Plato was born in Athens in 428 B.C., and died in 347 B.C. His family was among the most prominent ones in Athens, and was actively involved in politics always on the side of the oligarchs - it is known that Critias, the leader of the Thirty Tyrants, was Plato's uncle. The raw violence of the Thirty Tyrants convinced Plato that no political system can be established without the consent of the citizens. Be that as it may, he neither endorsed the equalizing logic of democracy; in his opinion, democracy cuts virtuous citizens out of the government, and promotes the demagogues. Plato's negative opinion against democracy was substantiated by Socrates' trial in 399 B.C., and his ensuing sentence in death by the people's court.

Plato wanted to connect his theory with action. That is evinced by his expeditions in Sicily, and his decision to set up the Academy. He visited Syracuse three times upon the calls of the city's tyrants. What he aspired to achieve there was the essential combination of power and knowledge. His hopes were dashed. it is said that his first expedition in 388 B.C. almost resulted in him being sold as a salve in Aegina.

After this journey, Plato sets up the Academy in 387 B.C. The Academy was an innovative institution that endured through time. It was a community of people of like mind, who decided to live a life dedicated to philosophy and knowledge. The Academy attracted some of the most creative minds of the 4th c., among which Aristotle.

The most decisive criterion for Plato's philosophical formation was his contact with Socrates. Plato wrote about 30 dialogues, all of which have survived in perfect condition. Plato believed that true philosophy is communicated only in oral speech, and for that reason he preferred to shape his writings in the form of dialogue, which resembles an active argumentative exchange. His most valuable contribution in philosophy is the theory of Forms: the keystone of his ontology, knowledge theory, and ethics.

Author: Vasilis Kalfas
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