Last modified on 19 May 2011, at 23:05

Plato

Plato-raphael.jpg

This is an introduction to the works of Plato. Plato is regarded by many to be one of the West’s greatest ancient philosophers. The student of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle, he wrote many books in his life time and here you will find a brief summary of his works. To find the actual books themselves, look at our sister project Wikisource.

Plato was born into an Athenian aristocratic family around 427/428 BC. His father Ariston was said to be an ancestor of the last king of Athens, Crodus and his mother Perictione was a relation of the Greek politician Solon. There is not much external information about Plato's early life and most of what we know has come from his own writings. His father died when Plato was young and his mother was remarried to her uncle Pyrilampes. It is very likely that Plato knew Socrates from early childhood. Perictione's cousin Critias and her brother Charmides are known to have been friends with Socrates and they themselves were part of the oligarchic leadership of 404 BC. These connections should have led to a political career for Plato but at some stage he made a decision not to enter political life. The oligarchic leadership collapsed and democracy was restored and considering that Plato's family members had been part of the oligarchic terror must have meant that his position in Athenian society was under scrutiny. The condemning to death of Socrates by the democracy seems to have been the final political act of the state that forced Plato into exile at Megara. Plato is known to have taken refuge with Eucleides, founder of the Megarian school of philosophy and it is stated by later historians that during this period in his life he travelled extensively through Greece, Italy and Egypt. Whether these journeys took place is disputed but it is known that Plato did travel to Sicily where he met Dion, brother-in-law of the ruler of Syracuse, Dionysius I.

A note on authorship

The ordering of the dialogues is based roughly on the standard division into tetralogies. Authorship in many cases is uncertain, as we only have Plato's works as handed down through many generations of translations, forgeries, etc. Please consult the following legend.

* It is generally agreed by scholars that Plato is not the author of this work.
** It is not generally agreed by scholars whether Plato is the author of this work.
*** Consult chapter on this individual work for notes on authorship.

Works of PlatoEdit

SourcesEdit

  • Plato: Complete Works, ed. Cooper, John M., 1997

All of the texts of Plato's Dialogues are available at the MIT Internet Classics Archive.