427(?)-347(?) B.C.

When he was a young man, Plato had political ambitions but he became disillusioned by the political leadership in Athens. He eventually became a disciple of Socrates, accepting his basic philosophy and dialectical style of debate: the pursuit of truth through questions, answers, and additional questions.

At the heart of Plato's philosophy is his theory of Forms, or Ideas. Plato believed that there exists an immaterial Universe of 'forms', perfect aspects of everyday things such as justice, smallness, greatness, table, bird, various actions, and so on. The objects and ideas in our material world are shadows of the forms. For example, although no two chairs are exactly alike, they both share the same "chairness" that defines them as a chair. Plato conceived the Forms as arranged hierarchically; the supreme Form is the Form of the Good which illuminates all the other Ideas.

All knowledge comes from these forms and philosophy (the pursuit of these forms), while nothing of any value comes from the material world (bodily pleasures, including love, are bad, in that they inhibit the pursuit of knowledge of the forms). And furthermore, we know of these forms because we knew them before birth -- we forgot them upon birth, and we will rejoin them after death. If we live a life full of sensual pleasure, our immortal souls will become lost, and we will come back as lower animals. If we are good philosophers, we will go to join God for eternity...

Plato's stuff is crazy, but at the time, it was a very well put together worldview. If we can believe the dialogs, the wisdom of Socrates (Plato's writings are supposed to be reports of discussions that Socrates and a few other wise men used to convince others of their views) was entirely convincing in their day. Some of it is still of use (Plato/Socrates attack on democracy is still one of the best, and variations of his view of the forms is still used as one possible interpretations of universals). Most of it seems a little silly, in part because of changing worldviews and basic assumptions, and also because the dialogs rely way to heavily on arguments from analogy.

His Stuff:
No one knows which stuff was written when, but here's a basic grouping. The question marks indicate that some (?) or many (??) scholars claim that a work is not truely Plato's.

  • Dialogues I haven't been able to find 'chorological estimates' for.

  • Thanks to purple_curtain for ier help with the list of works.

    The 'question mark' rankings come from http://eawc.evansville.edu/essays/suzanne.htm

    Also, a project that led to a historically important multiuser computer system developed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Computer-Based Education Research Laboratory. The name was an acronym for Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations. Later marketed by Control Data Corporation and run on its hardware (Cyber/70). The PLATO name is still used as a trademark for computer-based learning systems by The Roach Organization. A successor system, NovaNET, also still operates today.

    What do I mean by historically important?

    • Some of the first ever threaded discussion groups happened on PLATO. (The system was called "notes" and was an acknowledged inspiration for both newsgroups and Lotus Notes.) see also http://thinkofit.com/drwool/dwconf.htm
    • PLATO spawned computer-based education "authorware" software for PC called TenCore which enjoyed considerable success through the 1980s
    • One of the first-ever real-time multiway chat programs, talkomatic, was born on PLATO.
    • Many social issues centered around large-scale networked computer use which are now impacting society on an enormous scale were first seen on PLATO back in the 1970s: computer-mediated romance (including several marriages), flamewars, gaming addiction, etc.
    • Several PLATO games were imitated or outright copied into popular PC or UNIX gaming titles: netrek arose from PLATO empire, Wizardry was an almost exact copy of PLATO oubliette...
    • PLATO student terminals (made by Magnavox) included multimedia technologies that would appear in mainstream devices only much later or never, including: random-access audio disks (these were about 0.5 meters wide, analog, magnetic recording), slide projection (through the screen! powered by compressed air!), microfiche viewer, touch screen (via a grid of infrared beams 1mm in front of the screen, spaced about a half-inch apart) (talk about your early "pointing devices"!), plasma panel screen.
    • see also http://thinkofit.com/plato/dwplato.htm and http://www.notes.net/whatisnotes and http://www.plato.com/ AND EVEN http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,2518,00.html

    Republic-Politia

    It's normal that a work as this one will be translated and retranslated again and again, to many languages and with some varieties even to different translations in the same language. Translation is an art of itself to many of us ... Even though I share this opinion myself, I was very puzzled since I discovered that a work as profound and important as this, has been in the very first start misinterpreted and I'm referring to something vital... the title itself. (!)
    Plato titled this political and philosophical work "Πολιτεία "¹ (Politia). Politia in ancient (as well as in modern) Greek language resembles with the English word "State".

    Republic: Republic

    While

    Πολιτεία : (originates from the ancient greek word πόλις {polis}:city) state, all the political institutions of a country, in modern greek means society,or a big city

    But as far as I am concerned, the problem is not with mistranslated words etc.
    (I don't really believe it's a problem of misquotation). Plato didn't believe in the famous Athenian Democracy, it was the same system that led his teacher to execution. He had experienced it and criticized its deficiencies. All ten books describe a completely new political organization of law, truth and education. Though Plato himself tried to create it in Sicily, he didn't completely describe the practical details of the political part of his plan.
    Therefore, even though I don't want to go over my head on this without having read the translated version, I'm afraid that the translation could be open to misinterpretations and many philosophical truths could be left unrevealed, or even deformed.


    1. switch to charset=iso-8859-7 to see the greek characters

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