The Use and Meaning of the Past in Plato

Plato Journal 21:43-58 (2021)
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Abstract

This essay is based on two premises. The first concerns the vision of writing proposed by Plato in Phaedrus and especially the conception of philosophical writing as a maieutic game. The structurally polyvalent way in which Plato approaches philosophical issues also emerges in the dialogues. The second concerns the birth and the development of historical analysis in parallel with the birth of philosophy. On this basis the text investigates a series of data about the relationship between Plato and "the facts". 1) If we compare the Apology of Socrates with other sources, we discover a series of important “games” that Plato performs to achieve the results he proposes. 2) The famous passage of Phaedo 96A-102A, which concludes with the Ideas and with a reference to the Principles, expresses definite judgments on the Presocratics. 3) In his works Plato attributes to the sophists some merits, even if the outcome of their contri-bution is overall negative. 4) However, in the fourth complicated diairesis of the Sophist, there is a "sophist of noble stock", an educator who can only be Socrates. 5) Plato in the Sophist shows the weakness of the Gigantomachy, and proposes an adequate definition of the beings: the power of undergoing or acting. This reveals, before the Philebus and the Timaeus, the dynamic and dialectical nature of his philosophy In summary, a multifocal vision emerges, adapted to an intrinsically complex reality.

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