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Plato

Throughout history there have been many philosophers that have made great impacts on the students for many years. One philosopher in particular that has made a tremendous impact on the youth of the world is a man named Plato. Plato is one of the world?s most famous writers, and is still being taught to this day. People ask why this man is so important and why he should be still studied today when he is something of the past; well I will help them see in my paper just why he is so important to this nation. This argument will be supported by three different categories; one a biography showing how important he was to ?man? and number two is about how something or someone during the time in which he lived impacted his writing. The third thing is a piece of literature called The Apology, which has been analyzed.

To start Plato was born in Athens, Greece, in 427 B.C. The eighty- year span of his life covered one of the most dramatic and commotional periods in Greek history. During his childhood, his homeland witnessed the last stages of the Peloponnesian War, a struggle for dominance between the city-state of Athens and it?s arch- rival, Sparta. Plato?s father, Ariston, and his mother, Perictone, both came from distinguished families, and as a member of the aristocracy, Plato was reared in the most favorable surroundings and enjoyed the best education available (Frank Magill, 1503). His Philosophy, which

stresses ethics and reason, is not a distinctly formulated system but a general representation of his thought, expressed in the form of dialogues which are praised for

their artistic craftsmanship and poetic character (Gale Research, p.1).

Plato was expected to go into politics, and in fact he went in the total opposite

direction. The closer he got to politics the more and more he wanted to

get away from them (Magill, 1503). One event in particular was to have a

lasting effect on him, and that was the trial, condemnation, and execution of Socrates in

399B.C. Socrates had been Plato?s teacher, and Plato had a lot of respect for him. It

was the event that turned him to philosophy (Magill, 1503). After his death, Plato

traveled at least twice to Italy and Sicily, where he had been invited by his friend

Dion to tutor Dion?s nephew Dionysius II, tryant of Syracuse (Gale Research, p.1). He

also resided for a time in the city of Megara, and he may also have traveled to Egypt and

Cyrene. It was during this time that he started to write (Magill, 1503). Some

writers say that Plato was trying to make Dionysius into a philosopher, but these

speculations are based on hypotheses built on hypotheses by generations of

scholars (Bernard).

Around 387 B. C., Plato established an Academy (named after the park it was

located in), a school for the pursuit of philosophical and scientific research as well as the

study of mathematics (Gale Research, p.1). The academy, located outside of Athens,

developed into one the best philosophical schools by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in

529 A. D. From there on, most of Plato?s life was probably dedicated to teaching and

running his school (Bernard).

All of his known works, including the Apology, thirty-four dialogues of varying

length, and thirteen epistles, all are extant. However, a number the dialogues, such as the

Alicibiades II, Hipparchus, Rivals, Theages, Clitophon, and Minos, and most of the

epistles, are thought to be myths because of the style and content (Gale Research, p.2).

Plato took many of his ideas about Rhetoric form his mentor, Socrates. Therefore, many

of his writing included Socrates as the main character presenting the point of view that

he wanted to convey. Both he and Socrates felt that rhetoric is most often used for selfish

reasons. This is shown through some of his works called Gorgias. Gorgias says that

rhetoric is ?the queen of all arts?(Johnson, p.1). Plato wrote many stories that were

in fact, rhetorical though he felt that rhetoric was immoral. They were mostly written

to persuade people of his opinion of the way the world was. People say he was using the

rhetoric to convince people of factual knowledge, so to speak (Johnson, p.1).

When Plato died, in 347 B. C., in Athens, he was justifiably esteemed as one of

the most learned men in the Greek world (Magill, 1505). He was succeeded at the

head of the Academy, not byAristotle, who, by then, had been for about twenty years

student and then teacher at the Academy, but by his nephew, Speusippus. The academy

kept functioning, under different guises, for centuries after Plato?s death (Bernard).

Throughout my research there wasn?t many inconsistent facts about my

Philosopher Plato. The only inconsistency was that some of the journalists were not sure

exactly when he was born or when he died. Plato was a highly respect philosopher,

known for his good literary skills because most philosophers didn?t excel in that

field.

