Plato was a classical Greek philosopher and mathematician, influencing the realm of Western philosophy. He remained a diligent disciple of Socrates, and along with Socrates and his renowned student Aristotle, he found the first higher learning academy in Athens. Plato’s philosophy is heavily influenced by Socrates, Parmenides, Heraclitus and Pythagoras. It deals with the ideas of morality, observation, reality, love and sexuality.
Plato was so inspired by his teacher Socrates, that his early writings are accurate reports of his master’s words, conveyed to the reader in the form of dialogues. These early dialogues are presented as questions and answers, and each tackle a sole vital issue. His writing Euthyphro questions whether morally correct actions are approved divinely. In Apology, Plato puts forward Socrates’ version of how to lead a philosophical life, as presented by him to the jury of Athens. The Crito debates whether a citizen of a state is ever correct about disobeying the rules of the state.
By the time Plato presented his middle works, he developed a distinct thought process of his own, which is evident by the main character’s representation of Plato himself, as opposed to Socrates being the main character earlier. He interconnects politics, metaphysics, epistemology, morality, psychology and a myriad of issues to present an intricate philosophy of his own. The middle dialogues also include his famous work Republic in which he denounces various forms of arts, and says that arts and poetry merely replicates reality and creates overwhelming feelings. In Meno Plato discusses whether goodness can be taught, and that no one intends to act wrongly. The Phaedo lays down the principles of Plato’s famous Doctrine of the Forms, which claims that human soul is imperishable.
The later writings of Plato gave up the shape of dialogues. They examined in detail the Theory of Forms, knowledge and cosmology, and political discussion about a state’s rules and regulations in his works titled Parmenides, Theaetetus,Timaeus and Laws.
In many of Plato’s dialogues, Socrates suggested that the world perceived by us is not real, it is a mere deception created by our senses. The form of the real world can only be reached through reason. This real world of forms is unseen and unchangeable, while what we observe is constantly under change. This is Plato’s Theory of Forms.
He often discusses the father-son relationship in his philosophical works. He looked down upon those fathers who spent lavishly on tutoring their sons, as he believed that knowledge and goodness is a divine gift, which cannot be taught. It can only be polished.
Similarly, he presents Socrates’ idea of knowledge being a recollection of memories, not observation or studying. He stresses on the notion that knowledge cannot be gained through inspection alone, when one lacks deep insight. Plato also discusses at length his views on immortality and afterlife. He also compares phenomena such as knowledge and opinion, reality and observation.
The famous notion of ‘Platonic love’ is his idea that when lovers resort to physical pleasures, their love will not achieve higher form of divine beauty, which Plato calls the ‘Beauty Itself’. He often presents lovers as each other’s halves, and says that love alone is heavenly madness, a state where the lover can achieve the highest aspirations humanly possible. Keeping this view, Plato thought that people give up the true power of love by limiting themselves to mere physical beauty and its few pleasures.
The profound notions and questions put forward by him have dazzled readers of all ages, religions and places. Without a doubt, Plato has remained one of the most influential and widely-read thinkers throughout the history of philosophy.