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It has frequently been assumed that if we can establish a relative chronology for when Plato wrote each of the dialogues, we can provide some objective test for the claim that Plato represented Socrates more accurately in the earlier dialogues, and less accurately in the later dialogues.In antiquity, the ordering of Plato's dialogues was given entirely along thematic lines.Supposedly possessed of outstanding intellectual and artistic ability even from his youth, according to Diogenes, Plato began his career as a writer of tragedies, but hearing Socrates talk, he wholly abandoned that path, and even burned a tragedy he had hoped to enter in a dramatic competition (D. He may, indeed, have written some epigrams; of the surviving epigrams attributed to him in antiquity, some may be genuine. 2.48-59, 3.34), were also well-known "Socratics" who composed such works. Kahn (1996, 1-35), concludes that the very existence of the genre—and all of the conflicting images of Socrates we find given by the various authors—shows that we cannot trust as historically reliable any of the accounts of Socrates given in antiquity, including those given by Plato.
Others, including Alexamenos of Teos (Aristotle passim), Simon (D. Such a claim, at any rate, is hardly established simply by the existence of these other writers and their writings.
We may still wish to ask whether Plato's own use of Socrates as his main character has anything at all to do with the historical Socrates.
These works blend ethics, political philosophy, moral psychology, epistemology, and metaphysics into an interconnected and systematic philosophy.
It is most of all from Plato that we get the theory of Forms, according to which the world we know through the senses is only an imitation of the pure, eternal, and unchanging world of the Forms. Plato came from one of the wealthiest and most politically active families in Athens.
The best reports of these orderings (see Diogenes Laertius' discussion at 3.56-62) included many works whose authenticity is now either disputed or unanimously rejected.
The uncontroversial internal and external historical evidence for a chronological ordering is relatively slight.
Though influenced primarily by Socrates, to the extent that Socrates is usually the main character in many of Plato's writings, he was also influenced by Heraclitus, Parmenides, and the Pythagoreans.
Plato's middle to later works, including his most famous work, the , are generally regarded as providing Plato's own philosophy, where the main character in effect speaks for Plato himself.
Nonetheless, it is plain that no influence on Plato was greater than that of Socrates.
This is evident not only in many of the doctrines and arguments we find in Plato's dialogues, but perhaps most obviously in Plato's choice of Socrates as the main character in most of his works.