Plato (427–347 BC)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-A088-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 19, 2024, from

18. Plato’s influence

Plato’s influence pervades much of subsequent Western literature and thought. Aristotle was among those who came to listen to him in the ’school’ he founded in the Academy; and a great deal of Aristotle’s work is conceived in explicit or implicit response to Plato. Other philosophical traditions flourished after Aristotle’s time in the last centuries bc, and the Academy of the period read Plato through sceptical spectacles (see Arcesilaus). But from the first century ad onwards Platonism in various forms, often syncretistic, became the dominant philosophy of the Roman Empire (see Platonism, Early and Middle), especially with the rise of Neoplatonism in late antiquity (see Neoplatonism). Some of the Fathers of the early Greek Church articulated their theologies in Platonist terms; and through Augustine in particular Plato shaped, for example, the Western Church’s conception of time and eternity (see Patristic philosophy). A Neoplatonist version of him prevailed among the Arabs (see Platonism in Islamic philosophy).

With the translation of Plato into Latin in the high Middle Ages (see Platonism, medieval) and the revival of Greek studies in the Renaissance, Platonism (again in a Neoplatonic guise) once more gripped the minds of learned thinkers in the West, for example at the Medici court in fifteenth century Florence (see Platonism, Renaissance). But none of the great philosophers of the modern era has been a Platonist, even if Plato was an important presence in the thought of a Leibniz or a Hegel or a Russell. Probably he has never been studied more intensively than in the late twentieth century. Thanks to the availability of cheap translations in every major language and to his position as the first great philosopher in the Western canon, he figures in most introductory courses offered every year to tens of thousands of students throughout the developed world.

Citing this article:
Schofield, Malcolm. Plato’s influence. Plato (427–347 BC), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-A088-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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