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According to Diogenes, whose testimony is notoriously unreliable, Plato's parents were Ariston and Perictione or Potone—see D. Both sides of the family claimed to trace their ancestry back to Poseidon D. Diogenes' report that Plato's birth was the result of Ariston's rape of Perictione D. We can be confident that Plato also had two older brothers, Glaucon and Adeimantus, and a sister, Potone, by the same parents see D.

Guthrie, A History of Greek Philosophy, vol. After Ariston's death, Plato's mother married her uncle, Pyrilampes in Plato's Charmides, we are told that Pyrilampes was Charmides' uncle, and Charmides was Plato's mother's brother , with whom she had another son, Antiphon, Plato's half-brother see Plato, Parmenides a-b. Plato came from one of the wealthiest and most politically active families in Athens.

Their political activities, however, are not seen as laudable ones by historians. One of Plato's uncles Charmides was a member of the notorious "Thirty Tyrants," who overthrew the Athenian democracy in B. Charmides' own uncle, Critias, was the leader of the Thirty. Plato's relatives were not exclusively associated with the oligarchic faction in Athens, however. His stepfather Pyrilampes was said to have been a close associate of Pericles, when he was the leader of the democratic faction. Plato's actual given name was apparently Aristocles, after his grandfather.

Although the name Aristocles was still given as Plato's name on one of the two epitaphs on his tomb see D. When Socrates died, Plato left Athens, staying first in Megara, but then going on to several other places, including perhaps Cyrene, Italy, Sicily, and even Egypt. Strabo Plato occasionally mentions Egypt in his works, but not in ways that reveal much of any consequence see, for examples, Phaedrus cb; Philebus 19b. Better evidence may be found for his visits to Italy and Sicily, especially in the Seventh Letter.

According to the account given there, Plato first went to Italy and Sicily when he was "about forty" a. While he stayed in Syracuse, he became the instructor to Dion, brother-in-law of the tyrant Dionysius I. According to doubtful stories from later antiquity, Dionysius became annoyed with Plato at some point during this visit, and arranged to have the philosopher sold into slavery Diod.

Dion 5; D. In any event, Plato returned to Athens and founded a school, known as the Academy. This is where we get our word, "academic. Except for two more trips to Sicily, the Academy seems to have been Plato's home base for the remainder of his life. The first of Plato's remaining two Sicilian adventures came after Dionysius I died and his young son, Dionysius II, ascended to the throne. Although the philosopher now in his sixties was not entirely persuaded of this possibility Seventh Letter b-c , he agreed to go.

This trip, like the last one, however, did not go well at all. Within months, the younger Dionysius had Dion sent into exile for sedition Seventh Letter c, Third Letter c-d , and Plato became effectively under house arrest as the "personal guest" of the dictator Seventh Letter cb. Plato eventually managed to gain the tyrant's permission to return to Athens Seventh Letter a , and he and Dion were reunited at the Academy Plut. Dion Dion and Plato stayed in Athens for the next four years c.

Dionysius then summoned Plato, but wished for Dion to wait a while longer. Dion accepted the condition and encouraged Plato to go immediately anyway Third Letter a-b, Seventh Letter b-c , but Plato refused the invitation, much to the consternation of both Syracusans Third Letter a, Seventh Letter c. Hardly a year had passed, however, before Dionysius sent a ship, with one of Plato's Pythagorean friends Archedemus, an associate of Archytas—see Seventh Letter a-b and next section on board begging Plato to return to Syracuse.

Partly because of his friend Dion's enthusiasm for the plan, Plato departed one more time to Syracuse. Once again, however, things in Syracuse were not at all to Plato's liking. Dionysius once again effectively imprisoned Plato in Syracuse, and the latter was only able to escape again with help from his Tarentine friends Seventh Letter a-b. Dion subsequently gathered an army of mercenaries and invaded his own homeland. But his success was short-lived: he was assassinated and Sicily was reduced to chaos.

Plato, perhaps now completely disgusted with politics, returned to his beloved Academy, where he lived out the last thirteen years of his life. According to Diogenes, Plato was buried at the school he founded D. His grave, however, has not yet been discovered by archeological investigations. Aristotle and Diogenes agree that Plato had some early association with either the philosophy of Heraclitus of Ephesus, or with one or more of that philosopher's followers see Aristotle Metaph.

The effects of this influence can perhaps be seen in the mature Plato's conception of the sensible world as ceaselessly changing.

The Philosophy Of Socrates - Episode 3

There can be no doubt that Plato was also strongly influenced by Parmenides and Zeno both of Elea , in Plato's theory of the Forms, which are plainly intended to satisfy the Parmenidean requirement of metaphysical unity and stability in knowable reality. Parmenides and Zeno also appear as characters in his dialogue, the Parmenides.

