Any philosophy that embodies some major idea of Plato's, especially in taking abstract forms as metaphysically more basic than material things. Though there was in antiquity a tradition about Plato's “unwritten doctrines,” Platonism then and later was based primarily on a reading of the dialogues. It is characterized by an intense concern for the quality of human life—always ethical, often religious, and sometimes political, based on a belief in unchanging and eternal realities (the Platonic Forms), independent of the changing things of the physical world perceived by the senses. This belief in absolute values rooted in an eternal world distinguishes Platonism from the philosophies of Plato's immediate predecessors and successors and from later philosophies inspired by them. See also Neoplatonism.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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