We explain who Plato was and what his stages of thought were. In addition, his link with Socrates and main contributions.
Who was Plato?
Plato was a Greek philosopher born in Athens who lived between 427 and 347 BC. C. and his real name was Aristocles . Throughout his life he showed interest in politics and considered that this discipline should be based on philosophy as the basis of its foundation.
Among the most outstanding contributions of Plato, the Theory of ideas stands out (it consisted of the differentiation between the world that is perceived through the senses and what is known through reason), which was represented in the allegory of the Myth of the cave and the tripartite theory in which he recognized the immortal soul divided into three parts within a mortal body.
Plato’s philosophy was recognized as one of the pioneer ways of thinking in recognizing the matter-soul duality , which considered the soul part of the world of ideas (since it could not be seen) and the body as a material prison for the soul.
In addition, he raised concepts such as immortality, learning in the development of the human being and knowledge through reason as the only way to access the truth.
Stages of Plato’s thought
In the period of maturity Plato reached his most outstanding imprint as a philosopher.
Plato’s philosophical work through the written dialogues is divided into four periods:
- Socratic period (393 – 389 BC). Plato spread some of his theses based on the knowledge of his teacher Socrates (considered one of the greatest in universal philosophy who held that the objective of the discipline was to teach virtue) and addressed concepts such as lies, piety and friendship. . Some of his published works during this period were: Apology to Socrates, Crito or Duty, Ion or On Poetry, Lysis or On Friendship, Charmides or On Wisdom , and Protagoras or The Sophists .
- Transition period (389 – 385 BC). Plato founded the Academy that was key to deepen and develop sciences such as mathematics and astronomy. He approached theories based on the teachings of Socrates and Pythagoras , and developed his own concepts about the immortality of the soul, virtue and language . Some of his works published during this period were: Hippias elder or What is beautiful?, Gorgias or On rhetoric, Menéxenes or The funeral oration and Meno or On virtue .
- Maturity period (385 – 361 BC). It was the most outstanding stage of Plato in which he developed: forceful arguments about the immortality of the soul, the Theory of reminiscence (which affirmed the existence of certain innate knowledge in the human being), the Theory of ascending dialectics (which It consisted of the improvement of the maieutics of Socrates and, in addition, it contemplated the cause-effect relationship of what was observed), the concept of love (which was opposed to “Platonic love”) and political philosophy (which was opposed to the religious State that sentenced Socrates to death. Some of his works published during this period were: The Republic, Phaedrus or of Beauty, Phaedrus or of the Soul , and The Banquet or of Love .
- Old age period (361 – 347 BC). Plato made an exhaustive review of the Theory of Ideas that managed to revolutionize the foundations of thought and that postulated a duality or dissociation of reality between the sensible world, which refers to what the senses perceive, and the intelligible world, which refers to what can be understood by the intellect. In addition, he explored concepts related to nature and medicine. Some of his works published during this period were: Parmenides or On Ideas, Theaetetus or On Science, Sophist or On Being and The Politician or On Sovereignty .
Was Socrates really Plato?
There is a misconception that Socrates and Plato were the same person, but this is not the case. The confusion arose because several of Socrates’ dialogues were replicated on paper by his disciples, including Plato.
Among the most important works of Plato stand out:
- The Republic (370 BC) . It was one of Plato’s most influential works that consisted of a reflection on the concept of justice and how it is expressed in the human being, thus encompassing the idea of the ideal organization of a city-state.
- The Phaedrus (375 BC). It was a work that was of great influence for psychology and that raised dialogues about falling in love, sex and the concept of eroticism. In addition, he developed themes regarding nature, death, the destiny of souls and beauty.
- The Timaeus (360 BC). It was one of the last written dialogues of Plato and a work of great influence for later philosophical ideas, because it exposed complex issues around cosmology and physics, such as the formation of the universe and living beings .
Plato’s Cave Myth
The Myth of the cave exemplifies how the mechanism of access to knowledge works.
The Myth of the Cave is an allegory, that is, a symbolic literary representation and not a real anecdote. It tells the story of some prisoners who were born chained inside a cave (which they never saw outside of it) and who could only see the back wall on which shadows were projected. Since the prisoners had not met other real people, they believed that the shadows were real human figures.
One day, one of the prisoners escaped and was able to see the world outside the cave and understood what those images reflected on the wall really were: they were the shadow of real figures that were located behind the prisoners and that is why they they couldn’t see them.
The prisoner returned to the cave to alert the rest of the prisoners about what he had just discovered, but they did not believe him because they were convinced by what they saw with their own eyes and what they knew.
This allegory that Plato created reflects what happened to himself regarding knowledge. Plato held that humans do not know the truth of things, however, they can access it through reason and the ability to think.
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