Diogenes Laertius also notes other important influences:. He mixed together in his works the arguments of Heracleitus, the Pythagoreans, and Socrates. Regarding the sensibles, he borrows from Heraclitus; regarding the intelligibles, from Pythagoras; and regarding politics, from Socrates. A little later, Diogenes makes a series of comparisons intended to show how much Plato owed to the comic poet, Epicharmus 3. Diogenes Laertius 3.

In the Seventh Letter, we learn that Plato was a friend of Archytas of Tarentum, a well-known Pythagorean statesman and thinker see d-e , and in the Phaedo, Plato has Echecrates, another Pythagorean, in the group around Socrates on his final day in prison. Plato's Pythagorean influences seem especially evident in his fascination with mathematics, and in some of his political ideals see Plato's political philosophy , expressed in various ways in several dialogues.

Nonetheless, it is plain that no influence on Plato was greater than that of Socrates. This is evident not only in many of the doctrines and arguments we find in Plato's dialogues, but perhaps most obviously in Plato's choice of Socrates as the main character in most of his works. According to the Seventh Letter, Plato counted Socrates "the justest man alive" e.

According to Diogenes Laertius, the respect was mutual 3. Supposedly possessed of outstanding intellectual and artistic ability even from his youth, according to Diogenes, Plato began his career as a writer of tragedies, but hearing Socrates talk, he wholly abandoned that path, and even burned a tragedy he had hoped to enter in a dramatic competition D. Whether or not any of these stories is true, there can be no question of Plato's mastery of dialogue, characterization, and dramatic context.

He may, indeed, have written some epigrams; of the surviving epigrams attributed to him in antiquity, some may be genuine. Plato was not the only writer of dialogues in which Socrates appears as a principal character and speaker. A recent study of these, by Charles H. Kahn , , concludes that the very existence of the genre—and all of the conflicting images of Socrates we find given by the various authors—shows that we cannot trust as historically reliable any of the accounts of Socrates given in antiquity, including those given by Plato.

But it is one thing to claim that Plato was not the only one to write Socratic dialogues, and quite another to hold that Plato was only following the rules of some genre of writings in his own work. Such a claim, at any rate, is hardly established simply by the existence of these other writers and their writings. We may still wish to ask whether Plato's own use of Socrates as his main character has anything at all to do with the historical Socrates.

The question has led to a number of seemingly irresolvable scholarly disputes. At least one important ancient source, Aristotle, suggests that at least some of the doctrines Plato puts into the mouth of the "Socrates" of the "early" or "Socrates" dialogues are the very ones espoused by the historical Socrates.

Because Aristotle has no reason not to be truthful about this issue, many scholars believe that his testimony provides a solid basis for distinguishing the "Socrates" of the "early" dialogues from the character by that name in Plato's supposedly later works, whose views and arguments Aristotle suggests are Plato's own.

One way to approach this issue has been to find some way to arrange the dialogues into at least relative dates. It has frequently been assumed that if we can establish a relative chronology for when Plato wrote each of the dialogues, we can provide some objective test for the claim that Plato represented Socrates more accurately in the earlier dialogues, and less accurately in the later dialogues.

In antiquity, the ordering of Plato's dialogues was given entirely along thematic lines. The best reports of these orderings see Diogenes Laertius' discussion at 3. The uncontroversial internal and external historical evidence for a chronological ordering is relatively slight. Aristotle Politics 2. Internal references in the Sophist a and the Statesman also known as the Politicus; a, b show the Statesman to come after the Sophist.

The Timaeus 17bb may refer to Republic as coming before it, and more clearly mentions the Critias as following it 27a. Similarly, internal references in the Sophist a, c and the Theaetetus e may be thought to show the intended order of three dialogues: Parmenides, Theaetetus, and Sophist. Even so, it does not follow that these dialogues were actually written in that order.

At Theaetetus c, Plato announces through his characters that he will abandon the somewhat cumbersome dialogue form that is employed in his other writings. Since the form does not appear in a number of other writings, it is reasonable to infer that those in which it does not appear were written after the Theaetetus. Scholars have sought to augment this fairly scant evidence by employing different methods of ordering the remaining dialogues.

One such method is that of stylometry, by which various aspects of Plato's diction in each dialogue are measured against their uses and frequencies in other dialogues. Originally done by laborious study by individuals, stylometry can now be done more efficiently with assistance by computers. Another, even more popular, way to sort and group the dialogues is what is called "content analysis," which works by finding and enumerating apparent commonalities or differences in the philosophical style and content of the various dialogues.

