Plato was a philosopher in Classical Greece and the founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. He is widely considered the most pivotal figure in the development of philosophy, especially the Western tradition. Unlike nearly all of his philosophical contemporaries, Plato's entire work is believed to have survived intact for over 2400 years.
Along with his teacher, Socrates, and his most famous student, Aristotle, Plato laid the very foundations of Western philosophy and science. Alfred North Whitehead once noted: "the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato." In addition to being a foundational figure for Western science, philosophy, and mathematics, Plato has also often been cited as one of the founders of Western religion and spirituality. Friedrich Nietzsche, amongst other scholars, called Christianity "Platonism for the people". Plato's influence on Christian thought is often thought to be mediated by his major influence on Saint Augustine of Hippo, one of the most important philosophers and theologians in the history of Christianity.
Plato was the innovator of the written dialogue and dialectic forms in philosophy, which originate with him. Plato appears to have been the founder of Western political philosophy, with his Republic and Laws among other dialogues, providing some of the earliest extant treatments of political questions from a philosophical perspective.
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