Plato: summary, who was it, works, ideas and phrases

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Plato he was one of the most important thinkers of the anthropological period of Greek philosophy. He founded his own metaphysical thought, relegating to the question of “being” and “essences” the principle and key to having any kind of knowledge about the world. Inspired by the theories of Parmenides about immobility, Plato elaborated a dualistic metaphysical theory, which divides the world into two categories: World of Ideas and of Forms and the sensible world.

The first, which must be written with a capital letter, would be the intellectual reality, true and accessed only through the rational capacity of the human being. In that World of Ideas, would be the essences of things, the concepts, the fixed and immutable Ideas that essentially describe each existing being or object. already the sensitive world it would be the reality we face in our basic daily life, accessed through our sensitive experience. This reality is illusory, misleading and inferior, leading the human being to error, caused by the appearances of the things in the world, which do not correspond to the essences.

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Aristocles, real name of Plato, was born in the city-state of Athens, today the capital of Greece, in the year of 428 a. a., and died in the year of 348 a. Ç. The name Plato was given to the thinker still in his youth because of his physical attributes. The corresponding Greek word, Platon, means broad shoulders, a hallmark of the philosopher.

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The philosopher came from a family influential in politics in a certain period in Greece, as his mother descended from the great Greek legislator and statesman. solon, one of the great reformers of Athenian politics of the sixth century BC. Ç. and considered one of the seven sages of ancient Greece. THE Plato's family he also had a stable financial condition, something that was not uncommon among ancient philosophers, since, in order to devote himself to leisure philosophically, a thinker should be freed from the shackles of work, which, for an ancient citizen, was something inferior, something destined for the slaves.

Plato participated in an Athenian military campaign around the years 404 and 409 BC. C., final years of Peloponnesian War. This means that the thinker lived, in his youth, the athenian democracy and, after the war, he went through the unscrupulous Tyranny of the 30s. During this period, considered by many Hellenistic historians the beginning of Greek decadence in the ancient world, Athens was dominated by Sparta and ruled by oligarchic tyrants, making the Athenian democratic model before the War of the Peloponnese.

At the age of 30, Plato met Socrates, thinker who was his master initiator in Philosophy, intellectual mentor and friend. Most of the writings left by Plato form the so-called socratic dialogues, which are narratives in which Socrates is the main character and spokesman for Plato's ideas. Due to this form of narrative writing, with a main character who really existed, historians of philosophy report some difficulty in to separate the theses that were really unpublished ideas of Plato from what was first thought by Socrates, but what is certain is that Socrates it brought to Plato a way of thinking that influenced him in the development of his main ideas, both ethical-political and metaphysical, epistemological and aesthetics.

Around the year 388 a. C., Plato acquired a land inside the public park Akademia, from Athens, which, according to professor Olga Pombo, was a bucolic and calm place where there were tombs and homage to great personalities of the ancient world, two temples, one dedicated to the god Apollo and another dedicated to the goddess Artemis, and large areas of natural vegetation and gardens, as well as a gym for sports, which was very important in the training of men Greeks. In this small batch, Plato founded his academy, a kind of school so that his disciples could continue their studies in Philosophy.

It can be said that the Plato's Academy had a lot of Socratic influence in the way of teaching, of passing on philosophical knowledge. Plato's choice of location was strategic, since, in addition to temples and the cult of heroes and gods, there were on site constant meetings of young people to discuss politics, music, play the flute and practice fights and exercises physicists.

Main ideas

Plato sought to found, under the influence of Parmenides, his dialectic. As an oral technique of philosophical dialogue, dialectics would consist in obtaining a new idea, a synthesis from two opposing ideas presented above: the thesis and the antithesis. Thus, the philosophical dialogue would become richer by resorting to a strategy of taking advantage of ideas.

→ Idealism

The notion of idealism can be considered as Plato's most influential for posterity and the most important within his work, because the philosopher created in the ideas and concepts of things the true essence and the true knowledge possible. According to Plato, all knowledge, all truth, all relationships and all beings would exist, truly and immutably, in their ideal form, which would be supreme and true.

What we know through our corporeal senses would only be illusions caused by our organs, therefore, they would be an inferior and misleading knowledge. The ideal knowledge would be, according to the Greek philosopher, in the World of Ideals, rational metaphysical stanza that could only be reached by our intellect. Idealism encompasses both metaphysical aspects of Plato's work and epistemological aspects.


Plato conceived a political theory based on his idealist theory. According to the philosopher, there are three types of character that shape people's souls:

  1. concupiscible character: type of soul in which the most animal desires and passions prevail. This more impulsive character would be located mainly in the abdominal region of people. In Plato's ideal political model, it would be a good attribute for artisans and workers in general, as they they could, in their autonomous working conditions, exercise their freedom without being subjected to major responsibilities.

  2. irascible character: in this type of soul, impulses of anger and anger, aggressiveness and strength prevail. These characteristics would be more present, according to Plato, in the heart and would be good attributes for a soldier.

