Who was Plato?

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kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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One of the most respected philosophers in history, and a noteworthy figure of his time in ancient Greece, Plato's writings continue to be studied thousands of years after his death.  His relationship to and defense of Socrates, his one-time mentor, provided the basis for one of the most eloquent statements ever produced.  Born in 428 or 427 B.C., Plato's writings, particularly his "dialogues," a series of fictitious conversations, often involving Socrates, between the brilliant philosopher and another individual, provide the basis for the study of philosophy today, and are routinely adapted for academic and intellectually-stimulating entertainment in the modern era.  More a series of interviews than discussions, the "dialogues" were Plato's way of helping the reader understand the development of rational thought.  

Ancient Greece was characterized by impressive intellectual debate and unceasing conflict.  A harbinger of the phenomenon best articulated the the late David Halberstam in his use of the title The Best and the Brightest, Plato's musings reflect the incompatability of extraordinarily intelligent men making extraordinarily bad decisions.  His observation, for exampe, that "we can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light," is astonishingly prescient when considered in a contemporary context in which well-educated and presumably smart leaders fall prey to common psychological phenomena that unfailingly lead to disaster, such as the refusal to believe information that contradicts preexisting beliefs.

Similarly, Plato's suggestion that "the price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men" is a warning, seldom heeded, against failures to remain informed and engaged in public affairs.  The Founding Fathers of the United States of America were heavily influenced by the writings of Plato, and Thomas Jefferson would pay his respects to the ancient philosopher when noting that "every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone.  The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories.  And to render them safe, their minds must be improved to a certain degree."  Jefferson understood, as did Plato many years earlier, that democratic government could not succeed absent an informed citizenry.  

Plato died in 347 B.C.  

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parama9000's profile pic

parama9000 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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Plato was a classic Greek philosopher and a mathematician who was taught by Socrates and he taught Aristotle. He studied music and poetry in his youth and is considered one of the most important philosophers to have existed.

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Yojana_Thapa | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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Plato was a classical greek philosopher. He was a also a mathematician. His teacher was socrates and his student was Aristotle. He was founder of an Academy in Athens, the first institute which gave higher education to students. Plato was known best for his writings.Plato's most influential work, The Republic, is also a part of his middle dialogues. When he was young he studied music and poetry. Overall, Plato is considered the most important philosopher that ever lived.

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