“The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life.” — PLATO
BY ALEX P. VIDAL
Plato was 29 when Socrates died, but it is not known when he started to write his many dialogues (most of which we still have) featuring Socrates as their central figure.
Socrates had a profound effect upon Plato whose own ideas only become clearly distinguishable from Socratic thought in his later works.
He may have been in his 50s when he co-founded his school with the mathematician Theaetetus. The school was named the Academy after the legendary Greek hero Academus.
Though the Academy Plato hoped to provide a good education for the future rulers of Athens and other city-states. The subjects taught were philosophy, astronomy, gymnastics, mathematics and especially geometry.
The inscription over the door of the Academy read “let no one ignorant of geometry enter here.” Amongst his pupils was Aristotle who, like Plato, was to be one of the most influential philosophers who ever lived.
Plato (427-347 B.C.) believed that everything tangible in nature “flows.” So there are no “substances” that do not dissolve. Absolutely everything that belongs to the “material world” is made of a material that time can erode, but everything is made after a timeless “mold” or “form” that is eternal and immutable.
Why are horses the same? There is something that all horses have in common, something that enables us to identify them as horses. A particular horse “flows,” naturally. It might be old and lame, and in time it will die. But the “form” of the horse is eternal and immutable.
That which is eternal and immutable, to Plato, is therefore not a physical “basic substance,” as it was for Empedocles and Democritus. Plato’s conception was of eternal and immutable patterns, spiritual and abstract in their nature, that all things are fashioned after.