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Born: C. 429 B.c., in either Athens or Aegina, Died: 347 e.c.

, probably in Athens


Major Works: Laches, Charmides, Ion, Protagoras, Euthyphro, Euthydemus, Apology, Crito, Gorgias, Meno, Symposium, Phaedo, Republic, Parmenides, Theaetetus, Phaedrus, Sophist, Laws, Timaeus, Statesman, Philebus Major Ideas: The goal of intellectual inquiry is to discover the eternal immutable forms or "ideas," which serve as the essence and ideal of all things; in this way a true philosopher seeks wisdom. These eternal truths, already in the mind, can be recalled by the immaterial and immortal intellect; they cannot be grasped by the bodily senses. Education consists in perfecting the whole person in order to achieve self-mastery and self-realization. Education has as its goal, as should all human acts, knowledge of the good, for ignorance of the good leads to evil. A perfect society is but the external reflection of a harmoniously integrated soul where appetite and desire are under the command of reason. Only the Philosopher who has achieved true knowledge is fit to rule; democracy, the rule of the majority, is usually rooted in mere opinions.

Plato in his writings, referred to collectively as the dialogues, sought to discover the unity within the diversity of experience. He wanted to abstract from the chaos and flux of the empirical world a cosmos where all is ordered, arranged, and organized. The highest good consists in contemplating this ideal realm. To be in contact with what is perfectly ordered is to bring to the self harmony and peace. Platonism is, in no small measure, an attempt to find this unity. Most of Plato is concerned with "the ascent of the soul to the intelligible realm" (Republic), the restless tendency to grasp the eternal so that the temporal may be understood. This is how Plato sought to fulfill the mandate found in the inscription on the wall of the Delphic sanctuary, Gnothi Seauton (Know thyself).


At the core of Plato's philosophical enterprise is the conviction derived from Socrates (c. 469-399 B.C.) that the point of intellectual inquiry is to search after the essence of things. Plato presents Socrates as actively engaged in this inquiry through dialogue with others. To find the stable and permanent behind the flux of human experience is Plato's attempt to find unity and purpose in this world. He would decisively influence subsequent thought in its attempts to deal with the complexities occasioned by the interplay of the invisible and the visible, spirit and matter. Plato was one of the most prolific authors of classical antiquity. His works have come to us in their entirety. Plato's dialogues may have been written to appeal to the educated at large and to interest them in philosophy. Plato was also one of the greatest literary artists of antiquity. In him, myth, metaphor, humor, irony, pathos, and a rich Greek vocabulary captivate the reader's attention as it is led to the most pressing issues of the mind and reality. The Dialogues The exact sequence and dating of the dialogues have been the object of intense scholarly scrutiny and debate. Some general consensus has been formed by situating certain dialogues in Plato's early manhood, in his midlife, or in his old age. The early dialogues offer a dramatic portrayal of Socrates as he seeks to articulate the fundamental ethical issues. These texts do not elaborate a sophisticated theory of Forms or Ideas. In this category we may place the Apology, the Crito, Laches, Charmides, Euthydemus, Euthyphro, Protagoras, and Gorgias. Second are the major Platonic dialogues, which present Plato's theory of Forms and the idea of knowledge as recollection. Here scholars situate the Meno, Phaedo, Symposium, Republic, and Phaedrus. Third, in an anticipation. of Aristotle (384-322 B.c.), Plato offers dialogues (Theaetetus, Parmenides, Sophist) that consider the ways in which the human mind organizes experience under such terms as likeness, beauty, difference, ugliness, being, negation, error, and definiti on. Finally, we have the last dialogues wherein Plato offers his mature views on ethics (Philebus), physics and cosmology (Timaeus), and society (Laws). Plato is the author of some twenty-five dialogues. His name is also attached to thirteen letters whose authenticity, however, with the exception of the Seventh Letter, is much debated. All of Plato's writings articulate the two great passions of his life: a faith in the supremacy and power of the mind, and a never-ending concern for human improvement. The Influence of Socrates In Plato, Socrates found his greatest disciple; in Socrates, Plato found the model, the ideal, and the spokesperson for philosophy. From Socrates, Plato learned that the goal of philosophy is to understand the general concept; from Socrates he also learned the use of the inductive method, from particular to universal. It was Socrates who was always asking about universals: What is justice? What is piety? What is self-control? What is courage? For Socrates, the great business of life was conversation. He sought out everyone, and seizing upon some trivial issue would pass easily and quickly to a discussion of the deepest problems of human life. This discourse became a pattern for what we call today the Socratic dialogue. To the end, Socrates maintained that he was but a humble searcher for truth, not


