previous next

The Life of Plato

Socrates's fate had a profound effect on his most brilliant follower, Plato1 (ca. 428 -348 B.C.), who even though an aristocrat nevertheless withdrew from political life after 399 B.C. The condemnation of Socrates2 had apparently convinced Plato that citizens in a democracy were incapable of rising above narrow self-interest to knowledge of any universal truth. In his works dealing with the organization of society, Plato bitterly rejected democracy as a justifiable system of government. Instead, he sketched what he saw as the philosophical basis for ideal political and social structures among human beings. His utopian vision had virtually no effect on the actual politics of his time, and his attempts to advise Dionysius II3 (ruled 367-344 B.C.), tyrant of Syracuse in Sicily, on how to rule as a true philosopher ended in utter failure. Otherwise we have almost no evidence for the events of Plato's life.

Political philosophy formed only one portion of Plato's interests, which ranged widely in astronomy, mathematics, and metaphysics (theoretical explanations for phenomena that cannot be understood through direct experience or scientific experiment). After Plato's death, his ideas attracted relatively little attention among philosophers for the next two centuries, until they were revived as important points for debate in the Roman era. Nevertheless, the sheer intellectual power of Plato's thought and the controversy it has engendered ever since his lifetime have won him fame as one of the world's greatest philosophers.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: