit their power, whereas, in aristocracy, the rulers are selected based on their skills. The aristocrats are «άριστοι» (aristoi – meaning excellent). Plato suggested that the ideal ruler is the philosopher, the lover of wisdom, and he even stated that philosophers, who usually despise power, should be forced to rule a city.
Plato was the founder of “the Academy”, the first higher learning institution in the West
The Platonic Academy was founded in 387 BC in Athens. Plato’s Academy was the first school of higher education in the West and it attracted countless great thinkers, such as Aristotle, Heraclides, and Eudoxus. Students would be taught mathematics, dialectics, natural science, among other sciences. You can visit the archaeological site of the Academy of Plato the next time you visit Athens.
Plato was the first most influential dreamer and idealist
Although Plato despised illusions, he is generally perceived as the “dreamer” among the ancient Greek philosophers, especially when compared to the more rational Aristotle. That is because classical idealism is closely associated with Plato, although the philosopher cannot be considered an idealist in the modern sense. In philosophy, idealism is focusing on the perception of reality from a metaphysical point of view. Plato is often considered as the “earliest representative of metaphysical objective idealism”.
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Marialena Perpiraki is a journalist and writer from Athens, Greece. In 2020, she founded Helinika as a cross-media platform.
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