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By Plato / Oxford University Press / 1892
Philosopher and mathematician A.N. Whitehead once claimed that “the safest general characterization of European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” It is difficult to disagree with him. Plato wrote seminal works on ethics, political theory, morality, epistemology, and metaphysics. His concept of forms went on to have a great influence on Christian theology in the post-Apostolic period. Many of the ideas that form the basis for Western democracy come from his Republic.
Plato’s works are written as a series of dialogues wherein a number of characters (the chief of which is usually Socrates) discuss various philosophical questions. By both their questions and their answers, the characters explain Plato’s various ideas. Plato’s 25-plus dialogues are the best-known use of the Socratic method—that is, the use of dialogue in teaching. The Dialogues of Plato contains all the dialogues commonly attributed to Plato, translated by Benjamin Jowett.
Noet’s powerful search functions make The Dialogues of Plato vastly more accessible. In addition, names and concepts link to the other texts in your Noet library, allowing you to cross-reference and compare. See how Plato’s ideas influenced Aristotle by pulling them up side by side and comparing them for yourself.
Interested in ancient philosophy? All of Plato’s dialogues are available in The Dialogues of Plato.
Plato is one of those world-famed individuals, his philosophy one of those world-renowned creations, whose influence, as regards the culture and development of the mind, has from its commencement down to the present time been all-important.
The extraordinary range of Plato’s interests and his formidable command of the Greek language and cultural tradition make him appear as the inventor of philosophy, and make classical Athens appear as its birthplace.
—Pedro de Blas
Out of Plato come all things that are still written and debated about among men of thought.
Plato (427–347 BC) was born in Athens to an aristocratic family. A student of Socrates until the latter’s death, he also studied the works of Herculitus, Parmenides, and the Pythagoreans. Following the death of Socrates, Plato spent a number of years travelling around the Mediterranean. He eventually returned to Athens and founded a school of philosophy called the Academy (named for the field in which it was located), where he later taught Aristotle.
Plato wrote works on ethics, politics, morality, epistemology, and metaphysics. He is best known for his theory of forms, the theory that the qualities that define a thing’s existence (redness, beauty) exist in an abstract realm of forms, separate from matter. Plato believed that what was true, and therefore real, must be unchanging. Because the material world is in a constant state of change it is not true reality but a mere illusion. Plato taught that love is the longing for the Beautiful in its purest, most abstract, form. Consequently, love is what motivates all the highest human achievements.
Benjamin Jowett (1817–1893) was born in Camberwell, London, to a family of evangelical Anglicans. He attended Balliol College at Oxford University, graduating with first class honors in 1839. Jowett became the regius professor of Greek at Oxford in 1855 and master of Balliol College in 1870. He became vice-chancellor of the university in 1882. In addition to his translation of Plato, Jowett wrote The Epistles of St. Paul.