Neither of these general approaches has commanded unanimous assent among scholars, and it is unlikely that debates about this topic can ever be put entirely to rest. Nonetheless, most recent scholarship seems to assume that Plato's dialogues can be sorted into different groups, and it is not unusual for books and articles on the philosophy of Socrates to state that by "Socrates" they mean to refer to the character in Plato's "early" or Socratic dialogues, as if this Socrates was as close to the historical Socrates as we are likely to get.

We have more to say on this subject in the next section. Perhaps the most thorough examination of this sort can be found in Gregory Vlastos's, Socrates: Ironist and Moral Philosopher Cambridge and Cornell, , chapters , where ten significant differences between the "Socrates" of Plato's "early" dialogues and the character by that name in the later dialogues are noted. Our own view of the probable dates and groups of dialogues, which to some extent combine the results of stylometry and content analysis, is as follows all lists but the last in alphabetical order :.

Early-Transitional Either at the end of the early group or at the beginning of the middle group, c. Late-Transitional Either at the end of the middle group, or the beginning of the late group, c.


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Late c. Except for the Timaeus, all of Plato's works were lost to the Western world until medieval times, preserved only by Moslem scholars in the Middle East. In Henri Estienne whose Latinized name was Stephanus published an edition of the dialogues in which each page of the text is separated into five sections labeled a, b, c, d, and e.

The standard style of citation for Platonic texts includes the name of the text, followed by Stephanus page and section numbers e. Republic d. Scholars sometimes also add numbers after the Stephanus section letters, which refer to line numbers within the Stephanus sections in the standard Greek edition of the dialogues, the Oxford Classical texts. Several other works, including thirteen letters and eighteen epigrams, have been attributed to Plato.

These other works are generally called the spuria and the dubia. The spuria were collected among the works of Plato but suspected as frauds even in antiquity. The dubia are those presumed authentic in later antiquity, but which have more recently been doubted. Ten of the spuria are mentioned by Diogenes Laertius at 3. To the ten Diogenes Laertius lists, we may uncontroversially add On Justice, On Virtue, and the Definitions, which was included in the medieval manuscripts of Plato's work, but not mentioned in antiquity. Works whose authenticity was also doubted in antiquity include the Second Alcibiades or Alcibiades II , Epinomis, Hipparchus, and Rival Lovers also known as either Rivals or Lovers , and these are sometimes defended as authentic today.

If any are of these are authentic, the Epinomis would be in the late group, and the others would go with the early or early transitional groups. Seventeen or eighteen epigrams poems appropriate to funerary monuments or other dedications are also attributed to Plato by various ancient authors.

Most of these are almost certainly not by Plato, but some few may be authentic. None appear to provide anything of great philosophical interest. The dubia present special risks to scholars: On the one hand, any decision not to include them among the authentic dialogues creates the risk of losing valuable evidence for Plato's or perhaps Socrates' philosophy; on the other hand, any decision to include them creates the risk of obfuscating the correct view of Plato's or Socrates' philosophy, by including non-Platonic or non-Socratic elements within that philosophy. The dubia include the First Alcibiades or Alcibiades I , Minos, and Theages, all of which, if authentic, would probably go with the early or early transitional groups, the Cleitophon, which might be early, early transitional, or middle, and the letters, of which the Seventh seems the best candidate for authenticity.

Some scholars have also suggested the possibility that the Third may also be genuine. If any are authentic, the letters would appear to be works of the late period, with the possible exception of the Thirteenth Letter, which could be from the middle period. Nearly all of the dialogues now accepted as genuine have been challenged as inauthentic by some scholar or another. In the 19th Century in particular, scholars often considered arguments for and against the authenticity of dialogues whose authenticity is now only rarely doubted.

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Of those we listed as authentic, above in the early group , only the Hippias Major continues occasionally to be listed as inauthentic. The strongest evidence against the authenticity of the Hippias Major is the fact that it is never mentioned in any of the ancient sources. However, relative to how much was actually written in antiquity, so little now remains that our lack of ancient references to this dialogue does not seem to be an adequate reason to doubt its authenticity.

In style and content, it seems to most contemporary scholars to fit well with the other Platonic dialogues. Although no one thinks that Plato simply recorded the actual words or speeches of Socrates verbatim, the argument has been made that there is nothing in the speeches Socrates makes in the Apology that he could have not uttered at the historical trial.

At any rate, it is fairly common for scholars to treat Plato's Apology as the most reliable of the ancient sources on the historical Socrates. The other early dialogues are certainly Plato's own creations. But as we have said, most scholars treat these as representing more or less accurately the philosophy and behavior of the historical Socrates—even if they do not provide literal historical records of actual Socratic conversations.

