Edited by Jürgen G. Backhaus
Chapter 38: Plato (c. 427-349 BC)
421 Biography Plato, the son of Ariston, was born around 428-7 BC in Athens and died there in 349-7 BC. From an aristocratic background, he had political ambitions in his youth, and probably started to exercise them as well. However, he lived in uncertain and violent times, when the polis of Athens was already in severe decline, and his shocked reaction to the forced death of his teacher Socrates is frequently seen as the beginning of the antagonism between philosophy and politics (see Arendt, 1990). After a long trip to Sicily, he founded his own philosophical school in Athens, the Academy, which lasted for 900 years. Later in his life, Plato travelled twice more to Syracuse to educate the young tyrant, Dionysios 11; the extent to which his political writings were texts for or results of this, or neither, is heavily debated, as are most facets and data of his life. Plato has attracted violent attacks and criticism for more than two millennia, but very few people concerned with philosophy doubt that he was one of the greatest philosophers of all time, and many would say the greatest of all. Law and economics The Nomoi (it is best to retain the Greek name because our meaning of ‘Laws’ is quite different) are Plato’s last and longest work. In dialogical form, the founding of a new state or a more or less independent colony is discussed, and an ideal or model constitution and laws, including detailed codificationlike catalogues, given. Contrary to...
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