Plato is considered one of the most influential Western Philosophers, as he laid the foundations for the works of many future scholars. One of Plato's central ideas was that the empirical world that agents can see is imperfect - that there exists an ideal world, or representation of every object. For instance, when I sit on a chair, it might be uncomfortable, lack lumbar support, and look ugly, but theoretically, there exists some ideal chair that is perfect in every regard. These "forms" are ideal, abstract objections that constitute perfection. Plato's idea is that we should strive to achieve these forms; for instance, the form of the perfect human would make the ideal ruler. Much of Plato's work involves an investigation of these forms and is a quest to understand how we can be good.
Many of Plato's works are written in the form of a dialogue between characters. As a result, his ideas are not as directly communicated but need to be inferred through the text of the work. Socrates, who was Plato's mentor, is one of the most prominent characters and is arguably considered the voice of reason within these works. Often, Socrates is able to convince many of the other characters in these dialogues to take his side.
In terms of debate, many of the applications of Plato center around his ideas of the forms, which are explained below.
- The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a nice entry on Plato. Although it doesn't get too much into the substance of his work, it provides a good structure on how to analyze his various readings.
- The Republic is considered one of Plato's most prominent works. Each Chapter has a different discussion with various characters about some philosophical issue. The book starts with the basics, such as questioning why we have an obligation to be just, and examines various scenarios that may come up in daily life. The first chapter is worth a read, if not for carding, but just to get a general sense of his philosophy.
Although Plato is not ran too frequently in debate, it can often be employed in topics that discuss the goodness of a particular idea or concept. Going back to Plato's idea of the forms, if the topic is proposing the goodness of a particular item, you could compare it to the form of that object. For instance, during the JF20 topic, States ought to eliminate nuclear arsenals, nuclear arsenals could be considered close to the mastery of the form of war. Since Plato believes that the forms are something we ought to strive for, an elimination of nuclear arsenals would be bad. Of course, one could think to many objections of this idea, such as even if a form is good, why does that justify keeping it (the is-ought gap), and also, keeping the form of a particularly horrible concept does not seem correct.
Here's a link to an open sourced Plato NC on the HSLD wiki.