one filled with pride and arrogance. So it is ascribed to him the adage, "The unexamined life is not worth living." That is to say, a life without dialogue, without cross-examination, without conversation, a life where the intellect does not pursue truth is, for him, a life not worth living. In Plato's Apology, we hear Socrates preaching that every person must "care for his soul." With this focus, Socrates gives the conduct of life the central place in his thinking. The soul is that which is able to be foolish or wise, good or evil; the soul is the seat of personal intelligence and character. This is why Socrates saw his mission as tending to the soul and seeking to make it as good as possible. The Socratic focus is on introspection and selfrealization. Happiness does not depend so much on physical or external goods, but on knowing how to act rightly. Socrates is presented as most wise because he alone knows how much he does not know. Wisdom begins with the knowledge of one's ignorance; wisdom grows only with the knowledge of one's soul. The civilization of the soul is a fundamental duty of every human being. The essence of education is to enable one to reach his or her true aim in life. This is but another way of speaking of a knowledge of the good. Socrates, with his focus on the soul, became antiquity's great champion of the inner life. For Socrates, life is meaningful because it can be understood and ordered toward known goals. His attention was focused on the good. Thus, pleasures were examined with an eye as to whether or not they were good, for some pleasures can lead to harm. The good always benefits the person, and thus Socrates sought to ascertain the nature of the benefit to the self and to others. This implies that the real self is rational and moral: rational, for the person can distinguish what is good from what is merely pleasurable; moral, because when the good is known, it is also, according to Socrates, sought. Thus we have the famous Socratic dictum, "Virtue is knowledge." This orientation toward the good would leave a las ting impression on Plato. Later, Christianity would find echoes of Greece in the biblical question, "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul?" Gaining the soul is accomplished through the exercise of virtues or excellences, that is, appropriate powers developed for the particular parts of the soul. Thus piety and justice, courage and prudence, as well as beauty and health are all virflies that ought to be pursued; each in its way helps human nature to fulfill itself. In Socrates and Plato, Greek civilization celebrates the inner life where qualities of the spirit, happiness and virtue, become primary. The impact of this turning to the soul on later GrecoRoman and Christian thought would be decisive and overwhelming. Henceforth the human person would be seen not as a mere collection of environmental influences but, rather, as a unity that can be known and directed to deliberately shaped ends and goals. All questions regarding the good of this or that act imply the question, "What is the purpose of life?" Until this great question is answered, it is not possible to offer a standard of choice among competing goods. The key to much of the Socratic-Platonic enterprise lies in this effort to ground the objectivity of moral values. It was also through Socrates that self-control became a central conception in our moral thinking. In the age of the Sophists (teachers of the arts of persuasion), where much external


