The unexamined life is t worth living. Socrates's ancient words are still true, and the ideas sounded in Plato's Dialogues still form the foundation of a thinking person's education. This superb collection contains excellent contemporary translations selected for their clarity and accessibility to today's reader, as well as an incisive introduction by Erich Segal, which reveals Plato's life and clarifies the philosophical issues examined in each dialogue. The first four dialogues recount the trial execution of Socrates--the extraordinary tragedy that changed Plato's life and so altered the course of Western though. Other dialogues create a rich tableau of intellectual life in Athens in the fourth century B.C., and examine the nature of virtue and love, kwledge and truth, society and the individual. Resounding with the humor and astounding brilliance of Socrates, the immortal icoclast, these great works remain powerful, probing, and essential.
Plato, with Socrates and Aristotle, is the founder of the Western intellectual tradition. Like his mentor Socrates, he was essentially a practical philosopher who found the abstract theory and visionary schemes of many contemporary thinkers misguided and sterile. He was born about 429 B.C. in Athens, the son of a prominent family that had long been involved in the city's politics. Extremely little survives of the history of Plato's youth, but he was raised in the shadow of the great Peloponnesian War, and its influence must have caused him to reject the political career open to him and to become a follower of the brilliantly unorthodox Socrates, the self-proclaimed gadfly of Athens. Socrates' death in 399 B.C. turned Plato forever from politics, and in the next decade he wrote his first dialogues, among them Apology and Euthyphro. At age forty, Plato visited Italy and Syracuse, and upon his return he founded the Academy-Europe's first university-in a sacred park on the outskirts of Athens. The Academy survived for a millennium, finally closed by the emperor Justinian in A.D. 529. Plato hoped his school would train its pupils to carry out a life of service and to investigate questions of science and mathematics. Plato's old age was probably devoted to teaching and writing, he died in Athens in 348 B.C.