CriticaLink | Plato: Phaedrus | Plato (427-347 BCE)

Plato was born into a wealthy family and well-connected family in Athens in 427 BCE. Around 407, in his early twenties, Plato became acquainted with the philosopher Socrates, who became a major influence in his life and thought and who plays the central role in the dialogues that make up the most famous of Plato's surviving writings. Following Socrates's death in 399, Plato traveled throughout the Mediterranean region, meeting with other philosophers, in particular followers of Pythagoras.

When he returned to Athens, Plato established a school that became known as the Academy and which operated until it was closed by Emperor Justinian in 529 CE. One of Plato's best-known students was the philosopher Aristotle.

In 367 Plato was given the chance to put his ideas about the role of philosophers in human society to the test as the advisor of Dionysius II of Syracuse. The experiment was not successful, although Plato returned to Syracuse in 361 to make another attempt.

Scholars generally believe that Plato's thought when through three periods of development, and the dialogues are organized into early, middle, and late productions. In the early period, Socrates appears primarily as a critical figure, poking holes in the arguments of others. In the middle period, Socrates advances a more developed philosophical world-view. The The Phaedrus and the Republic belong to this period. Dialogues of the last period of Plato's work extend the philosophy that emerges in the middle period..

The philosophical orientation called idealism has its roots in Plato's theory of the Ideas or the Forms. Although many subsequent philosophers, including Aristotle, have been critical of Plato's theories, they have had a profound influence on the thought of the Western world, informing Jewish and Christian theology and the tradition of metaphysics.