Plato of Athens

By Linda Mihalic

The root of all greatness of mind and soul flourishes not in earth but in heavenly realms whence it is fed of supernal Light. Without that Light, no embodied soul can overcome the gravity of appetitive needs and rise to stand aloft, on the shoulders of the giants gone before him to see the spiritual truth of reality.

Plato understood this, for he stood on the shoulders of such great men as Pythagoras and of Socrates to see farther and more clearly than others of his time and of all time, and to comment and explicate the spiritual truths to which he became privy. Isaiah di Trani the Elder, a brilliant Jewish Talmudist of the 13th Century, wrote of Plato’s clear vision of reality:

“I applied to myself the parable of the philosophers. For I heard the following from the philosophers. The wisest of the philosophers asked: ‘We admit that our predecessors were wiser than we. At the same time we criticize their comments, often rejecting them and claiming that the truth rests with us. How is this possible?’ The wise philosopher responded: ‘Who sees further, a dwarf or a giant? Surely a giant for his eyes are situated at a higher level than those of the dwarf. But if the dwarf is placed on the shoulders of the giant who sees further? … So too we are dwarfs astride the shoulders of giants. We master their wisdom and move beyond it. Due to their wisdom we grow wise and are able to say all that we say, but not because we are greater than they.’”


“The safest general characterisation of the European philosophical tradition
is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” – Alfred North Whitehead


Plato is rightly known as the father of Idealism with his doctrine of Ideas, which some today call Forms. His ideas have always found favor among mystics, metaphysicians, and those philosophers who seek to know God through His First Principles. In the Ideas, you find the Ideals. Everything you can perceive is authored by God’s universal, absolute, or transcendent mind.

Plato’s enormous impact on later philosophy, education, and culture can be traced to three interrelated aspects of his philosophical life: his written philosophical dialogues, the teaching and writings of his student Aristotle, and the educational organization he began, i.e., “the Academy.” Plato founded the Academy in Athens in 387 BC, which lasted in various forms until the emperor Justinian closed it in 529 AD.


Life of Plato: Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, R. D. Hicks, Translator. Loeb Classical Library edition.
» Read it here »


Plato, the Philosopher: In Representative Men: Seven Lectures, Ralph Waldo Emerson examined the lives and achievements of certain great men of history, beginning with Plato of Athens.
» Read it here »


Plato: For further biographical information on Plato, we have drawn upon A. E. Taylor’s meticulously researched and insightful biography, Plato.
» Read it here »


Plato: The Academy
» Read it here »


The Platonic Academy of Athens: The World’s First University, by Nick Kampouris.
» Read it here »


Plato’s Dialogues: We include the Benjamin Jowett translations, and those of the Loeb Classical Library Edition, including R. G. Bury, Harold N. Fowler, W. R. M. Lamb, and Paul Shorey. These translations are variously based on the rescensions of John Burnet (Platonic Opera) C.F. Hermann, (Platonis Dialogi), Martin von Schanz (Platonis Opera quae feruntur omnia), the Codex Clarkianus, and the Codex Venetus.
» Read them here »


Plato’s Myths: The Soul’s Immortality, the Myth of the Afterlife, the Divine Judgment of Naked Souls, the Parable of the Ship, the Cave, the Myth of Er, the Soul’s Androgyne, Love’s Ascent to Beauty, and Prometheus and Epimetheus.
» Read them here »


Plato: The Man and His Work: A. E. Taylor, author of this scholarly exposition, considered Platonism to be the most original and influential of all philosophies.
» Read it here »


Evidence of Plato’s Effect on Western Thought: From the philosophers and religionists to the physicists and cosmologists, Plato’s philosphy has profoundly affected Western life and religion. The scholar may be conscious of this, but everyone is subject to its effect.
» Read it here »


Platonism and Its Influence: A. E. Taylor chronicled the astonishing and pervasive influence of Plato’s philosphy on Western life and religion.
» Read it here »


An Essay on The Platonic Ethics: Thomas Maguire, a classical scholar and metaphysician, was a thorough idealist in philosophy, whose chosen masters were Plato and Berkeley.
» Read it here »


An Essay on The Platonic Idea: Thomas Maguire, a classical scholar and metaphysician, was a thorough idealist in philosophy, whose chosen masters were Plato and Berkeley.
» Read it here »


The Unity of Plato’s Thought: Paul Shorey, translator of Plato’s Republic, Loeb Classical Library Edition, argues against the modern critics who use the statistical method to confirm, refute, or correct “alleged inconsistencies, contradictions, or developments in Platonic doctrine.” Shorey seeks to emend the resulting “misplaced emphasis, disregard of the context, and positive mistranslation.”
» Read it here »

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Plato of Athens
428–348 BC
Greek philosopher and the
Father of Idealism

Edna Lister


References

Di Trani, Isaiah. “Dwarfs on the Shoulders of Giants,” quoted by Shnayer Z. Leiman, in Tradition,, 27:3. The Rabbinical Council, 1993.

Editors. “Plato,” Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 2015. [Retrieved January 23, 2015.]

Kraut, Richard. “Plato,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Spring 2015, Edward N. Zalta, ed. [Retrieved September 23, 2017].

Laertius, Diogenes. “Plato” in Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers. Robert Drew Hicks, trans. London: Heinemann, 1926.

Laertius, Diogenes. “Plato” in Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, C. D. Yonge, trans. London: H.C. Bohn, 1853.

Meinwald, Constance C. “Plato”. Encyclopedia Britannica, May 22, 2020. Accessed 3 October 2021.

O’Connor, J.J. and E. F. Robertson. “Plato,” The MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St Andrews, Scotland, 1999. Retrieved April 29, 2015.

O’Connor, J.J. and E. F. Robertson. “Mathematical Quotations by Plato,” The MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St Andrews, Scotland, 1999. Retrieved February 19, 2015.

Taylor, Robert. The Diegesis: Being a Discovery of the Origin, Evidences, and Early History of Christianity. London: R. Carlile and J. Brooks, 1829.


Recommended Reading

Karderas, Nicholas, PhD. “The Greek Miracle: How Plato Can Save Your Life.” Psychology Today Online. Retrieved April 29, 2015.

Wolfe, Alexandra. “What Would Plato Say?” Rebecca Newberger Goldstein on Philosophy. Wall Street Journal. April 4, 2014; retrieved April 29, 2015.


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