ByVaughan KimberlingPlato was born in 427 B. C. into a wealthy family that was botharistocratic and politically influential. His family had a rich history ofpolitical connections and consisted of his parents, Ariston and Perictione,his older brothers Adeimantus and Glawcon, and later a younger sister,Potone. “In keeping with his family heritage, Plato was destined for thepolitical life”(Beavers and Planeaux). During Platos early years he wasinstructed by eminent teachers in grammar, music, and gymnastics.
“Platoalso had literary aspirations directed particularly toward creative work inpoetry and tragedy”(Sahakian 32). Plato mainly engaged in many forms ofpoetry, only later turning to philosophy. As a young man, during the finalyears of the Peloponnesian War when Athens was in urgent need of manpower,Plato served in the army. According to Sahakian, Plato seemed destined topursue a public career until he became a disciple of Socrates (Sahakian32). Plato was in his twenties when he directed his inquires toward thequestion of virtue.
Plato became a faithful disciple of Socrates not onlythrough Socrates’ remaining life, but after his death as well. Cornfordbelieved:”It was the unique good fortune of Socrates to have, among his youngcompanions, one who was not only to become a writer of incomparable skill,but was, by native gift, a poet and a thinker no less subtle than Socrateshimself”(Cornford 55). Plato was twenty-eight when Socrates died and he was committed to refiningand extending the Socratic principles. He also devoted his time todefining the Socratic method of inquiry against criticism. “From SocratesPlato learnt that problems of human life were to be solved by the moralityof aspiration and the pursuit of an invariable ideal of perfection”(Cornford 63).
Behind all of Plato’s beliefs is a Socratic motive in whichhe derived. Plato unified his beliefs of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, andpolitics into a single inquiry. He found that the formation of a noblecharacter was to be before all else. The format in which Plato used tounify his beliefs is unknown, but events during his life, like the chaos ofAthens final defeat in 404 B. C. are believed to help his unification.
During this time of unification, Plato began to travel. “Plato was fortywhen he visited Italy for the first time and shortly thereafter he returnedto Athens and founded the Academus Academy, located nearly a mile outsidethe city walls and named after the Attic hero Academus” (Beavers andPlaneaux). The Academy was an independent institution of learning and canbe seen as the precursor of today’s modern university. Falikowski writesthat:”The Academy was a quiet retreat where teachers and studentscould meet to pursue knowledge. .
. Students throughout Greeceenrolled to portake in the adventure of learning and toexperience personal growth toward wisdom” (Falikowski 15). The primary goal of the Academy was to educate citizens for statesmanship. Plato, like Socrates, did not except fees for his teaching.
The Academywas left to the son of Plato’s sister, Speusippus, when Plato died in347B. C. Emperor Justinian then closed the Academy in 529B. C.
Vision of the Soul”In his writings, Plato addressed perennial questions like “Whatconstitutes the good life?” and “What sort of individual should I strive tobecome?”(Falikowski 16). To answer such questions, Plato paid particularattention to the soul. Plato assigned the human soul an intermediaryposition between the World of Becoming and the World of Ideal Being. Thesoul to him was immortal by nature, even though it is not external.
Thesoul unlike physical things, can survive change. Plato envisioned the soulas having three divisions with individual duties. These divisions weremade up of the reason, spirit, and appetite. The reason is the part wemight refer to as the intellect, “It seeks knowledge and understanding. The ability to think and make up our minds before we act, is by means ofreason” (Falikowski 17).
In other words, it is passion, which includes ourself-assertive tendencies. “As the emotional element of the psyche, spiritmanifests itself in our need to love and be loved” (Falikowski 17). Whenwe wish to make an impression, to make us be accepted and or admired byothers, or when we work hard to be liked, our spirit is our motivatingforce. The third division is our appetite.
The appetite or “desire,” thephysical side of our selves, seeks to satisfy our biological instinctiveurges. According to Falikowski:”Plato describes it metaphorically using the example of acharioteer in control of two