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Plato (427-347 B. C.) was born to a distinguished Athenian family a few years after the beginning of the Peloponnesian War. He came under the influence of Socrates, although he may not have been one of the philosopher's most intimate followers. After the death of his mentor, Plato left Athens in disgust, giving up any hope of ever entering the political career he had long desired. Upon returning to the city some years later, he founded the school known as the Academy (387 B. C.), to which he devoted the remaining years of his long life. Many students came here to pursue a wide range of interests that went beyond formal philosophy itself, including political science, natural science, and mathematics. The school continued after Plato's death as an influential educational institution, coming to an end only in A. D. 529 . In many ways the Academy can lay claim to being the world's first university. [excerpt]


This is a part of Section I: Athens, Rome, and Jerusalem: Background of Western Civilization. The Contemporary Civilization page lists all additional sections of Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, as well as the Table of Contents for both volumes.

More About Contemporary Civilization:

From 1947 through 1969, all first-year Gettysburg College students took a two-semester course called Contemporary Civilization. The course was developed at President Henry W.A. Hanson’s request with the goal of “introducing the student to the backgrounds of contemporary social problems through the major concepts, ideals, hopes and motivations of western culture since the Middle Ages.”

Gettysburg College professors from the history, philosophy, and religion departments developed a textbook for the course. The first edition, published in 1955, was called An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization and Its Problems. A second edition, retitled Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, was published in 1958 and 1960. It is this second edition that we include here. The copy we digitized is from the Gary T. Hawbaker ’66 Collection and the marginalia are his.