Plato and Socrates
Out of Plato come all things still written
and debated by men of thought—
Plato is philosophy and philosophy is Plato.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Plato; or, The Philosopher
One of the most influential philosophers of all time was Plato, born in 428 BC. During his eighty year lifetime he wrote a series of dialogues that explore the nature of man and society. His work had a special emphasis on the conditions necessary for leading a truly happy life, a life worth living in every sense of the word.
Philosophy is alive and dramatic in Plato’s dialogues. The critical issues we face today are presented with such enthusiasm and intelligence that they have captivated readers for over 2,500 years. The Republic, The Apology, Phaedo and Gorgias are among his most famous works.
One of Plato’s most enduring legacies was the Academy he founded. Its aim was twofold-- conversion of the soul to Truth, and use of knowledge in service of humanity. The Academy was the first ongoing institution dedicated to the study of science through original research and the pursuit of truth for its own sake. The Academy was the direct precursor of the modern university. It lasted for close to 1000 years.
I am happy to be proven wrong, because
it removes ignorance from my soul.
- Socrates in Plato’s Gorgias
Plato’s teacher, and the central character in most of his dialogues, was Socrates. The Delphic oracle proclaimed no one was wiser than Socrates and his remarkable life was dedicated to putting truth first, regardless of the consequences.
Recognizing that his fellow Athenians were caught up in material concerns and ignoring the needs of their souls, Socrates spent his life trying to dispel their folly through the force of philosophical inquiry. He was especially adept in using the dialectical method of question and answer to discover the truth.
At the age of seventy Socrates was put on trial, charged with corrupting the youth and not believing in the gods of the state. By a close vote he was convicted and then sentenced to death by hemlock poisoning.