Plato (Copy of Bust of Plato by Silanion)


Plato (Copy of Bust of Plato by Silanion)


The bust (pictured above) depicts Plato. Regarded as one of the greatest thinkers of Classical Greece, the study of Plato and his works was prevalent throughout the Renaissance (one example can be seen in "The School of Athens," an item found in the collection "Political Developments and Diffusion in Early Modern Italy"). Unlike our perceptions regarding philosophers in the modern age, the philosophy of classical antiquity and the Renaissance also extended to science, mathematics, and more.
Not much is known about Plato's early life. Later in life, however, he gained acclaim as a student of the philosopher Socrates. As Socrates did not write anything down himself, much of what history knows about him come from Plato's writings about him. Plato frequently wrote in the form of a dialogue, or a conversation, with Socrates as the protagonist. In these dialogues, one or more philosophical concepts would be explained or hinted at using a series of questions asked by Socrates to another person (though many do not arrive at concrete conclusions).
Following Socrates' execution in 399 BCE (which would later give Plato a disdain for the judgement of the masses as it was democratically-decided), Plato opened a school of philosophy called the Academy. This would provide the basis for later educational institutions.
During Plato's life, he would take on several students of his own, the most notable being Aristotle.
It is unknown how Plato died, as there are many accounts (Meinwald).
Plato introduces his own concept of morality, starting with virtue theory. Justice is one of them, along with temperance, prudence/wisdom, and courage. Justice to Plato is a type of harmonious living in which each person does their own role within society without infringing on others (specialization). On a personal level, it is a harmony of the soul based on intellectual pursuits and the exercise of temperance. Temperance is the restraint of vices. Prudence is the application of reason for good judgement. Courage is approaching problems without unnecessary fear (not cowardice but not foolhardiness either). Plato then proceeds to explain his theory of forms. In short, everything has an ideal form. Take a chair. According to Plato, there is an ideal chair; all chairs that exist on Earth share some qualities that make them chairs. The ideal chair is the embodiment of these qualities, the embodiment of the concept of "chair." Likewise, the greatest form is the form of good. To understand what is good and what good is, the philosopher must study it (The Republic, Book IV).
The rebirth of these ideals, occurring prior to and in the Renaissance, manifested into the school of thought known as Platonism/Neo-Platonism (see item “‘Platonism’ from Diderot’s Encyclopedia” in “Political Philosophy of Classical Antiquity). Having been popularized by Petrarch during the Renaissance, the Platonic philosophy helped bridge the gap between to ideologically disparate time periods—pre- and post-Reformation (as discussed in week two of HIST 139). Despite his harsh condemnation of the Catholic Church, Martin Luther still retained Platonic values such as a focus on the soul and aesthetics (Mattes).


Silanion (Original)


De Jaucourt, Louis. "Platonism." Encyclopédie. Compiled by Denis Diderot. Accessed November 10, 2018.
Mattes, Mark. "Martin Luther’s Theological Aesthetics." Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion. Accessed November 14, 2018.
Nguyen, Marie-Lan. Plato (Copy of Silanion). 370 bc. Wikimedia, Capitoline Museums, Rome. In Wikimedia. September 16, 2009. Accessed November 15, 2018.
Plato. The Republic. Translated by Richard W. Sterling and William C. Scott. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 1996.


(Bust) 370 BCE


Moses Jehng


Public Domain