Monday, February 6, 2012

Biography of Plato

Plato was born of a well to do family. There is some dispute over his name with an ancient suggestion that his true name was 'Aristocles' but he was called 'Plato' because he was broadly built. I humbly present that this should give hope to all of us who could stand to lose a few pounds.
He was a student of Socrates and from what I understand virtually everything he wrote was taken from the speaking of his teacher. This leads to questions over how much we can trust just how close a trancription he took. On the other hand, what has been left to history reads as clean conversation.
According to A.N. Whitehead:

The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition
is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato. I do not mean the
systematic scheme of thought which scholars have doubtfully extracted from his
writings. I allude to the wealth of general ideas scattered through them.

So keep in mind that this is a biggie here.


  1. I've always liked the Whitehead quote, and I've always viewed systematic interpretations of Plato with suspicion. Take the Republic: Is Socrates Plato's mouthpiece? Didn't Plato write the arguments of the other characters as well? Does dialectic lend itself to system? We don't think of Shakespeare as any one of his characters, so why think of Plato as any one of his? Whitehead is suggesting that the seeds of even contradictory philosophies are all found in Plato. For me, the dialogues are best read as a training ground for philosophic thought, rather than a source for statements of Platonic dogma.

  2. 'best read as a training ground for philosophic thought'. I like that. Seems like a very useful suggestion.