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Plato - a Philosopher and Educator in Ancient Greece

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Plato was a philosopher and educator in ancient Greece. He was one of the most important thinkers and writers in the history of Western culture. Plato was born in Athens into a family that was one of the oldest and most distinguished in the city. His father Ariston died when Plato was only a child. The name Plato was a nickname meaning broad shoulders. Plato's real name was Aristocles. Plato had aspirations of becoming a politician, however these hopes were destroyed when his friend Socrates was sentenced to death in 299 B.C. Extremely hurt Plato left Athens and traveled for several years. In 387 B.C., Plato returned to Athens and founded a school of philosophy and science that became known as the Academy. Topics such as astronomy, biological sciences, mathematics, and political science were taught there. His most distinguished pupil at the Academy was the Greek philosopher Aristotle.

Many of Plato's dialogues try to identify the nature or essence of some philosophically important notion by defining it. Plato was interested in how we can apply a single word or concept to many words or things. For example how can the word house be used for all the individual dwellings that are houses? Plato answered that various things can be called by the same name because they have something in common. He called this common factor the thing's form or idea. Plato insisted that the forms differ greatly from the ordinary things that we see around us. Ordinary things change but their forms do not. A particular triangle may be altered in size or shape but the form of a triangle can never change. Plato concluded that forms exist neither in space or time. They can be known not only by the intellect but also by the senses. Because of their stability and perfection, the forms have greater reality than ordinary objects observed by the senses. Thus true knowledge is knowledge of the forms.

In his most well known work, The Republic, Plato states that in his view, only in a good society can the good life be achieved. The Republic outlines Plato's idea of a perfect or utopian society. He also identifies the four cardinal virtues that are required for a good society. These cardinal virtues are temperance or self-control, courage, wisdom, and justice. Without these virtues he believed that the good life could not be obtained. In The Republic Plato also discusses two different forms of morality: the instrumental theory



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