Plato biography and philosophy
Plato biography, dates: born 428 BC, Athens, Greece;
died 347 BC, Athens.
Plato biography, details: Following Socrates,
Plato created the philosophical foundations of Western culture. His philosophy ranges over the fields of logic, epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics. Plato is a rationalist, believing that reason must be followed wherever it leads. At the core of Plato's philosophy is the idea of eternal Forms.
Plato's biography begins with his birth to a distinguished family in Athens. He befriended Socrates when still a young child, and it was to Socrates that he owed his commitment to philosophy, his rational method, and his concern for ethics. Although encouraged to enter politics, Plato was repelled by violent acts. After the failure of oligarchy, he hoped democracy would improve matters. But the Athenian democrats condemned Socrates to death. So Plato turned his back on active politics and founded the Academy, devoted to the systematic pursuit of philosophical and scientific knowledge.
Plato presided over the Academy for the rest of his life. Little is known of Plato's character and personality. His star pupil, Aristotle, said he was so noble most men were not even fit to praise him. Plato is mostly remembered for his dialogues, though he considered the Academy to be his greatest achievement.
Besides Socrates, other philosophical influences included Heraclitus and Pythagoras, with whose metaphysical and mystical notions Plato had great sympathy. He was too young have experienced the democracy of Pericles, or Sophists like Protagoras. But he used ideas from these predecessors in his dialogues.
The best mathematicians were members of the academy, including Theatetus, the creator of solid geometry, and Eudoxus of Cnidus. Natural science was also pursued, coming to greatest fruition in the work of Aristotle. Legal and political science was pursued in earnest. The Academy remained a focus for intellectual life for more than two centuries after Plato's death.
Further reading: A longer biography of Plato can be found in Encyclopaedia Britannica.