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Plato facts for kids

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Quick facts for kids
Plato Silanion Musei Capitolini MC1377.jpg
Roman copy of a portrait bust c. 370 BC
Born 428/427 or 424/423 BC
Died 348/347 BC (aged c. 80)
Athens, Greece
Notable work
Era Ancient Greek philosophy
School Platonic Academy
Notable students Aristotle
Main interests
Epistemology, Metaphysics
Political philosophy
Notable ideas
Allegory of the Cave

Cardinal virtues
Form of the Good
Theory of forms
Divisions of the soul
Platonic love
Platonic solids


Plato (/ˈplt/ PLAY-toe; Greek: Πλάτων Plátōn; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher born in Athens during the Classical period in Ancient Greece. In Athens, Plato founded the Academy, a philosophical school where he taught the philosophical doctrines that would later became known as Platonism. Along with his teacher, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato is a central figure in the history of philosophy.


Little is known about Plato's early life and education. He belonged to an aristocratic and influential family. The exact time and place of Plato's birth are unknown. Based on ancient sources, most modern scholars believe that he was born in Athens or Aegina, between 428 and 423 BC. Plato gives little biographical information about himself in his works, but often referred some of his relatives with a great degree of precision, including his brothers Adeimantus and Glaucon, who debate with Socrates in the Republic. These and other references enable us to reconstruct Plato's family tree.

According to Diogenes Laërtius, throughout his later life, Plato became entangled with the politics of the city of Syracuse, where attempted to replace the tyrant Dionysius, with Dionysius's brother-in-law, Dion of Syracuse, who Plato had recruited as one of his followers, but the tyrant himself turned against Plato. After Dionysius's death, according to Plato's Seventh Letter, Dion requested Plato return to Syracuse to tutor Dionysius II, who seemed to accept Plato's teachings, but eventually became suspicious of their motives, expelling Dion and holding Plato against his will. Eventually Plato left Syracuse. and Dion would return to overthrow Dionysius and rule Syracuse, before being usurped by Calippus, a fellow disciple of Plato.

The Academy

Plato may have travelled in Italy, Sicily, Egypt, and Cyrene, but at the age of forty, Plato founded a school of philosophy in Athens, the Academy, on a plot of land in the Grove of Hecademus or Academus, named after Academus, an Attic hero in Greek mythology. The Academy operated until it was destroyed by Lucius Cornelius Sulla in 84 BC. Many philosophers studied at the Academy, the most prominent one being Aristotle.

Writings and philosophical ideas

Thirty-five dialogues and thirteen letters (the Epistles) have traditionally been ascribed to Plato, though modern scholarship doubts the authenticity of at least some of these.

No one knows the exact order Plato's dialogues were written in, nor the extent to which some might have been later revised and rewritten. The works are usually grouped into Early (sometimes by some into Transitional), Middle, and Late period; The following represents one relatively common division.

  • Early: Apology, Charmides, Crito, Euthyphro, Gorgias, Hippias Minor, Hippias Major, Ion, Laches, Lysis, Protagoras
  • Middle: Cratylus, Euthydemus, Meno, Parmenides, Phaedo, Phaedrus, Republic, Symposium, Theatetus
  • Late: Critias, Sophist, Statesman, Timaeus, Philebus, Laws.

Plato's dialogues

Plato's dialogues are a collection of works in which several characters discuss and argue about a particular topic by asking questions of each other. The dialogues are written in a conversational style, and they often feature Socrates as a character. Through these dialogues, Plato raises various points of view and allows the reader to decide which is valid.

The dialogues are vivid, entertaining, and thought-provoking, and they showcase Plato's metaphysical theory of forms. Some of Plato's most famous dialogues include the Republic, the Symposium, the Phaedo, and the Apology. The dialogues are an important part of the Socratic dialogues, and they are used to induce readers to become convinced of certain propositions.

The Forms

Plato's theory of Forms is a central aspect of his philosophy. He argues that there is a realm of abstract objects or concepts that exist beyond the physical world.

Plato believed that the physical world is a mere shadow or imitation of the world of Forms, which is the true reality. According to Plato, every object or quality in reality has a Form, such as dogs, human beings, mountains, colors, courage, love, and goodness. The Forms are the essential basis of reality.

The Form of the Good is at the top of the hierarchy of Forms, illuminating all of the others.

The soul

For Plato the soul is something that gives life to the body. In the Republic, Plato argues that the soul is immortal and that it is reincarnated after death. It is above and beyond the visible, bodily person.