authority of law broke down, the ideal of self-mastery became most important. Plato learned from Socrates the value of the mastery of the spirit over the passions, the mastery of the intellect over animal impulse. The goal is not only self-control but a harmonious agreement within one's own soul of all the multiple impulses of the soul. This type of self-control implies freedom, a freedom that comes from the rule of reason over human desires. The loss of such freedom would leave one a slave to one's own passions. What becomes important then, in the eyes of Socrates, is that a person become a master of himself. This self-mastery is beautifully portrayed in Plato's Phaedo, where, freely accepting the laws of his own society even though the charges against him are false, Socrates accepts the sentence of death. Aristotle, Plato's famous student, tells us in his Metaphysics that Socrates occupied himself with ethical questions, neglecting the world of nature as a whole. He was concerned with universals in ethical matters, and thus he focused his thinking on definitions. That is why he spent so much effort attempting to find the full and essential characteristics of any matter under discussion by considering, indeed by testing, every definition by contradictory instances and by constantly bringing forth new cases and examples. Thus, for every true thinker, everything must be examined. Socrates taught Plato and the entire Western world that one ought not to take action grounded on mere belief without attempting to ascertain the basis for this belief through the use of critical intelligence. For Plato, Socrates preached self-mastery and the self-sufficiency of the moral character. It can be said that in no small measure Socrates embodied the Greek attempt to articulate the essence and the fullness of the human soul. Socrates set out to explore the moral cosmos within the human person. For Socrates and for Plato the essential question was, "What is the nature of the good that can be found within the self and within all things?" Plato's Theory of Knowledge Plato developed this Socratic legacy at a time when the Athenian city-state was in a period of decline. Athens had suffered humiliating military defeats and unsuccessful political leadership while many, like the Sophists, questioned the validity of any attempt to find permanent and abiding knowledge. Epistemology, discourse about the nature of knowledge, was of critical importance for Socrates's greatest student, for unless one can distinguish true from false knowledge, it is impossible to further the Socratic attention to values and the soul. Plato, in no small measure, sought to create social and political stability by grounding them on moral and spiritual absolutes. Plato was in dialogue with his age and with his predecessors, and some of his most important ideas resulted from attempts to solve the epistemological problems bequeathed to him by the great minds of the past. From Heraclitus (c. 500 B.C.), Plato took the view that the sensible world is in a state of constant flux and thus cannot be the object of stable and true knowledge. Plato stood with the Pythagoreans in his passion for mathematics as a way to glimpse the eternal truths, as well as in his view of the interrelationship of all parts of nature. Like the Pythagoreans he saw the way to salvation as the purification of the soul from the limitations of matter. The Pythagorean theory of reincarnation also exercised an influence on Plato (see Meno and Phaedrus).


The single greatest influence on Plato after Socrates was Parmenides (c 450 B.C.). Parmenides was the first to focus attention on the essential question of Greek metaphysics that is, What is the nature of real being? To answer this question, Parmenides focused his attention on the nature of change, development and growth. He concluded that there can be no change despite the evidence of our senses; our reason tells us that everything which is, is, and that which is not, is not. For Parmenides, then, there were only two basic categories of reality, being and nonbeing. In his reflections on Parmenides and Heraclitus, Plato interrelated the categories of permanence and impermanence unity and diversity--that which never changes and that which changes. All of this is referred to as the problem of the one and the many. Thus, what in the world of change is changeless? Or, put in other words what in the mutable is immutable? For Plato reason looked to the world of unchanging ideas. For him, the model was mathematics, which set before one's eyes a truth outside the empirical world. The Form (or Idea) of triangularity remains constant, although it may be manifested in this or that triangle. Being, for Plato, that is, all of reality has a dimension that is always changing like a flowing river; at the same time, being has a stable dimension, like the riverbed that supports the changing river. In the Theaetetus, Plato sets about refuting false theories regarding the nature of knowledge. Here, as in the Phaedo, he critiques the view of the Sophists,, who claimed that knowledge is only perception. He repudiates the, highly individualized view that what appears to an individual as true is, thus, true. If this were so, Plato argued, no man could be judged wiser than any other. If this were so--that each person measured his own wisdom--then how could the traveling teachers, the Sophists, claim to teach wisdom? For Plato, our senses do not give us the whole of reality. What is needed is rational reflection, judgment that corrects deceptive sense experiences (as in the case of a stick appearing to be bent in water although we know that it is not). Plato argued that the mind judges the similarity or lack of similarity between two sense experiences. The ability to judge something as more or less equal, or more or less beautiful, implies a basic standard of equality and of beauty. Thus what we see, hear, ta ste, feel, or smell is subject to constant change, while true knowledge for Plato is knowledge of what is stable and unchanging. To have true knowledge is to have an infallible knowledge of the real, and the real can be grasped only in a clear, universal definition. In a famous discussion in the Republic, Plato sets forth the simile of the line by which he divides all knowledge into the realm of opinion and the realm of true knowledge. Opinion relates to particulars (for example, a particular expression of justice), whereas knowledge relates to universals (as in knowing the essence of justice that is applicable in all cases, the norm of the particulars). For Plato, opinions can be shaken by criticism or by conflicting evidence, while true knowledge cannot. In the Republic, he seeks to illustrate his meaning by distinguishing four grades of cognition, each with its own class of objects. The lowest grade is that of mere guesswork, which has as its objects the images of dreams or the reflections in water. A higher state of cognition is that of belief, where one has learned to distinguish physical things from their mere shadows. Here a person has a conviction about the experience of the world as known through the senses. It is only when we move higher, to understanding, tha t we have knowledge--when we move, so to speak, from a particular horse to the essence, "horseness," that which makes all horses alike as horses but different


