The New England Transcendentalists were highly indebted to Plato.  Plato was a student of Socrates and the first major philosopher to develop a comprehensive view of the world and man's place in it.  Particularly congenial to the Transcendentalists was Plato's exaltation of intuition as a source of knowledge superior to sense experience.  Although they had no unified system of beliefs, the Transcendentalists generally agreed that there are ideas that are not derived through the senses or the sheer power of human reasoning but are intuitive.  Such thinking formed the basis of Amos Bronson Alcott's educational efforts--the conviction that man has inborn knowledge of what is right, beautiful, and true and with proper inner direction may attain perfection.  To show his esteem of Plato, Alcott placed a bust of Plato on top of the teacher's bookcase in his classroom at the Temple School in the 1830s.
Like Plato, the Transcendentalists had faith in ordinary people to order their lives in accordance with truth and beauty.  George Bancroft, referring to Plato, affirmed that "reason exists within every breast" and that there was "no difference between one mind and another"; indeed, "there was no faculty given, no intellectual function conceded, which did not belong to the meanest of their countrymen."  Ralph Waldo Emerson was fascinated by Plato, who was one of his chief influences--though Emerson, like the Transcendentalists in general, was less closely aligned with the Platonists than with the Neoplatonists, who had a more mystical vision of truth than that obtained through Plato's process of dialectical reasoning.  Also important in the formation of Transcendentalist thought on Plato were the Cambridge Platonists Ralph Cudworth and Henry More.