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Plato (428–347 BCE)

Along with his teacher, Socrates (470–399 BCE), and his pupil, Aristotle (384–322 BCE), Plato was one of the three great philosophers of classical Athens. He was an aristocrat, a political visionary, and a metaphysician; his writings on politics have been central to the Western political tradition, and through the ages have attracted extremes of praise, criticism, and puzzlement. Plato was certainly hostile to democracy (which he blamed for the death of Socrates) and has been called the father of totalitarianism; but his writings also include the first great work of utopian political speculation in the Western tradition and defy any simple summary.

Plato's earliest writings on moral and political subjects were a series of so-called Socratic dialogues. These dialogues, written when he was still under the ...

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