Plato was a Greek philosopher and one of the most influential and creative thinkers in Western philosophy. Plato was born to an aristocratic family some time in 428 BC in Athens, Greece. His father, Ariston was said to be descended from the early kings of Athens. Perictione, his mother, was related to the 6th century BC lawmaker, Solon.
When Plato was a child his father died and his mother married Pyrilampes who was a collegue of the statesman Pericles.
As a young man, Plato had political ambitions, but he quickly abandoned them when he began to become dissatisfied with the leadership in Athens. Eventually, he became a student of Socrates, accepting his philosophy and style of teaching. Plato was present to see the death of Socrates at the hands of the democracy of Athens in 399 BC. Perhaps fearing for his own life, he left Athens temporarily and went to Italy.
In 387 BC Plato founded the Academy in Athens, the school is often said to be the first European university. It provided a comprehensive body of classes, including such subjects as astronomy, biology, mathematics, political theory and philosophy. Aristotle was the Academy's most well-known student.
Plato went to Sicily in 367 BC to instruct the new ruler of Syracuse, Dionysius the Younger, in how to rule philosophically. The experiment, however, failed. Plato returned to Syracuse in 361 BC but again his entanglement in Sicilian affairs failed. The last years of his life were spent writing and lecturing at the Academy. He died at the age of 80 in Athens in either 348 or 347 BC.
Plato's works were in dialogue form. Philosophical ideas were put forth, discussed, and argued within the context of a conversation or a debate involving two or more people. One of the earliest known collections of Plato's work includes 35 dialogues and 13 letters.
Plato's influence throughout the history of philosophy is so large that it is hard to measure. When he died, the philosopher, Speusippus (d. about 339 BC) became head of the Academy. The school stayed open until AD 529, when it was shut down by then Byzantine emperor Justinian I, who objected to what he thought were it's pagan teachings.During the Renaissance the primary focus of Platonic influence was the Florentine Academy founded in the 15th century. Members of the academy studied Plato in the original Greek. In England Platonism was brought back in the 17th century by a man named Ralph Cudworth and a few others who called themselves the Cambridge Platonists. Plato's influence has been extended into the 21st century.
During the Renaissance the primary focus of Platonic influence was the Florentine Academy founded in the 15th century. Members of the academy studied Plato in the original Greek. In England Platonism was brought back in the 17th century by a man named Ralph Cudworth and a few others who called themselves the Cambridge Platonists.
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