Teaching Students About Plato’s Accomplishments


Plato, an ancient Greek philosopher, is considered one of the pivotal figures in Western philosophy. Born around 428/427 BCE in Athens, he was a student of Socrates and later taught Aristotle, further developing and disseminating his own ideas in the process. As educators, it is essential to introduce students to Plato’s accomplishments and help them understand his lasting influence on various fields such as ethics, metaphysics, political theory, and others.

1. Founding the Academy

One of Plato’s most significant achievements was founding the Academy in Athens, regarded as the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. By creating this institution circa 387 BCE, Plato brought together like-minded scholars who would engage in intellectual discussions and research on diverse subjects. In doing so, he fostered an environment that allowed future philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians to develop their thoughts collectively. Teaching students about the Academy can help them comprehend how Plato’s ideas went beyond his own writings and ultimately shaped the course of intellectual history.

2. Plato’s Dialogues and Philosophical Works

Plato’s main literary output consists of numerous dialogues featuring Socrates as a central character. These works explore various philosophical questions and are essential for students to gain a comprehensive understanding of his thought-processes. Some key dialogues include:

– Republic: This dialogue is arguably Plato’s most famous work and contains some of his most influential ideas on justice, politics, and education.

– Symposium: In this piece, Plato examines different perspectives on the nature of love presented through several speeches by individuals attending a banquet.

Apology: A dramatic portrayal of Socrates’ defense during his trial which resulted in his execution.

– Meno: This dialogue primarily deals with virtue (or excellence) and the process through which it can be acquired.

3. Contributions to Philosophy

In addition to his literary output, Plato made significant contributions to various branches of philosophy. Below are some areas in which his work has had a long-lasting impact:

– Ethics: In his theory of the “Forms,” Plato posited that there exists an ideal and unchangeable realm that holds the essence of everything that exists in the physical world. This concept has profound implications for understanding morality and virtue.

– Political Philosophy: Plato’s Republic contains an extensive analysis of political systems, offering a critique on democracy and advocating for what he considered a just society governed by philosopher-kings.

– Epistemology: His theories on knowledge acquisition laid the groundwork for future explorations in the nature, scope, and limitations of human understanding.

4. The Legacy of Plato

The influence of Plato’s ideas has been far-reaching, extending beyond ancient Greece and shaping the development of Western philosophy ever since. His views have inspired subsequent philosophers like Plotinus and Augustine, who adopted and adapted aspects of Platonic thinking into their own work. Furthermore, the ideas presented in Plato’s writing have also found their way into many fields beyond philosophy, such as literature (e.g., Dante Alighieri’s ‘Divine Comedy’), political theory, and even psychology.


When teaching students about Plato’s accomplishments, it is crucial to explore his founding of the Academy, his philosophical works (particularly the dialogues), his contributions to various branches of philosophy, and his enduring legacy. By doing so, students can gain a comprehensive understanding of this extraordinary thinker whose ideas have significantly impacted Western thought throughout history.

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