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Greek statesman Solon.

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Some scholars believe that Plato was named for his grandfather, Aristocles, following the tradition of the naming the eldest son after the grandfather. But there is no conclusive evidence of this, or that Plato was the eldest son in his family. Other historians claim that "Plato" was a nickname, referring to his broad physical build. This too is possible, although there is record that the name Plato was given to boys before Aristocles was born.

As with many young boys of his social class, Plato was probably taught by some of Athens' finest educators. The curriculum would have featured the doctrines of Cratylus and Pythagoras as well as Parmenides. These probably helped develop the foundation for Plato's study of metaphysics the study of nature and epistemology the study of knowledge. Plato's father died when he was young, and his mother remarried her uncle, Pyrilampes, a Greek politician and ambassador to Persia. Plato is believed to have had two full brothers, one sister and a half brother, though it is not certain where he falls in the birth order.

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Often, members of Plato's family appeared in his dialogues. Historians believe this is an indication of Plato's pride in his family lineage.


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As a young man, Plato experienced two major events that set his course in life. One was meeting the great Greek philosopher Socrates. Socrates's methods of dialogue and debate impressed Plato so much that he soon he became a close associate and dedicated his life to the question of virtue and the formation of a noble character.


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The other significant event was the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta, in which Plato served for a brief time between and B. The defeat of Athens ended its democracy, which the Spartans replaced with an oligarchy. Two of Plato's relatives, Charmides and Critias, were prominent figures in the new government, part of the notorious Thirty Tyrants whose brief rule severely reduced the rights of Athenian citizens. After the oligarchy was overthrown and democracy was restored, Plato briefly considered a career in politics, but the execution of Socrates in B.

After Socrates's death, Plato traveled for 12 years throughout the Mediterranean region, studying mathematics with the Pythagoreans in Italy, and geometry, geology, astronomy and religion in Egypt.

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During this time, or soon after, he began his extensive writing. There is some debate among scholars on the order of these writings, but most believe they fall into three distinct periods. The first, or early, period occurs during Plato's travels B.


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The Apology of Socrates seems to have been written shortly after Socrates's death. In these dialogues, Plato attempts to convey Socrates's philosophy and teachings. In the second, or middle, period, Plato writes in his own voice on the central ideals of justice, courage, wisdom and moderation of the individual and society. The Republic was written during this time with its exploration of just government ruled by philosopher kings.

In the third, or late, period, Socrates is relegated to a minor role and Plato takes a closer look at his own early metaphysical ideas. He explores the role of art, including dance, music, drama and architecture, as well as ethics and morality. In his writings on the Theory of Forms, Plato suggests that the world of ideas is the only constant and that the perceived world through our senses is deceptive and changeable.

Sometime around B. It is believed the school was located at an enclosed park named for a legendary Athenian hero. The Academy operated until C. Over its years of operation, the Academy's curriculum included astronomy, biology, mathematics, political theory and philosophy.

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Plato hoped the Academy would provide a place for future leaders to discover how to build a better government in the Greek city-states. In B. It states that all matter is basically composed of four primary elements — earth, air, fire and water. He also put forth the idea of opposite motive forces involved in building of the world — namely, love as the cause of union and strife as the cause of separation. He also went on to become the first person to give an evolutionary account on the development of species.

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Thales c. He was the first to try to explain natural phenomena without the inclusion of myths, by theories and hypothesis, ergo science. Aristotle points Thales as the first person to have investigated basic principles such as origination of matter. Thales is also said to be the founder of school of natural philosophy. Aristotle c. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. Aristotle studied a wide variety of subjects, including science, ethics, government, physics and politics, and wrote extensively on them.

Plato c. Plato wrote one of the first and most influential works on politics, The Republic, which described an ideal or Utopian society. Like his mentor Socrates, Plato was a critic of democracy. Socrates c. The most well-known ancient Greek Philosopher of all time, Socrates, was a master stonemason and social critic. He never wrote anything and most of his philosophical contributions come through his students, mainly Plato.

Socrates embarked a whole new perspective of achieving practical results through application of philosophy in our daily lives. Socrates became famous for encouraging people to critically question everything. Eventually, his beliefs and realistic approach in philosophy led to his end, as he was tried and convicted for criticizing religion and corrupting the youth.

Socrates then chose death by suicide over exile from his homeland of Athens. His legendary trial and death at the altar of the ancient Greek democratic system has changed the academic view of philosophy as a study of life itself. Epicurus c. Anaxagoras c. Share this.