from human beings and other animals. There is, however, one more step needed to ascend to the supreme first principle. Each step in the ascent to knowledge moves to a higher level of abstraction, farther and farther from the particular and more and more toward the universal; from the shadow of a horse to a specific horse to horseness to the basic and fundamental principles characteristic of all biological life. For Plato, a universal concept is not subjective but, rather, an objective essence of things. These universals are objects of thought; horseness and triangularity are discovered, not created, by the thinking mind. Thus, the Form of the good is what makes all things good. The difficulty of locating these forms began with Plato's pupil Aristotle, who criticized the view that the Forms are separate from sense particulars, somewhere "out there" apart from things and the mind of any thinking subject. Aristotle severely criticized his teacher, for he could not understand how humanity or triangularity could be "things" that exist apart from and outside actual existing human persons or triangles. Perhaps Aristotle's difficulty stemmed from the fact that his paradigm of knowledge was often biology, while for Plato it was mathematics. Plato's own language tends to reinforce Aristotle's critique. In the Phaedo, to emphasize conceptual objectivity, Plato affirms that the Forms exist in a sphere apart from the sensible world; while in the later Timaeus, things are said to be "copies" of Ideas. This language of separation, however, cannot be forced into spatial language, for the Ideas cannot be in "some place"; they are incorporeal. To be situated in time and space is a state reserved onl y for bodies. According to the common interpretation of Plato, the Forms are other than sense particulars. They are what the mind knows as an object of thought, while that which is in the sensible world is an object only of sense experience. Again, in the Timaeus, Plato imaginatively portrays the Demiurge as shaping the physical universe on the model of the Ideas portrayed as objects set apart and independent of the creative molder of the physical world. Thus, time is the moving image of eternity. Turning to the Meno, one can find Plato's wellknown doctrine of recollection. The key issue centers on the question of how one knows that one knows or, in other words, how can anyone inquire about what he does not know, for it seems that he must have some knowledge about that about which he is inquiring to begin inquiry at all. This question occasions the famous scene in the Meno where a young uneducated slave in response to Socrates's questions is able to move from the sensible phenomena of the world to the Forms of abstract mathematics. Since for the Greeks knowledge is always knowledge of an object, it is assumed that the boy must have known the truths of mathematics in a previous existence. The soul, when it is in contact with the sensible world, becomes aware of what it already knows, its recollection of the essences of things, which it had seen from all of eternity. Here Socrates is pictured as an intellectual midwife who helps others realize explicitly what is already present in the depths of their being. Here the Greek mind is in a dynamic longing for completion; Plato refers to this in the Symposium as eros. Eros stands midway between ignorance and wisdom, between ugliness and beauty. It is that longing for perfection grounded in an awareness of imperfection; it is the thirst for immortality as it reaches beyond mortality Eros is presented as a dynamic spirit


