Three of Plato's most important dialogues are brought together to address vital concerns that continue to occupy serious minds today: In the Protagoras Plato attempts to answer questions about the nature of virtue and whether it is inherent to humans or a subject capable of being taught. In the Philebus , he addresses the nature and content of the good and whether wisdom or pleasure is to be preferred. In the Gorgias Plato customarily applies what is learned from the previous discussions to address larger issues such as the proper functioning of society and the state and the individual's appropriate place in them.
PLATO was born about 427 B.C.E. into the distinguished Athenian family of Ariston and Perictione. Although interested in politics as a young man, he became disenchanted with the cruel and immoral behavior of Athenian rulers. Some small ray of hope emerged when Athens deposed its dictators and established a democracy; however, when the citizens put the philosopher Socrates on trial and later executed him for impiety, Plato left Athens to travel abroad. In 387 B.C.E., Plato finally returned to Athens and created the Academy, an intellectual center for philosophy and science that offered scholarly training in such fields as astronomy, biological sciences, mathematics, and political science. From this influen-tial institution emerged Aristotle, Plato's most famous student. Plato dedicated himself to the Academy until his death in about 347 B.C.E. During his lifetime Plato wrote a number of supremely important dialogues, which presented and critically analyzed significant philosophical ideas in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and social and political philosophy--all of which con-tinue to engage posterity. His better-known dialogues include: The Apology, Cratylus, Crito, Euthyphro, Gorgias, The Laws, Meno, Parmenides, Phaedo, Phaedrus, Protagoras, The Repub-lic, The Sophist, The Symposium, Theaetetus, and Timaeus.