INFLUENCES ON PLATO
We lack the materials for a proper biography of Plato. He hardly refers to himself at all in the dialogues. The ancient “Lives” are infected by gossip, legend, and fiction and the ostensibly autobiographical Seventh Letter is probably spurious. Fortunately, however, Aristotle provides us with important evidence on Plato's intellectual development. He says that Plato was first influenced by Cratylus the Heraclitean, and later by Socrates (Met. 987a32-bio). It is unlikely that Aristotle derived his claim about Craytlus from reading Plato's dialogues; he probably had some independent source. And since he was probably well informed about Socrates and Plato, his statement deserves to be taken seriously.
Aristotle implies that Plato is influenced both by the older, “pre-Socratic” tradition of the “naturalists“ (phusiologoi; cf. Aristotle, De Caelo 289b25-9) and by the more recent application of philosophy to moral and political questions. What, then, did Plato find when he looked at these two movements in Greek philosophy?
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