During the time period in which Plato lived The New Renaissance, many historical events happened, but the biggest thing that impacted Plato?s writing was a man named Socrates. Socrates was Plato?s mentor; almost everything that Plato did was a direct influence from Socrates. Plato’s early writings show his respect for Socrates.

As a young man, Plato was influenced a lot by Socrates, who was about years older (Hooker, 1996). The most accurate of Plato?s writings on Socrates is probably The Apology. It is Plato?s account of Socrates? defense at his trial in 399 BC Interestingly, the word ?apology? comes from the Greek word for ?defense-speech? and does not mean what we would think of as an apology (Hooker, 1996). The Apology was probably written within a few years after the actual trial of Socrates and was intended to be read by those who admired Socrates. However, Plato?s most famous philosophical work is The Republic where he discusses the nature of justice, the theory of innate ideas, and the ideal state (Bennard, 1996).

The life of the Greek philosopher Socrates, marks such a critical point in Western thought that standard histories divide Greek philosophy into pre-Socratic and post-Socratic periods (Tennent, 1997). Socrates left no writings of his own, and his work has inspired almost as many different interpretations as there have been interpreters. He remains one of the most important and one of the most mysterious figures in Western philosophy (Moss, Wilson, 1997).

As a young man, Socrates became interested in the new scientific ideas that Anaxagoras and the latter’s associate Archelaus had introduced to Athens. Socrates seems to have been the leader of an Athenian research circle, which explains why the first appearance of Socrates in literature is as an evil, disbelieving scientist in The Clouds of Aristophanes (Tennent, 1997). Young Socrates also knew the Sophists and listened to their debates and ceremonial orations (Bernard, 1996)

Socrates is generally regarded as one of the wisest people of all time. Socrates himself left no writings, and most of our knowledge of him and his teachings comes from the dialogues of Plato (Hooker, 1996). Socrates is known for neglecting his own affairs, instead spending his time discussing justice, and piety wherever his fellow citizens gathered, seeking wisdom about right conduct so that he might guide the moral and intellectual improvement of Athens (Tennent, 1997). Using a method now known as the Socratic dialogue, or dialectic, he drew forth information from his students by pursuing a series of questions and examining their answers. Socrates integrity with the knowledge of one’s true self, holding that no one knowingly does wrong (Hooker.1996).

Socrates? beliefs can not be studied firsthand because Socrates did not keep any written record of his thoughts. Socrates wrote nothing because he felt that knowledge was a living, interactive thing (Hooker, 1996). We do know that Plato copied from Socrates the method of learning through dialogue. Socrates also influenced Plato?s thoughts on the relationship between ethics and politics. Socrates?s extraordinary impact on Plato is evident in even a casual examination of his student?s collected works. Socrates is the main character in most of Plato?s dialogues (Moss, Wilson, 1997,p.327).

In 399 BC Socrates was tried for corrupting the morals of Athenian youth and for having negative religious view, it is now believed that his arrest stemmed in particular from his influence on Alcibiades and Critias, who had betrayed Athens (Tenant, 1997). He was convicted, and resisting all efforts to save his life, willingly drank the cup of poison hemlock given him. Plato in The Apology, Crito, and Phaedo describes the trial and death of Socrates (Johnson, 1995).

Socrates affected Plato and his literature in various ways. He affected his political view on things, his train of thought, and his way of life. Meeting Socrates is the single most important event that happened to Plato. It affected him the most out of anything during his time period. Plato committed himself to tell the life of Socrates after his execution as a sign of gratitude in a way. Plato let others see how Socrates influenced his life and told the ways of one of the greatest minds known today in order to ?share the wealth.?

