Plato (427-347 BCE)
Although Plato was raised to be a politician and rule Athens, he gave
that up to study with Socrates and become a philosopher.
Socrates’s death, Plato wanted to memorialize his mentor and honor
his dedication to philosophical inquiry.
The early dialogues describe
the kinds of conversations Socrates really might have had.
own philosophy matured, the “Socrates” character of his dialogues
became less of a portrayal of the real “Socrates” and more an
advocate of Plato’s own thought.
Early – Socrates professes his ignorance; searches for an understanding of virtue and
morality but ultimately acknowledges the limits of human knowledge; no deep interest in
mathematics or metaphysics
human well-being doesn’t consist in wealth, power, or fame but in virtue
a good person can never be truly harmed by an evil one
possessing a virtue consists of having a deep philosophical or intellectual
understanding of a concept or subject matter
an unexamined life is not worth living
Middle and Late – “Socrates” gives definitions for things like justice, courage,
temperance, and wisdom; subject-matter of the dialogues is wide ranging: epistemology,
metaphysics, ethics, and political theory; fine tunes the Theory of the Forms in the face of
We can justify our belief that the soul is immortal by appealing to the Theory of the
According to this theory, there exists a realm of objects utterly different from the
world with which we are familiar.
The objects in this realm are changeless, revealed to
us through thought (not sensation), different from both body and soul, and eternal.
often uses the Greek terms
to designate these objects; these are translated
as “Form” and “Idea.”
Theory of the Forms
Throughout his writings, Plato continues to develop his Theory of the Forms.
, Plato says that there are Forms of Equality, Beauty, Goodness, Justice, and Piety
however he gives us no way of deciding what else should be on the list.
he tells us that whenever a term is applied to many different things, there is a Form
corresponding to the term.
He thinks that commonplace objects (like beds, tables, birds),
moral properties, and mathematical objects all have Forms.
makes the theory more precise: he doesn’t think there are Forms corresponding to terms
that are not supported by a justified classification of reality into groups.