Utopian Society Thinkers Plato Part 1

About the famous thinker Plato who wrote about a utopian society he referred to as The Republic.



A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth glancing at.

--Oscar Wilde

PLATO (427?-347 B.C.)

It was said that one of Plato's ancestors was Poseidon, god of the sea. Certainly Plato came from an ancient, noble Greek family; on his mother's side he was related to Solon, on his father's to the early kings of Athens. He had everything else going for him, too-good looks, intelligence, athletic ability, and character. He seemed slated for an easy life. However, the Greece of his youth was on paradise for aristocrats. In the unrest following the Peloponnesian War, two of Plato's relatives led a rebellion against the oligarchical government and were killed in the attempt. Not long after, Socrates, who was Plato's mentor, was tried and condemned to death.

Plato fled from Athens and traveled for years-perhaps as far as Egypt, where he may have studied mathematics and history under the priests. After a 12-year return to Athens, he went on the road again, in a kind of intellectual pilgrimage, during which he was sold into slavery. Ransomed by his friends and back in Athens, he founded the Academy. For 900 years after, this university was to be the intellectual center of Greece. It was supported by parents of students and by the aristocracy. Dionysius II was supposed to have given Plato 80 talents (the equivalent of almost half a million dollars).

Students of the school-among them Demosthenes, Aristotle, Lycurgus, and several women (Plato was a feminist)-studied mathematics, philosophy, music, and law. Antiphanes, a poet, compared Plato's words to those spoken in a northern city; they froze in the winter air, not to thaw out until summer. That is, Plato's students understood his words only in old age.

Plato believed that ideas were the sole reality. His most famous works were The Laws and The Republic, in both of which he described his utopia. In spite of his high-mindedness, he also had an earthy streak and an eye for human detail. Because of him, we, 2,000 years later, know about Alcibiades' drunken antics and Aristophanes' "hiccoughing because he had eaten too much."

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