  3. rational character: in this type of soul, there is the absolute predominance of reason. The bodily location of this feature would be in the head, and it would be the main feature of philosophers and thinkers. In Plato's ideal political model, it would be characteristic of rulers and legislators as well, because the capacity rational and the intellect would lead them to a fair way of governing that best served the interests of the whole City.

As a geometer, Plato identified and classified polyhedra with similar characteristics, which became known as Plato's solids.


The vast majority of Plato's works are dialogues in which Socrates is the main character. Their dialogues have a kind of central theme, but they do not end with that theme, being able to approach other similar subjects or not, unlike writing Aristotelian which systematically deals with specific themes.

According to Olga Pombo, “the collection of Plato's works comprises thirty-five dialogues and a set of thirteen letters. His dialogues can be considered within four distinct periods”. We highlight below the periods pointed out by Pombo as the four of the Platonic work and we list only the main works that comprise these periods:

1. Youth or Socratic dialogues (until 390 a. Ç.)

  • Apology of Socrates: one of the most read and written dialogues after the death of Socrates, narrates the trajectory of Plato's master in his last moments of life, when he was accused of insulting the gods and corruption of the youth of Athens. In this text, Plato narrates the trial, defense and condemnation of Socrates.

  • Laches, or of courage: the book brings a new conception of courage to the Greek citizen, which moves away from the traditional conception of heroes, such as Achilles and Ulysses, and takes on a more ethical appearance.

  • Charmids, or of wisdom: this dialogue also brings an ethical conception by announcing wisdom as a kind of moderation in everyday life.

2. So-called transition dialogues

  • Lesser Hippias: dialogue in which the question of lies, truth and character is discussed.

  • Greater Hippias: in this text, Plato exposes his aesthetic conceptions about the beautiful and the arts, which, in The Republic (book on policy that demonstrates a utopian model of the ideal city), will be rejected by the philosopher and removed from his ideal model. of city.

  • Gorgias: book that talks about rhetoric, taking as main interlocutors Socrates and the sophist Gorgias.

  • Protagoras: in this book, the figure of Protagoras, the main sophist of the Hellenic period, is exposed in a dialogue with Socrates, who denounces to the reader the sophistic farces to deceive people.

  • The Republic - book I: in this dialogue, which is concluded later, Plato begins to talk about his ideal model of city policy and management.

3. Maturity Dialogues (387 a. Ç. to 368 a. Ç.)

  • Phaedo: dialogue in which Plato exposes his conception of soul, reincarnation and issues in relation to the metaphysical constitution of man.

  • The banquet: in this book, Plato uses the figure of Socrates to talk about goodness and ideal love.

  • The Republic - Books II to X: here, the philosopher continues his considerations on politics, bringing the famous Allegory of the Cave, in book VII, and new considerations on ethics and aesthetics.

4. Old-age dialogues

  • Parmenides: dialogue on epistemology in which the philosopher talks about the knowledge of Forms and essences.

  • Theaetetus: dialogue about science and scientific knowledge.

  • the sophist: text in which Plato once again exposes his condemnation of sophistical art.

  • Timaeus: text in which Plato talks about nature and its constitution.

Relationship between Plato, Socrates and Aristotle

As has been said, Plato was a disciple of Socrates and a teacher of Aristotle. With his master, Plato maintained a good relationship until Socrates' death. Already with Aristotle, some intellectual and personal differences cooled the relationship between the two, which made Aristotle abandon Plato's Academy, when he died, and he founded, years later, his Liceu, which would follow the same lines as the Academy, but with some differences, mainly in character. intellectual.

the republic

The Republic is a writing by Plato that was probably produced around 380 BC. Ç. With a considerable size, the work was divided into ten books, all written in the form of a dialogue, in which the philosopher Socrates, Plato's intellectual master, occupies the place of main character.

In The Republic, Plato presents Socrates' search for a way of governing that suits everyone and, for that, it is necessary to clarify what Justice itself is. Ways of governing a city, the division of powers, and the types of character that should predominate among those in public office are presented. As an ideal form of government, The Republic can be considered the first recorded political utopia in the West.

In book VII of The Republic, Plato presents his very current and well-commented Cave allegory, in which Socrates would present to the interlocutors of the dialogue an allegorical story to explain the superiority of knowledge arising from the World of Ideas and reasoning.


"Cities will only achieve happiness if philosophers become kings or if kings become philosophers."

"Try to move the world, but start by moving yourself."

"Do not educate the children in the various subjects using force, but as if it were a game, so that you can also better observe the natural disposition of each one."

"Many hate tyranny just so they can establish their own."

"Good people don't need laws to force them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws."


  • Young aristocrat and from an influential family;

  • Dedicated to sports and politics;

  • He became a disciple of Socrates;

  • Wrote Apology of Socrates, text that narrates the trial, condemnation and death of his intellectual mentor;

  • He founded the Academy, a space for teaching and political and philosophical discussion for young Athenians;

  • He wrote The Republic, the first great Western political utopia;

  • He founded the foundations of Idealism, a philosophical doctrine that attributes to merely rational knowledge and to Ideas the centrality in the search for truth without the possibility of error.

by Francisco Porfirio
Philosophy teacher
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