Essays on Plato's Psychology by Ellen Wagner | | Booktopia

Some of the early dialogues include anachronisms that prove their historical inaccuracy. It is possible, of course, that the dialogues are all wholly Plato's inventions and have nothing at all to do with the historical Socrates. Contemporary scholars generally endorse one of the following four views about the dialogues and their representation of Socrates:.

Now, some scholars who are skeptical about the entire program of dating the dialogues into chronological groups, and who are thus strictly speaking not historicists see, for example, Cooper , xii-xvii nonetheless accept the view that the "early" works are "Socratic" in tone and content.

With few exceptions, however, scholars agreed that if we are unable to distinguish any group of dialogues as early or "Socratic," or even if we can distinguish a separate set of "Socratic" works but cannot identify a coherent philosophy within those works, it makes little sense to talk about "the philosophy of historical Socrates" at all. There is just too little and too little that is at all interesting to be found that could reliably be attributed to Socrates from any other ancient authors.

Any serious philosophical interest in Socrates, then, must be pursued through study of Plato's early or "Socratic" dialogues. In the dialogues generally accepted as early or "Socratic" , the main character is always Socrates. Socrates is represented as extremely agile in question-and-answer, which has come to be known as "the Socratic method of teaching," or "the elenchus" or elenchos , from the Greek term for refutation , with Socrates nearly always playing the role as questioner, for he claimed to have no wisdom of his own to share with others.

Plato's Socrates, in this period, was adept at reducing even the most difficult and recalcitrant interlocutors to confusion and self-contradiction. In the Apology, Socrates explains that the embarrassment he has thus caused to so many of his contemporaries is the result of a Delphic oracle given to Socrates' friend Chaerephon Apology 21ab , according to which no one was wiser than Socrates.

As a result of his attempt to discern the true meaning of this oracle, Socrates gained a divinely ordained mission in Athens to expose the false conceit of wisdom. The embarrassment his "investigations" have caused to so many of his contemporaries—which Socrates claims was the root cause of his being brought up on charges Apology 23cb —is thus no one's fault but his "victims," for having chosen to live "the unexamined life" see 38a.

The way that Plato's represents Socrates going about his "mission" in Athens provides a plausible explanation both of why the Athenians would have brought him to trial and convicted him in the troubled years after the end of the Peloponnesian War, and also of why Socrates was not really guilty of the charges he faced. Even more importantly, however, Plato's early dialogues provide intriguing arguments and refutations of proposed philosophical positions that interest and challenge philosophical readers.

Platonic dialogues continue to be included among the required readings in introductory and advanced philosophy classes, not only for their ready accessibility, but also because they raise many of the most basic problems of philosophy. Unlike most other philosophical works, moreover, Plato frames the discussions he represents in dramatic settings that make the content of these discussions especially compelling. So, for example, in the Crito, we find Socrates discussing the citizen's duty to obey the laws of the state as he awaits his own legally mandated execution in jail, condemned by what he and Crito both agree was a terribly wrong verdict, the result of the most egregious misapplication of the very laws they are discussing.

The dramatic features of Plato's works have earned attention even from literary scholars relatively uninterested in philosophy as such. Whatever their value for specifically historical research, therefore, Plato's dialogues will continue to be read and debated by students and scholars, and the Socrates we find in the early or "Socratic" dialogues will continue to be counted among the greatest Western philosophers.

The philosophical positions most scholars agree can be found directly endorsed or at least suggested in the early or "Socratic" dialogues include the following moral or ethical views:. In these dialogues, we also find Socrates represented as holding certain religious beliefs, such as:.

In addition, Plato's Socrates in the early dialogues may plausibly be regarded as having certain methodological or epistemological convictions, including:. Scholarly attempts to provide relative chronological orderings of the early transitional and middle dialogues are problematical because all agree that the main dialogue of the middle period, the Republic, has several features that make dating it precisely especially difficult.

As we have already said, many scholars count the first book of the Republic as among the early group of dialogues. But those who read the entire Republic will also see that the first book also provides a natural and effective introduction to the remaining books of the work. If this central work of the period is difficult to place into a specific context, there can be no great assurance in positioning any other works relative to this one. Nonetheless, it does not take especially careful study of the transitional and middle period dialogues to notice clear differences in style and philosophical content from the early dialogues.

