Plato Cover Plato (428/427 BC ­ 348/347 BC), whose original name was Aristocles, was an ancient Greek philosopher, the second of the great trio of ancient Greeks, succeeding Socrates and preceding Aristotle­ who between them laid the philosophical foundations of Western culture. Plato was also a mathematician, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the western world. Plato is widely believed to have been a student of Socrates and to have been deeply influenced by his teacher's unjust death. Plato's brilliance as a writer and thinker can be witnessed by reading his Socratic dialogues. Some of the dialogues, letters, and other works that are ascribed to him are considered spurious. Plato is thought to have lectured at the Academy, although the pedagogical function of his dialogues, if any, is not known with certainty. They have historically been used to teach philosophy, logic, rhetoric, mathematics, and other subjects about which he wrote. Plato influenced the work of Aristotle, Neoplatonism, Cicero, Plutarch, Stoicism, Anselm, Descartes, Hobbes, Leibniz, Mill, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Arendt, Gadamer and countless other western philosophers and theologians. Plato's influences were Socrates, Homer, Hesiod, Aristophanes, Aesop, Protagoras, Parmenides, Pythagoras, Heraclitus and Orphism. Plato's main interests were Rhetoric, Art, Literature, Epistemology, Justice, Virtue, Politics, Education, Family and Militarism Theory of Knowledge Plato's theory of Forms and his theory of knowledge are so interrelated that they must be discussed together. Influenced by Socrates, Plato was convinced that knowledge is attainable. He was also convinced of two essential characteristics of knowledge. First, knowledge must be certain and infallible. Second, knowledge must have as its object that which is genuinely real as contrasted with that which is an appearance only. Because that which is fully real must, for Plato, be fixed, permanent, and unchanging, he identified the real with the ideal realm of being as opposed to the physical world of becoming. One consequence of this view was Plato's rejection of empiricism, the claim that knowledge is derived from sense experience. He thought that propositions derived from sense experience have, at most, a degree of probability. They are not certain. Furthermore, the objects of sense experience are changeable phenomena of the physical world. Hence, objects of sense experience are not proper objects of knowledge. Plato's own theory of knowledge is found in the Republic, particularly in his discussion of the image of the divided line and the myth of the cave. In the former, Plato distinguishes between two levels of awareness: opinion and knowledge. Claims or assertions about the physical or visible world, including both commonsense observations and the propositions of science, are opinions only. Some of these opinions are well founded; some are not; but none of them counts as genuine knowledge. The higher level of awareness is knowledge, because there reason, rather than sense experience, is involved. Reason, properly used, results in intellectual insights that are certain, and the objects of these rational insights are the abiding universals, the eternal Forms or substances that constitute the real world.

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