In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Plato

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Online Resources
  • Bibliographies
  • Prosopography
  • Lexica and Indices
  • Alcibiades
  • Apology of Socrates
  • Charmides
  • Cratylus
  • Critias
  • Crito
  • Euthydemus
  • Euthyphro
  • Gorgias
  • Hippias Minor and Major
  • Ion
  • Laches
  • Lysis
  • Menexenus
  • Meno
  • Phaedo
  • Philebus
  • Protagoras
  • Satesman
  • Dubious
  • Alcibiades II
  • Cleitophon
  • Hipparchus
  • Minos
  • Rival Lovers
  • Theages
  • Halcyon
  • Axiochus
  • Definitions
  • Demodocus
  • Epigrams
  • Eryxias
  • On Justice
  • Sisyphos
  • On Virtue
  • Plato as Author, Myth, and Literature
  • Ethics and Politics
  • Plato’s Theory of the Arts
  • Plato’s Legacy

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Classics Plato
Luc Brisson, Richard Dufour
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 April 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0006


Born at Athens in a family of noble descent, Plato (b. c. 428–427– d. c. 348–347 BCE) naturally sought throughout his life to play a political role as councilor or legislator, not only at Athens but also abroad, especially in Sicily. A writer and philosopher, Plato was above all a citizen who, as is attested by the ten books of the Republic and the twelve books of the Laws (which constitute almost half of his work), wished to reform the political life of his city by assigning power not to wealth or to military force, but to knowledge. Against the traditional vision of culture in his time, essentially transmitted by poetry, Plato proposed a new system of education based on knowledge, in which mathematics plays an important role, and which culminates in the contemplation of true realities and of the Good. Plato’s life is therefore inseparable from his thought. Fairly early, a dogmatism (the term being taken in the minimal sense of the exposition of a doctrine) developed, with the appearance of a doctrine whose principal points became more specific over time. This doctrine is characterized by a twofold reversal. First, the world of things perceived by the senses is a mere image of a set of intelligible forms that represent true reality, for they possess the principle of their existence within themselves. Second, human beings cannot be reduced to their bodies, for their true identity coincides instead with an incorporeal entity, the soul, that accounts for all motion, both material (growth, locomotion, etc.) and spiritual (feelings, sense perceptions, intellectual knowledge, and so on).

General Overviews

There are many presentations of Plato, his life, his work, and his doctrine, but the most exhaustive is Erler 2007. The presentations in Friedländer 1964–1969 and Guthrie 1975 are still valuable. Fine 2008 is of particular interest.

  • Erler, Michael. 2007. Die Philosophie der Antike. Vol. 2.2, Platon. Basel, Switzerland: Schwabe.

    Written after the model of the other volumes in the series, this recent volume of 792 pages is a true summa, with a bibliography of nearly 200 pages.

  • Fine, Gail, ed. 1999. Plato 1: Metaphysics and epistemology. Oxford Readings in Philosophy. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Together with Plato 2: Ethics, Politics, Religion, and the Soul (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), provides a collection of thirty-seven articles, published after 1970 in the English-speaking world, on various aspects of Plato’s philosophy.

  • Fine, Gail, ed. 2008. The Oxford handbook of Plato. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    A collection of twenty-two previously unpublished articles from the English-speaking world on various aspects of Plato’s philosophy.

  • Friedländer, Paul. 1964–1969. Plato. 3 vols. Translated by Hans Meyerhoff. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

    Original work in German, Platon, 3 vols. (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1954–1960). An essential work by a German scholar. It gives a good idea of the state of research on Plato during the first half of the 20th century.

  • Guthrie, William K. C. 1975. A history of Greek philosophy. Vol. 4, Plato: The man and his dialogues; Earlier period. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    Along with Volume 5, The Later Plato and the Academy (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1978), the standard presentation in English of Plato, his life, and work, with each dialogue constituting the subject of a particular study.

  • Vlastos, Gregory, ed. 1978. Plato: A collection of critical essays. 2 vols. Notre Dame, IN: Univ. of Notre Dame Press.

    Plato scholarship in the English-speaking world in the period between the end of World War II and 1970. Volume 1, Metaphysics and Epistemology; Volume 2, Ethics, Politics, and Philosophy of Art and Religion.

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