The most obvious change is the way in which Plato seems to characterize Socrates: In the early dialogues, we find Socrates simply asking questions, exposing his interlocutors' confusions, all the while professing his own inability to shed any positive light on the subject, whereas in the middle period dialogues, Socrates suddenly emerges as a kind of positive expert, willing to affirm and defend his own theories about many important subjects.

In the early dialogues, moreover, Socrates discusses mainly ethical subjects with his interlocutors—with some related religious, methodological, and epistemological views scattered within the primarily ethical discussions.


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In the middle period, Plato's Socrates' interests expand outward into nearly every area of inquiry known to humankind. The philosophical positions Socrates advances in these dialogues are vastly more systematical, including broad theoretical inquiries into the connections between language and reality in the Cratylus , knowledge and explanation in the Phaedo and Republic, Books V-VII. This theory of Forms, introduced and explained in various contexts in each of the middle period dialogues, is perhaps the single best-known and most definitive aspect of what has come to be known as Platonism.

In many of his dialogues, Plato mentions supra-sensible entities he calls "Forms" or "Ideas". So, for example, in the Phaedo, we are told that particular sensible equal things—for example, equal sticks or stones see Phaedo 74ad —are equal because of their "participation" or "sharing" in the character of the Form of Equality, which is absolutely, changelessly, perfectly, and essentially equal. Plato sometimes characterizes this participation in the Form as a kind of imaging, or approximation of the Form. The same may be said of the many things that are greater or smaller and the Forms of Great and Small Phaedo 75c-d , or the many tall things and the Form of Tall Phaedo e , or the many beautiful things and the Form of Beauty Phaedo 75c-d, Symposium e, Republic V.

When Plato writes about instances of Forms "approximating" Forms, it is easy to infer that, for Plato, Forms are exemplars. If so, Plato believes that The Form of Beauty is perfect beauty, the Form of Justice is perfect justice, and so forth.

Essays on Plato's Psychology

Conceiving of Forms in this way was important to Plato because it enabled the philosopher who grasps the entities to be best able to judge to what extent sensible instances of the Forms are good examples of the Forms they approximate. Scholars disagree about the scope of what is often called "the theory of Forms," and question whether Plato began holding that there are only Forms for a small range of properties, such as tallness, equality, justice, beauty, and so on, and then widened the scope to include Forms corresponding to every term that can be applied to a multiplicity of instances.

In the Republic, he writes as if there may be a great multiplicity of Forms—for example, in Book X of that work, we find him writing about the Form of Bed see Republic X. He may have come to believe that for any set of things that shares some property, there is a Form that gives unity to the set of things and univocity to the term by which we refer to members of that set of things. Knowledge involves the recognition of the Forms Republic V. In the early transitional dialogue, the Meno, Plato has Socrates introduce the Orphic and Pythagorean idea that souls are immortal and existed before our births.

All knowledge, he explains, is actually recollected from this prior existence. In perhaps the most famous passage in this dialogue, Socrates elicits recollection about geometry from one of Meno's slaves Meno 81ab. Socrates' apparent interest in, and fairly sophisticated knowledge of, mathematics appears wholly new in this dialogue.

It is an interest, however, that shows up plainly in the middle period dialogues, especially in the middle books of the Republic. Several arguments for the immortality of the soul, and the idea that souls are reincarnated into different life forms, are also featured in Plato's Phaedo which also includes the famous scene in which Socrates drinks the hemlock and utters his last words. Stylometry has tended to count the Phaedo among the early dialogues, whereas analysis of philosophical content has tended to place it at the beginning of the middle period.

Similar accounts of the transmigration of souls may be found, with somewhat different details, in Book X of the Republic and in the Phaedrus, as well as in several dialogues of the late period, including the Timaeus and the Laws. No traces of the doctrine of recollection, or the theory of reincarnation or transmigration of souls, are to be found in the dialogues we listed above as those of the early period. The moral psychology of the middle period dialogues also seems to be quite different from what we find in the early period. Please re-enter recipient e-mail address es. You may send this item to up to five recipients.

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Preview this item Preview this item. Show all links. Allow this favorite library to be seen by others Keep this favorite library private. Find a copy in the library Finding libraries that hold this item Lanham, Md. Reviews Editorial reviews. Publisher Synopsis Ellen Wagner has compiled a superb collection of essays, in which leading scholars examine Plato's views on the nature, structure, and immortality of the soul. User-contributed reviews Add a review and share your thoughts with other readers. Be the first. Add a review and share your thoughts with other readers. Similar Items Related Subjects: 7 Plato.

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Essays on Plato's psychology

Print version: Essays on Plato's psychology. Ellen Wagner Find more information about: Ellen Wagner. Master and use copy. Digital Library Federation, December Acknowledgments -- Introduction -- 1.