in the Symposium, one who closes the gap between the earthly and the celestial, that which binds together the whole of the universe. Here is the driving power that unites lover with beloved; here is the craving of philosophers to achieve wisdom. A philosopher is (literally) one who loves wisdom--that is to say, one who is absorbed in a constant yearning and striving for completion. Thus eros is all human striving to attain the good; eros is the force that carries the lover from lower to higher; eros is the dynamic thrust of the soul like an arrow shot in the air, for the target of all inquiry is the realm of Ideas. All this is illustrated most powerfully in the beginning of book 7 of the Republic, the famous "Myth of the Cave," where chained prisoners think reality consists of the passing shadows they see cast onto the wall by a fire that blazes behind them. One of them finally escapes the world of darkness and shadows and moves out of the cave and sees with perfect clarity under the light of the sun. For Plato, this is akin to the journey from ignorance to knowledge, from the world of the senses to the world of the Forms, from passing shadows caught up in the flux of things to the permanent truths known only by the intellect. It is only in the light of the intellect that reality can be seen for what it is, and he who escapes from the cave returns to help those who live in darkness. For Plato the Idea of the good is, like the sun, the source of light by which the eye of the mind sees everyihing; it is what the intellect seeks to grasp in all of its inquiry. Put another way, to recognize the good as the supreme source from which all Ideas derive their being is but another way to say that all things form an organic unity wherein all truths are connected one to another, a cosmos rather than chaos. Plato's entire discussion is grounded in the claim that there are degrees of reality discoverable by the mind. For Plato, the goal of philosophy is the ultimate integration of all truths to find the unity and purpose of all human life. Political and Social Thought The social and political program set forth in the Republic is nothing but the application of this theory of Forms to the problem of determining the ideal state. The unity and interrelationship of all sensible things stems from the unity and interrelationship of all Forms; here the many conform to the eternal law. Plato always showed a keen interest in the interrelationship among political, social, and philosophical issues. His two longest works, the Republic and the Laws, are devoted to this topic. Like other Greeks of his day, Plato saw the political life as an essential part of human existence, and not to participate in the society of his own time would have been to deny himself an essential dimension of human fulfillment. Plato writing late in his life, in his midseventies, tells us in his Seventh Letter that he had hoped when he was young to enter into a life of public service but the trial and death of Socrates, who was falsely accused of impiety, exemplified the rampant injustice that was characteristic of the society of his own day. Plato set about to build his life on a different foundation from that which he saw around him, a situation that he considered one of complete disintegration and lack of attention to the just and the virtuous. Plato, in following Socrates, sought to understand the meaning of virtue and the meaning of justice and to ground society on that knowledge. In the fate of Socrates, Plato saw the disintegration of Athens. If there were any hope for Athens, indeed for any society at all, it was imperative that it he grounded on the unchanging


and eternal values of truth, goodness, and justice. This idea comes to full flower in the Republic, Plato's description for an ideal society. For Plato, political activity is but an external expression of the various activities of the human soul. So the question "What is justice?" leads Plato to discourse on the various parts of the soul. For him the problem of the soul, its parts and functions, is fundamental for all questions of the state. Thus, education of the soul, discovering its dynamics and cultivating it, is of the greatest importance. Indeed, Plato often pictures Socrates as seeking to move the art of politics from the dynamic of self-serving cravings for power to the proper shaping of the soul. With a focus on the issue of justice, Plato rejected the claim that justice consists in mere adherence to the laws, for justice is based on the inner nature of the human spirit; nor can justice be the triumph of the stronger over the weaker. A just state, Plato argues, is achieved in a situation in which everyone does one's own job, where each part functions properly with an eye to the good of the whole. In a just society, the rulers, the military, the working-class persons, all do what they ought to do. In a just society, the rulers are wise, the soldiers are brave, and the producers of material goods exercise self-control and are not overwhelmed by their desires for gain. The key to the Republic is the dynamic nature of the soul, which has the three aspects of reason, spirit, and desire (corresponding to the rulers, the soldiers, and the workers in the state). The Republic is thus a work about the molding of the human soul where proper order is grounded in the rule of reason, the obedience of desire to rational ends. The tripartite nature of the soul in the Republic, a theme probably taken over by Plato from the Pythagoreans, saw the human person as having a rational part, a spirited part, and an appetitive part. These three aspects of ourselves ought to work in harmony under the rule of reason. So in the Phaedrus Plato offers the image of the rational part as that of a charioteer, while the spirited and the appetitive parts are like two horses that remain under the rule of reason. We read in the Republic: Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, ... cities will never have rest from their evils,--no, nor the human race, as I believe,--and then only will this our state have a possibility of life and behold the light of day. The theme of the Republic, then, is that philosophy alone offers true power; it alone is the way to genuine knowledge. The philosopher knows the Forms, the ideal standards by which all ought to mold their lives. The philosopher is not caught up like others in the flow of opinions. Thus for Plato the great issue is to determine who shall set the standards. He had little confidence in the majority acting together, as in democracy, for the majority often falls into the hands of the few, who use their persuasive powers to manipulate the mobs. Thus, the ultimate problem for all states is to understand the right standard: It is the problem of true knowledge. The philosopher alone is fit to rule. The foundation of the whole republic rests on knowledge of the true standards of life, for only the navigator who knows the art of navigation is capable of guiding the ship of state.


