Plato, Roman copy of a portrait bust by Silanion for the Academia in Athens (c. 370 BC)By Copy of Silanion, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7831217"Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself." In a time where the speech of the soul would be considered primitive by modern society, one man tried to revolutionize the language of thought of the time. This quote by Plato himself well explains his thoughts. Plato was born in Athens, in the wake of the cities golden age in 427 BC. His philosophy contrasted with the general public, as well as angered many governments, including several kings. Despite this, he never backed down and continued to voice his thoughts, many far ahead of his time. His forward thinking was the first of it's kind, demonstrating his morals, desire to improve the government of his time, as well as become the first male advocate of women's rights.
Plato was one of the first male advocates of women's rights; he argued that since all people had a "soul" each person should be treated identically. He argued that gender is of the same relevancy of having either long hair or short hair in assignment of a job or education. "Men and women, just like the long-haired and the short-haired, are by nature the same for the assignment of education and jobs." (Plato The Republic) Plato's view was one of equal opportunity for both men and women, and that one's gender is irrelevant in the qualification for a job, education or position in society. His thinking was one of equal ability for both men and women, in all aspects of society. Another point in Plato's advocation of women's rights was the breaking up of private families. In Plato's thoughts, the breaking up of these families was to create opportunities for women to receive an education, rather than have to stay at home to care for their family. "Plato wants the economy of desire and reproduction to be organized in such a way that women are free for education and employment alongside men, in the guardian classes, at any rate." (Brown) Plato's idea of an ideal society included men and women working alongside one another, not only in everyday living, but in militaristic operations as well. Plato's forward thinking of women's rights never came true within his life, but it set an idea that would become one of the most hotly debated topics ever to exist.
As such, Plato founded the Academy, the first university, as well as a model for future institutions of the same kind. "Plato hoped the Academy would provide a place where thinkers could work toward better government in the Grecian cities."(EGS) Plato founded the Academy to spread his idea of a perfect government, so governments throughout Greece would adopt it. His main goal was always to improve society through education. Plato himself also took direct action to try to improve government. Dionysus II invited Plato to tutor him. Plato took the opportunity to create the first philosopher king. "In 367 BC Plato was invited to be the personal tutor to Dionysus II, the new ruler of Syracuse."(EGS) Plato hoped to teach Dionysus II to become a philosopher king, someone who had access to "Ideas" as well as someone who had power to implement them. However, Plato found the situation unfavorable to teach philosophy. He left in 365 BC when Syracuse entered war. Throughout his life, Plato constantly tried to improve the world around him. Though he failed, his efforts made a lasting impression throughout the ages.
Plato had many morals that shaped the way his life went as well as changed the way he wrote his dialogues. His mentor, Socrates was murdered by the government of Plato's own city of Athens. He was executed for corrupting the youth of Athens with his ideas, as well as being impious to the gods. Socrates, instead of escaping, like his many friends persuaded him to, Plato included, took his punishment of the death penalty on principal, choosing to obey the law because of principal. This event affected Plato greatly, causing him to leave Athens for a time, because he couldn't bear to remain in the city that had executed, in Plato's opinion, one of the most noble men in Athens. "Although Plato earlier showed an interest in politics, Socrates' death sentence... seem to have caused Plato to turn to a life of philosophical reflection and writing."(Jowett) Socrates' death not only drove Plato away from Athens, it also drove Plato away from a life of politics, as he wanted no part in a government that had put to death his idol. Socrates also affected Plato in his writings. Plato often included Socrates as a character in his philosophical dialogues. "There is one interlocutor who speaks in nearly all of Plato's dialogues, being completely absent only in Laws, which ancient testimony tells us was one of his latest works: that figure is Socrates." (Kraut) Socrates appeared in many of Plato's works, mostly as a main character, arguing for the idea that Plato himself believed in. Plato also tried to give the written Socrates a life like quality. Plato honored his mentor in his work as well as in his everyday actions.
Plato's soul did indeed speak to itself, resulting in a great man who exhibited the heroic qualities he sometimes wrote of. Plato exhibited thinking far ahead of his time, demonstrating morals, a desire to improve the world he lived in, as well as was a women's rights advocate. Plato inspires me to change the world, because although his attempt failed, he opened up new pathways to ideas that would be explored many years later. He shows that what you do can still change the world, but perhaps not in the way you would expect to.
Kraut, Richard, Kraut,. "Plato." Stanford University. StanfordUniversity, 20 Mar. 2004. Web. 08 Dec. 2013.
McInerny, Dennis Q., and McInerny Dennis Q."Plato." Magill'S Survey Of World Literature, Revised Edition (2009): 1.Biography Reference Center.Web. 9 Dec. 2013.
"Plato - Biography." Plato. The European GraduateSchool, 1997. Web. 06 Dec. 2013.
Turner, William. "Plato and Platonism." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 9 Dec. 2013<https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12159a.htm>.
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