Plato and SocratesPlato never speaks in his own voice in his dialogues. In the Second Letter, it says, “no writing of Plato exists or ever will exist, but those now said to be his are those of a Socrates become beautiful and new” (341c); if the Letter is Plato’s, the final qualification seems to call into question the dialogues’ historical fidelity. In any case, Xenophon and Aristophanes seem to present a somewhat different portrait of Socrates than Plato paints. Some have called attention to the problem of taking Plato’s Socrates to be his mouthpiece, given Socrates’ reputation for irony and the dramatic nature of the dialogue form
The precise relationship between Plato and Socrates remains an area of contention among scholars. Plato makes it clear in his Apology of Socrates, that he was a devoted young follower. In that dialogue, Socrates is presented as mentioning Plato by name as one of those youths close enough to him to have been corrupted, if he were in fact guilty of corrupting the youth, and questioning why their fathers and brothers did not step forward to testify against him if he was indeed guilty of such a crime (33d-34a). Later, Plato is mentioned along with Crito, Critobolus, and Apollodorus as offering to pay a fine of 30 minas on Socrates’ behalf, in lieu of the death penalty proposed by Meletus (38b). In the Phaedo the title character lists those who were in attendance at the prison on Socrates’ last day, explaining Plato’s absence by saying, “Plato was ill” (Phaedo 59b).
Aristotle attributes a different doctrine with respect to the ideas to Plato and Socrates (Metaphysics 987b1–11). Putting it in a nutshell, Aristotle merely suggests that his idea of forms can be discovered through investigation of the natural world, unlike Plato’s Forms that exist beyond and outside the ordinary range of human understanding.