This is the idea at the heart of all of Plato's suggestions regarding education. One way in which the soul is educated is through music--sounds, rhythms, and the spoken word. What is taught to children by way of stories has a profound impact on the child's soul. Children should be offered only what is edifying; they are to be nourished by what is good, not evil. Plato thus offers in the Republic a critique of some Greek poetry that, in his view, failed to live up to a high moral standard. Behind this is Plato's belief that if one imitates the heroes and the gods of the Greek poetic tradition, this continuous imitation cannot help but influence for the better the character of the imitator. Thus, present only what is good and noble. Education is a lifelong process whereby one becomes more and more the end toward which one is striving. Just as the body needs exercise, so the soul needs nourishment--good literature, beautiful music, and above all, philosophical truth. Platonism Plato is regarded as one of the most comprehensive philosophers of antiquity. His mind gave full attention to the complexities of being as expressed in the interplay of permanence and change, unity and diversity, spirit and matter. In this interplay he offered a hierarchical universe. Such a universe is well described by the poet Shelley (1792-1822) in his celebrated Adonais: The One remains, the many change and pass; Heaven's light forever shines, Earth's shadows fly; Life, like a dome of many-colored glass, Stains the white radiance of Eternity, Until Death tramples it to fragments. Elsewhere, in art, the Renaissance painter Raphael (1483-1520) would try to capture Platonism in his School of Athens with a single gesture by depicting the Athenian philosopher with a raised arm pointing upward. Throughout the history of Western thought, Platonism was understood to be that dynamic orientation of the intellect that goes beyond what is limited and finite in its longing for the realm of the eternal. Plato thus stands as the great enemy of all those forms of materialism that see the most basic stuff of reality as emerging from and returning to matter. This is why Hegel (1770-1831) would write in the second volume of his History of Philosophy: The peculiarity of the Platonic philosophy is precisely this direction toward the supersensuous world,--it seeks the elevation of consciousness into the realm of spirit. This attention to the unseen, as Saint Paul put it in 2 Corinthians 4:18, would prove very appealing to later authors who looked to Plato as the noble guide out of the cave. In the first two centuries of the Common Era, an interest in the value of Plato can be seen in Judaism (Philo) and Christianity (Clement of Alexandria and Origen). The Enneads of Plotinus (c.


