Plato was a Greek philosopher and mathematician who helped form the foundation of Western philosophy and founded the Academy in Athens.
Plato was born in 427 BC in Athens during the Classical Period. He came from a wealthy family and studied with the best Greek teachers.
Much of Plato's youth was influenced by the Peloponnesian War. He may have served in the Athenian army, which no doubt influenced his life and his philosophy. After Athens lost the Peloponnesian War to Sparta, Plato was offered the chance to serve as one of the "Thirty Tyrants" that ruled over Athens, but he declined.
Plato later became interested in academics and philosophy as a student of the famous philosopher Socrates, who held conversations with his students about theories of politics and life. Socrates’ teachings and learning style became the cornerstone of Plato's writings. Plato was also influenced by the mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras.
In 399 BCE, after Socrates was executed, Plato left Athens to travel around the Mediterranean region for the next twelve years. He visited Italy, Egypt, and North Africa and continued to study.
He began to write in an interesting style called a "dialogue." In the dialogue, Plato would introduce several characters who would discuss a topic by asking questions of each other. This form allowed Plato to explore several sides of an argument and to introduce new ideas. Many of Plato's dialogues feature Socrates as the main character. Most of what is known about Socrates' philosophies comes from Plato's dialogues. In The Apology dialogue, Socrates defends himself before being sentenced to death.
Plato's most famous writing is The Republic, where characters discuss the meaning of justice and how it relates to happiness. The main character, Socrates, discusses how being just or unjust can affect someone's life. They discuss various aspects of government and finally present the "philosopher-king" as the ideal ruler. Plato concludes that philosophers must become kings, or kings must become philosophers.
At age 40, Plato returned to Athens and founded a school called the Academy to teach mathematics, philosophy, biology, and astronomy. One of Plato's students was the famous scientist and philosopher Aristotle.
Plato’s legacy lives on in modern Western philosophy. His writings are still studied in universities.
Source: Plato Biography
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