In 428 B. C. Aristocles (later known as Plato) was born in Athens. He was born on the island of Aegina, which lies just twelve miles off shore from Athens in the Sardonic Gulf (Havelock 3). Aristocles was born into a great political family (Friedlander 14).
His father being the descendant of Corus, the last king of Athens, and his mother was descendant from the great Athenian law maker Solon (Friedlander 15). Like most adolescent children his ambitions were far from anything his parents had ever done. Aristocles wanted to be a wrestler. Aristocles attained the name "Plato" from his wrestling experiences (Havelock 4). Twice he carried the wrestling prize at the Isthmian games but seemingly never made it to the Olympics at Olympia. Plato then decided that he might want to be a poet (O'Conner).
He failed to go anywhere with this dream also. Having not won an Olympic metal or anything for his poetry Plato thought he was going to simply become a mere statesman. As a last fling he decided to take a go at philosophy (Havelock 4). For Plato this was love at first sight. Plato began his studies under his "master" also known as Socrates.
For nine years Socrates taught Plato through conversational methods also known as "dialectic" method (Friedlander 17). Plato spent all of this time learning about himself. Plato learned his weaknesses, strengths, qualifications, and so forth. Plato spent many years under the instruction of Socrates yet still had a yearning for politics (Havelock 6). After viewing the behavior of the Athenian Politicians and the way they acted in the prosecution of Socrates, Plato was disgusted and quickly lost the desire to become part of the political world. Plato's close relationship with Socrates caused the need for Plato to leave Athens.
Plato went on to Megara where he stayed with Euclid for three years (Havelock 10). The years directly after Plato had been separated from Socrates he spent most of his time doing works heavily influenced by Socrates. In fact three of Plato's earliest dialogues, (The Apology, Crito, and Euthyphron), were devoted entirely to the trial, prison days, and the ultimate death of Socrates (Friedlander 13). Plato traveled to many different philosophers that lived throughout the Greek colonies (O'Conner). One of which had a great impact on Plato's philosophy and beliefs. Pythagoras's theory that "numbers held the understanding to the universe" intrigued Plato (Friedlander 24).
Plato explained life in the form of an image. Plato explains that "most humans live as if in a dim cave. We are chained, he says, and facing a blank wall, with a fire at our backs. All we see are flickering shadows playing across the cave wall and this we take to be reality" (Friedlander 30). Only if we learn to turn away from the wall and the shadows, and escape from the cave, can we hope to see the true light of reality (O'Conner). Many criticize that this philosophy that Plato suggests is unrealistic.
It has been said that his idea of the world is just that, merely an idea instead of the world itself (Havelock 32). Later in Plato's life he became good friends with the powerful and well known "Dionysius." Dionysius gained very high ranks in the army and was a large figure in the turning of Syracuse into the most powerful Greek city. Dionysius was a very proud man who did not like to be questioned or proven wrong by any means (O'Conner). He and Plato began discussing philosophy. Plato found himself questioning a flaw in Dionysius's thinking. At this point Plato's life was said to be in danger! Dionysius sold Plato as a slave in Aegina.
(Havelock 27) Luckily Plato was bought for a mere twenty mina by his old friend Anniceris. Anniceris sent Plato back to Athens with enough money to set up a school. Plato bought land for his school in 386 B. C.
(Friedlander 32-35) Plato then opened his Academy, which it later became known as, gathering a group of followers with him. Many of which were women. This was not very commonly found. This Academy was recognizable as the first university (Friedlander 32-35). One of Plato's best works was "The Republic" in which he asks, "What is Justice?" In this work Plato discusses a wide variety of topics in society ranging from feminism, public and private mortality, to birth control. Plato attempts to find a just republic or a "Utopia" (Havelock 45).
In this Utopia children would be removed from their mothers at birth and educated all together until the age of twenty. At the age of twenty the insufficient children would be given menial tasks to do such as farmers. The superior students would go on to more education. The rest of the "failures" would be sent off to the army. This tactic would leave you with only the elite.
This "batch" would be destined to rule and live in complete equality of men and women. (Friedlander 82-117) Plato's views obviously were a recipe for disaster (Havelock 34). Plato soon heard that his old friend Dionysus had past away from Dion. Dion felt that this was the perfect opportunity for Plato to return to Sicily and take Dionysius's place and set up his "utopia." Plato soon found himself prisoner in Syracuse (O'Conner). Pythagorean from Toronto saved him and returned Plato back to Athens (Havelock 110). Dion was to carry out Plato's Republic.
He did not. At the young age of eighty-one Plato died and was buried in the Academy. The Academy was closed in 529 A. D. by the Emperor of Justinian (Havelock 123). Many of Plato's theories have grown with our society and many have since been diminished due to impossibility.
In my opinion Plato's ideas and philosophies are completely unrealistic and contradicting. His view on love really intrigued me. I don't like the idea of "platonic love." I think that it is ridiculous that he would think of such an idea to be so great. I can not comprehend having a marriage without romance or sexual desire. Plato to my understanding really had no feelings or value for emotions. There are many other works and ideas of Plato's' that I did not touch on in this paper.
I could probably proceed for pages and pages.