205-270) would present a very influential select reading of Plato which has become known as Neoplatonism. This tradition is characterized by a mysticism that seeks in acts of abstraction and contemplation to move from the particular to the universal and thus discover the ultimate One that lies behind all appearances. The tension between the biblical tradition with its respect for the created order and this Neoplatonism would find expression in Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430) and, through him, to the entire Middle Ages. Augustine would follow the tradition, already common in his day, to situate Plato's intelligible Forms as the fundamental characte ristic of the mind of God. It is ironic that Platonism would become so identified with the flight of the soul toward the eternal. Plato, in his attempt to overcome Sophistic relativism, sought to distinguish real from apparent goods in this world. Throughout history, there have been many positive and negative evaluations of Plato's ideal society. The fundamental basis of the Republic, however, remains vital. That is, all laws and social arrangements must be grounded in real goods. A society needs spiritual values that produce unity and happiness. Thus, philosophy is also to be a legislative science. Plato never forgot the unjust death of Socrates. The Socratic legacy of "care for the soul," as preserved and developed by Plato, would leave a profound impression on history. The soul as the seat of the moral personality capable of self-direction toward the good would be fundamental to all subsequent discussions of conversion and reform. Here is the Hellenic tradition that the quality of human life comes down to what one thinks and what o ne does. Life carries with it the obligation to leave the cave as well as the duty to participate harmoniously in communal life. This Plato sought to do in a lifetime of service to his students and to society as founder of one of the earliest Greek universities, the Academy. The dialogues are not only masterpieces of philosophy; they are also masterpieces of literature. And the hero is not only Plato; it is also Socrates. The genius of Plato led him to use the figure of Socrates as the concrete image of the Form of the philosopher: Socrates-the persistent questioner, the tireless critic of the pretenders to wisdom, the ironic commentator on human follies--becomes the dynamic exemplar of the philosopher as the relentless examiner of ideas. Furthermore, Socrates emerges as more than a brilliant dialectician: He is a moral hero as well. In Plato's Apology, Socrates, in defending himself against charges of impiety and of corrupting the youth of Athens, describes himself as a "gadfly," stinging the great steed of the state to life, unmasking the pretenders to wisdom by his tactics in dialogue with them. But the image that emerges is not simply that of a skillful philosopher; it is also the image of a person dedicated to the value of inquiry, the examination of values, and the commit ment to the good. Socrates could have escaped from Athens--his friends urged him to do so--but as one who regarded a society of law and obedience as necessary to the good, Socrates could not have justified escaping from its judgment. Socrates is the moral hero of the dialogues because he not only sought the ideal; he exemplified it. Accordingly, there is no substitute for reading the dialogues themselves. Since the philosophical discussions to be found there are in dialogue form, they are dramatically alive. Philosophy is seen to be an activity of inquiry, a matter of framing ideas and then challenging them, a persistent and unending effort to achieve clarity, order, and--when all goes well-wisdom. In the dialogues, the issues are alive because they are propounded and explored by

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living persons, of various types but always recognizably human; the problems and the answers framed in the course of inquiry matter to the reader because they are recognized as being at the very heart of the human condition. Further Reading Crombie, I. M. Plato, The Midwife's Apprentice. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1965. An easy-to-read short introduction. Field, G. C. The Philosophy of Plato. London: Oxford University Press, 1949. Summary of Plato's thoughts around key themes. Friedlander, P. Plato. Translated by H. Meyerhoff. 3 vols. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970. This is a very important survey of the development of Plato's thought. Guthrie, W. K. C. A History of Greek Philosophy. Vols. 4 and 5. London: Cambridge University Press, 1978. This is the standard work in the field with excellent bibliographies. Jordan, N. The Wisdom of Plato: An Attempt at an Outline. 2 vols. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1981. Another helpful and substantial summary. Navia, L. E., and Katz, E. Socrates: An Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland, 1988. A bibliographic survey of scholarship on Socrates. Ritter, C. Bibliographies on Plato, New York: Garland, 1980. A bibliographic survey of scholarship on Plato. Taylor, A. E. Plato: The Man and His Work. New York: Routledge, Chapman and Hall, 1960. This famous work discusses the major themes of each dialogue and is a great help in alerting the reader of Plato to the key philosophical moves throughout the text. Vlastos, Gregory, ed. Plato: Metaphysics and Epistemology, vol. 1, and Plato: Ethics, Politics, Philosophy of Art and Religion, vol. 2. South Bend, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1978. These two volumes are collections of critical essays on various aspects of Platonic thought. _______________ This article is by Lawrence F. Hundersmarck, and is Great Thinkers of the Western World, Annual 1999 p21. COPYRIGHT 1999 HarperCollins Publishers.

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