Plato

Plato

Plato was the youngest son of Ariston and Perictione who came from famous wealthy families in Athens. While Plato was young his father died and his mother remarried Pyrilampes. As a young man he studied under Cratylus. He became friends with Socrates for Plato’s mother’s brother Charmides was a close friend of Socrates.

The Peloponnesian War was fought between Athens and Sparta between 431 BC and 404 BC. Plato was in military service from 409 BC to 404 BC but he wanted a political career.

In 403 BC there was a restoration of democracy at Athens and Plato had great hopes of entering politics again. However, the execution of Socrates had a profound effect on him and he decided that he would have nothing to do with politics.

He left Athens and traveled in Egypt, Sicily and Italy. In Italy he learned of the work of Pythagoras and came to appreciate the value of mathematics

Plato returned to Athens and founded his Academy. It was on land which had belonged to Academos, and this is where the name “Academy” came from. The Academy was an institution devoted to research and instruction in philosophy and the sciences, and Plato presided over it till his death in 347 BC.

His reasons for setting up the Academy were connected with his earlier ventures into politics.He had been bitterly disappointed with the standards displayed by those in public office and he hoped to train young men who would become statesmen. However, having given them the values that he believed in, he thought that these men would be able to improve the political leadership of the cities of Greece.

The Peloponnesian War was fought between Athens and Sparta between 431 BC and 404 BC. Plato was in military service from 409 BC to 404 BC but he wanted a political career.

His main contributions are in philosophy, mathe-matics and science where topics such as censorship are discussed and religious philosophy where topics such as atheism, dualism and pantheism are considered. In discussing epistemology he looked at ideas such as a priori knowledge and Rationalism. In his theory of Forms, Plato rejected the changeable,deceptive world that we are aware of through our senses proposing instead his world of ideas which were constant and true.

Plato’s contributions to the theories of education are shown by the way he ran the Academy and his idea of what constitutes an educated person. Although Plato made no  important mathematical discoveries, his belief that mathematics provides the finest training for the mind was extremely important in it’s the development. He concentrated on the idea of ‘proof’ and insisted on accurate definitions and clear hypotheses. This laid the foundations for Euclid’s systematic approach to mathematics.

In mathematics his name is attached to Platonic solids. In the Timaeus there is a mathematical construction of earth, fire, air, and water in which the cube, tetrahedron, octahedron, and icosahedron are given as the shapes of the atoms of earth, fire, air, and water. The fifth Platonic solid, the dodecahedron, is Plato’s model for the whole universe.

Plato’s beliefs as regards the universe were that the stars, planets, Sun and Moon move round the Earth in crystalline spheres. The sphere of the Moon was closest to the Earth, then the sphere of the Sun, then Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and furthest away was the sphere of the stars. He believed that the Moon shines by reflected sunlight.

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