The Apology have been written by maybe Plato, Crito, or Pheado. People are still uncertain of who wrote this great story about the destruction of the great Socrates. Similar to other great deaths, Socrates willingly drank hemlock (poison) as a statement of his beliefs and to mock his accusers. Throughout the paper you will see how ironic the title of the book is, the confidence in which Socrates held above his elders. Also the ways in which Socrates searched for the truth, how he was prosecuted and sentenced to death.

The very title is not an apology at all. In fact, it is a total put down of Socrates? accusers. Socrates comments on many things that have been questions for people throughout time. His accusers have said his ideas on religion are negatively affecting the youth of Athens and they are afraid that they will lose their power within Athens. He said that death was either an after life of supreme happiness where people could meet their maker or go the other way and meet their own hell. Maybe they would just die and sleep forever. Around his 70?s, Socrates said he deserved this sleep and he knew he had been a reasonably good man and so if the other were true he would surely live a happy afterlife.

His security in this matter disturbed the elders of Athens, but not half as much as his way of thinking of oneself that he taught to his students. He told the youth of Athens to not take what was given to them as the truth; but rather to think for themselves and question everything. Never think that just because the elders are older, doesn?t mean that they are always telling the truth, or are right. The students questioning the authority of the Athenian leaders with their political and religious power led to the beginning of Socrates? trail. Athenian leaders realized the only way to stop this man was to kill him. This reveals that the elders of Athens are very small minded and are scared that he is actually right, and that their power will be taken away.

Socrates was always in search of the truth and all he was trying to teach his followers was to be in constant search of it. It could be said that these great men of Athens, which he sarcastically call, his leaders, were just afraid of their own futures and wanting to please their gods with this ?ungodly? man. They were trying to use him as a peacemaker so that they could live forever.

In the final death scene, Socrates continues to hold his ground and blocks all emotion from his execution. He believed emotions impair the truth because one could not see clearly through one?s tears. He asks the women to leave his death chamber so rational men could be the only ones to see his suffering. This certainly shows how the women were treated in Athens.

The man who brought the hemlock to Socrates was moved by the strength of Socrates strong to belief and asks him how he could go to death so willingly. He answered in a very sarcastic way saying that his accusers were right to execute the voice of reason because they were careful thinkers. With this said, the youth of Athens saw a man who was willing to die for his beliefs, and consequently without end had a stronger feeling of belief in him.

The death of an innocent man, Socrates, didn?t make him disappear, but did the complete opposite and made his story and beliefs last many life times to follow. There is no report of Socrates resurrection (or being brought back from the end); his famous student Plato took up his teacher?s cause and went on to spread his words throughout Athens. The works of Socrates lasted for a long time, as Plato?s student, Aristotle continued the work of Socrates and philosophy as Athens knew it wasn?t as simple as they thought it would be. They never thought that it would ever continue, they thought getting of Socrates would get rid of the inter philosophy, but they were wrong it grew stronger and stronger as the years passed.

The Apology was an apology to the people Athens for the system of government and religion. They were afraid of their leaders and when they didn?t follow their rules they were severely punished. His last speech was one of his most famous; it savaged a lot of his initial accusers, as the vote was different from when they started. The power of his speech even changed the minds of those who were at first excited to get rid of him.

It is sad that Socrates never wrote a single line. All we know of him has been passed down to us second hand from people like Plato. It is ironic that he wanted people to find or search for the truth, when he never actually wrote it down on paper. The information we know about him is only known because people like Plato teach and write about him and so on. They have to continued the teachings of Socrates and have made his ?myth? continue out for a very long period of time and hopefully we will continue on for many more.

Critics agree that his dialogues are literary masterpieces, yet the artistic aspect of

Plato?s work is far overshadowed by the scholastic regard for the intellectual power and

the pervasive influence of his thoughts (Gale Research, p.5&6). By telling his life tail, critiquing a piece of his work, and explaining how events/people played a part in his literature, it is obvious why Plato should still be taught throughout schools. Overall he is a remarkable writer and has left an everlasting mark in history. For centuries and centuries to come he will be learned about throughout all schools. A person like Plato will never be forgotten.


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