Sat 21 Oct, 2006 06:08 pm
It would be hard for me to believe that someone studying philosophy has not heard of Plato. So I am going to make this introduction brief.
Plato was a Greek philosopher who lived from 427 - 347 BCE. Growing up, Plato had strong ties to Athenian citizens involved in politics. These ties along with belonging to a wealthy aristocratic family provided Plato with the chance to have a political career. For reasons unknown, Plato chose not to take this path.
Plato is well known for being a follower of Socrates. Socrates is another famous philosopher who lived in the 5th century BCE. Socrates does not have any written works because he believed philosophy could not be taught through the written word, and that dialectical discussion was the best path for learning/teaching philosophy. Socrates' philosophy is believed to be represented by Plato in some of his "early dialogues".
Plato chose to write in dialogues as opposed to writing treatises. The dialectical form allows the author to distance himself from the work, letting the reader decide for himself what the conclusions of the discussion should be. Plato believed it is not the answer that is most important, but the process. More is discovered in the process than by just finding out the answer.
If all of Plato's works are examined, one will find that he covers an immense amount of philosophy. Contemporary philosopher A.N. Whitehead quoted "The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato." A quick summary of the topics he covers include: aesthetics, rhetoric, epistemology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, language, law, and politics.
Plato's works are usually categorized as follows:
Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Meno, Gorgias, Ion, Laches, Lysis, Euthydemus, Symposium, Cratylus, Protagoras, Charmides, Shorter Hippias, Charmides
Republic, Phaedrus, Parmenides, Theatetus
Sophist, Statesman, Philebus, Timaeus, Critias, Laws
Disclaimer: If any information is incorrect in this summary, please send me a message.