Greek philosopher (Athens, 427 - 347 b.c.). Born of an aristocratic family, abandoned his political vocation for philosophy, attracted by Socrates. He followed this for twenty years and openly confronted the Sophists (Protagoras, Gorgias). After the death of Socrates (399 b.c.), departed completely from politics; However, political issues always occupied a central place in his thought, and came to conceive an ideal model of State. He traveled East and South of Italy, where he came into contact with the disciples of Pythagoras; He then spent some time prisoner of pirates, until he was rescued, and he was able to return to Athens.
There he founded a school of philosophy in the 387, located on the outskirts of the city, next to the garden dedicated to the hero Akademos, from where comes the name of Academy. The school, a kind of sect of scholars organized with their regulations, residence of students, library, classrooms and specialized seminars, was the precedent and model of modern universities.
It is studying and researching on all kinds of issues, given that philosophy encompassed the totality of knowledge, until they were gradually appearing - in own Academy - specialized disciplines which would result in branches differentiated knowledge, logic, ethics and physics. It remained more than nine hundred years, until Justinian sent it to close in 529 d. C., and in it are educated characters of importance as fundamental as Aristotle.
Unlike Socrates, who left no written work, the works of Plato have been preserved almost complete and the founder of academic philosophy is considered therefore (despite the fact that his work is essentially a development of the Socratic thinking). Most are written in the form of dialogues, like laws, Republic, Phaedrus, the banquet or Fedon.
The content of these writings is a metaphysical speculation, but with clear practical orientation. The world of the true being of ideas, the world of appearances that surround us is subject to continuous change and degeneration. Similarly, the man is a compound of two different realities United accidentally: the mortal body (related to the sensitive world) and the immortal soul (belonging to the world of ideas, which included prior to the body). This dual man could only achieve happiness through an exercise continued virtue to perfect the soul; and virtue meant, above all, justice, harmonious compendium of the three particular virtues, corresponding to the three components of the soul: wisdom of the reason, the fortitude and temperance of appetites. Real man is, for Plato, who get linked to ideas through knowledge, consistent intellectual - and not of the senses - Act in which the soul remember the world of ideas from which proceeds.
However, the full realization of this ideal human can only be made in the social life of the political community, where the State gives harmony and consistency to the individual virtues. The ideal state of Plato would be a Republic formed by three kinds of citizens - the people, the warriors and philosophers-, each with its specific mission and its characteristic virtues: the philosophers would be called to govern the community, by the virtue of wisdom; While the Warriors ensure order and defence, relying on his virtue of the fortress; and the people work in productive activities, cultivating Temperance.
The two upper classes live in a Community system where all (goods, children and women) belonged to the State, for the plain people leaving institutions such as family and private property; and the State would be that would be responsible for education and the selection of individuals according to their ability and their virtues, destined to each class. Justice would be achieved collectively when each individual was fully incorporated into his role, subordinating its interests to those of the State.
Plato attempted to translate into practice his philosophical ideas, agreeing to accompany his disciple Dion as tutor and Advisor of the young King Dionisio II of Syracuse; the clash between the idealistic thoughts of the philosopher and the harsh reality of the policy did fail the experiment twice (367 and 361 b.c.).
However, the ideas of Plato continued influence - itself or through his pupil Aristotle - on the subsequent history of the Western world: his dualistic conception of the human being or the division of society into three functional commands would be recurrent ideas of European thought for centuries. At the end of antiquity, Platonism was enriched by the work of Plotinus and neoplatonic school (century iii d. C.).