Plato, the first Western educational philosopher, was born in 427 B.C. in Athens (Greece). He belonged to a very respectable and aristocratic family. The name of Plato’s father was Ariston. He was a skilful player. At that time, the imparting of education through various games and music was prevalent in Greece. Hence Plato got an education through these means during his early life. He was a sportsman of the first order. He had won many wrestling bouts. He studied the works of Homer and other literature of Greece. He had a great love for literature and politics and remained a bachelor through his life.
At the age of 20, Plato became closely attached to Socrates as his disciple and remained with him for ten years. At this time Socrates was more than sixty years old. Socrates was a great philosopher of Greece at that time. Plato had a love and respect for Socrates and was very much influenced by his ideals and preached them. It is said, “If Socrates created the song of philosophy, it was Plato who sang the tune”. Like Socrates, Plato wrote some composition in dialogue form. These compositions reflect moral behaviour. After the death of Socrates, Plato left Athens and left hither and tither in search of knowledge and peace of mind. He lived for some years in Egypt and Megara and engaged himself in search of knowledge. He was impressed by the system of education of Egypt. He went to Italy and also studied the ideas of Pythagoras also. He went to Sicily where he tried to know the system of administration by attending the Court of King Dionysius. Thus he engaged himself in search of the truth. He gained sufficient knowledge in the literary, social and political field. He became an expert philosopher, politician and a social reformer. He influenced politics, religion and education throughout the succeeding ages. He gave to the world a general philosophy embracing a theory of a new form of government and a new social order. He also pleaded for an educational system.
Thus Plato bequeathed three the grandest and most beautiful things-
Theory of a New Form of Government.
A New Social Order.
A Well Articulated System of Education.
Of these three things, he considered education as the first and the fairest thing that the best of men can ever have.
Plato set up a school on Greek tradition in the year 386 B.C. to test his educational ideas at a place provided by his friends and disciples and sat there till the last breath of his life. He wished to make every person an ideal citizen. He provided for the teaching of mathematics, philosophy, psychology, education, sociology, politics and music etc. in his school. This was the practical basis of the education preached by Plato.
Plato is the oldest Greek philosopher whose writings have come down to us in all their entirely. Some of his writings which have educational bearings and have interest for a student of philosophy or of education are-
Republic- It is a treatise which realizes the idea of justice and details a Eutopian scheme for an ideal state. It abounds Plato’s thoughts on education. His book ‘Republic’ is highly appreciated by Rousseau in the words, “If you wish to know what is meant by public education, read Plato’s Republic”.
The Laws- It is Plato’s old age compilation which supplements the Republic. It seems that this book was written to clarify certain national portions of Republic.
Protagoras- It is the Socratic Doctrine of Virtue. In this book, the virtues, principles and the ideas of Socrates have been dealt with.
Symposium- It gives us a conception of Platonic love for truth, beauty and goodness and differentiates it from the sensual love.
Timaeus- It is an allegorical exposition of the drama of creation.