Plato divided the soul into three parts: the logistikon (reason), the thymoeides (spirit, which houses anger, as well as other emotions), and the epithymetikon (appetite, which is responsible for desires and pleasures).

Plato's theory of soul is also related to his theory of Forms, as the soul is the means for the acquisition and comprehension of the Idea or the Form of good.

The theory of knowledge

Plato divided knowledge into two categories: knowledge and belief. According to Plato, knowledge is always true and justifiable, while belief can be true or false and can be a matter based on persuasion.

In several Plato's dialogues, Socrates inverts the common man's intuition about what is knowable and what is real. Reality is unavailable to those who use their senses. Socrates says that he who sees with his eyes is blind. While most people take the objects of their senses to be real if anything is, Socrates is contemptuous of people who think that something has to be graspable in the hands to be real.

"I know that I know nothing" is a saying derived from Plato's account of Socrates.


Several dialogues discuss ethics including virtue and vice, pleasure and pain, crime and punishment, and justice and medicine.

In the Republic, Plato poses the questions, “What is justice?” and “What is the basis of moral and social obligation?” Plato's well-known answer rests upon the fundamental responsibility to seek wisdom, wisdom which leads to an understanding of the Form of the Good. Plato views "The Good" as the supreme Form, existing even "beyond being". As a result, justice is obtained when knowledge of how to fulfill one's moral and political function in society is put into practice.


POxy3679 Parts Plato Republic
Oxyrhynchus Papyri, with fragment of Plato's Republic

The dialogues also discuss politics. Some of Plato's most famous doctrines are contained in the Republic as well as in the Laws and the Statesman.

In the dialogues, Socrates asserts that societies have a tripartite class structure corresponding to the appetite/spirit/reason structure of the individual soul. The appetite/spirit/reason are analogous to the castes of society.

  • Productive (Workers) – the labourers, carpenters, plumbers, masons, merchants, farmers, ranchers, etc. These correspond to the "appetite" part of the soul.
  • Protective (Warriors or Guardians) – those who are adventurous, strong and brave; in the armed forces. These correspond to the "spirit" part of the soul.
  • Governing (Rulers or Philosopher Kings) – those who are intelligent, rational, self-controlled, in love with wisdom, well suited to make decisions for the community. These correspond to the "reason" part of the soul and are very few.

According to Socrates, a state made up of different kinds of souls will, overall, decline from an aristocracy (rule by the best) to a timocracy (rule by the honourable), then to an oligarchy (rule by the few), then to a democracy (rule by the people), and finally to tyranny (rule by one person, rule by a tyrant).

Rhetoric and poetry

Several dialogues tackle questions about art, including rhetoric and rhapsody. Socrates says that poetry is inspired by the muses, and is not rational. He speaks approvingly of this. Plato considered that men in general are attracted by stories and tales. Consequently, he used the myth to convey the conclusions of the philosophical reasoning. Notable examples include the story of Atlantis, the Myth of Er, and the Allegory of the Cave.

Personal life

Plato never married and had no children.


A variety of sources have given accounts of Plato's death. One story suggests Plato died in his bed, whilst a young Thracian girl played the flute to him. Another tradition suggests Plato died at a wedding feast. The account is based on Diogenes Laërtius's reference to an account by Hermippus, a third-century Alexandrian. According to Tertullian, Plato simply died in his sleep.


Plato was an innovator of the written dialogue and dialectic forms in philosophy. He raised problems for what later became all the major areas of both theoretical philosophy and practical philosophy. His most famous contribution is the Theory of forms, where he presents a solution to the problem of universals. He is also the namesake of Platonic love and the Platonic solids.

Plato's works have consistently been read and studied, though their popularity has fluctuated. Through Neoplatonism Plato also greatly influenced both Christian and Islamic philosophy (through e.g. Al-Farabi). In modern times, Alfred North Whitehead famously said: "the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato."

Interesting facts about Plato

  • Plato (or Platon) was a pen name derived from his nickname given to him by his wrestling coach, Ariston of Argos – allegedly a reference to his physical broadness (from the adjective platýs (πλατύς) 'broad').
  • According to Alexander of Miletus quoted by Diogenes of Sinope his actual name was Aristocles, son of Ariston, of the deme Collytus (Collytus being a district of Athens).
  • Plato was influenced by Socrates and the pre-Socratic philosophers Pythagoras, Heraclitus and Parmenides.
  • Unlike the work of nearly all of his contemporaries, Plato's entire body of work is believed to have survived intact for over 2,400 years.
  • Some 250 known manuscripts of Plato survive.

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See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Platón para niños

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