In this international and interdisciplinary collection of critical essays, distinguished contributors examine a crucial premise of traditional readings of Plato's dialogues: that Plato's own doctrines and arguments can be read off the statements made in the dialogues by Socrates and other leading characters. The authors argue in general and with reference to specific dialogues, that no character should be taken to be Plato's mouthpiece. This is essential reading for students and scholars of Plato.
We examine the "Theaetetus" in the light of its juxtaposition of philosophical, mathematical and sophistical approaches to knowledge, which we show to be a prominent feature of the drama. We suggest that clarifying the nature of philosophy supersedes the question of knowledge as the main ambition of the "Theaetetus". Socrates shows Theaetetus that philosophy is not a demonstrative science, like geometry, but it is also not mere word-play, like sophistry. The nature of philosophy is revealed in Socrates' activity of examination (...) and his refusal to deny his ignorance about knowledge. (shrink)
The greatest rhetorical display (έπιδείξις) of Plato's Protagoras is apparently not Protagoras's famous myth cum démonstration1 about the teachability of excellence (αρετή),2 but rather the dia logue as a whole. The Protagoras exposes key différences between the methods and presuppositions of Socrates and those of the Sophists - thus defending Socrates against the charge of being a Sophist himself - and in so doing clarifies the conditions and princi ples of ethical argumentation.3 The display of the Protagoras oc curs on (...) two levels. In the drama, Socrates puts the Sophists on exhibit for the benefit of Hippocrates, an Athenian boy who as pires to a sophistic éducation. In reading the dialogue, however, we become spectators to Plato's display. The pervading irony is that Piato uses the Protagoras to critieize the techniques of display and debate - and to contrast them with dialogue. But the Socratic/ Platonic display in the Protagoras is literally a showing forth, a manifestation of what a Sophist is and does, whereas a sophistical display is a showing off, that is not intrinsically related to his beliefs and aims. In order to see thèse thèmes at work in the Protagoras , however, it must first be examined from a rhetorical point of view. (shrink)
In Republic VI 508e-9b Plato has Socrates claim that the Good is the cause (αίτίαν) of truth and knowledge as well as the very being of the Forms. Consequently, as causes must be distinct from and superior to their effects, the Good is neither truth nor knowledge nor even being, but exceeds them all in beauty (509a), as well as in honour and power (509b). No other passage in Plato has had a more intoxicating effect on its readers. To take (...) just one example, James Adam was moved to quote St. Paul when he remarked about this passage that, 'it is highly characteristic of Plato's whole attitude that he finds the true keystone of the Universe — the ultimate fountain from which both Knowledge and Existence flow — in no cold and colourless ontological abstraction, like Being, but in that for which "all creation groans and labours". (shrink)
This article presents evidence over which we stumbled while investigating a completely different part of the Platonic Corpus. While examining the ordinary working vocabulary of the doubtful dialogues and of those undisputed dialogues most readily compared with them, it seemed essential to have a representative sample of Plato's allegedly 'middle' and 'late' dialogues also. The real surprise came when the Critias was included, showing some frequencies not previously observed in Platonic dialogues. This prompted treatment of the Timaeus also, some of (...) which showed comparable peculiarities. The most distinctive feature was the increase in the rate of the definite article from around 8% of total vocabulary in dialogues assumed to be early, or around 10% in Laws, to some 14% in sizeable parts of the Timaeus-Critias, where Plato seemed no less interested in the literary credentials of his creations than elsewhere. Tests intended for application to our original set of problems were yielding results that appeared to bear on a number of problems central to the interpretation of the Timaeus-Critias. (shrink)
Plato's Sophist is complex. Its themes are many and ambiguous. The early grammarians gave it the subtitle1tEp1. 'tau ov'to~ ('on being') and assigned it to Plato's logical investigations. The Neoplatonists prized it for a theory of ontological categories they preferred to Aristotle's. Modern scholars sometimes court paradox and refer to the Sophist as Plato's dialogue on not-being (because the question ofthe possibility of not-being occupies much of the dialogue). Whitehead took the Sophist to be primarily about ouvo.~t~ ('power') and found (...) in it many of the central ideas of process theology.2 Heidegger thought it articulated the 'average concept of being in general'.3 In Cornford's view the Sophist is mainly about truth and falsehood. Ackrill, Frede and most analytic philosophers think it is about predication.4 Stanley Rosen treats it as a metaphysico-aesthetic dialogue: in his view it is about the relation of images to originals.5 As far as the title of the dialogue goes, however, opinion is almost universal. Do not be misled: 'the definition of the sophist' observed Archer-Hind 'is simply a piece of pungent satire'6 and he added that 'we may be sure that (Plato] cared little about defining the sophist, but very much about the metaphysical questions to which the process of definition was to give rise'.7 The most spectacular case of agreement with this judgment can be found in Cornford, who omits to translate the sections on the definition of the sophist because, as he says 'the modern reader ... might be wearied'.8. (shrink)
This paper examines one aspect of the relation between philosophy and myth, namely the function myth has, for some philosophers, in narrowing the distance between appearance and reality. I distinguish this function of myth from other common functions, and also show how the approach to reality through myth differs from a more empirical philosophical approach. I argue that myth plays a fundamental role in Plato's approach to the appearance/reality distinction, and that understanding this is important to the interpretation of Plato's (...) frequent use of language suggesting the existence of a world of unchanging ideal objects and a world of transient, variable particulars. All things are an exchange for fire, and fire for all things, as goods for gold, and gold for goods.1 ?Heraclitus DK 22 B 90. (shrink)
Reflections on Plato’s Poetics presents the reflections of leading scholars from China and the West on the form, nature and significance of Plato's engagement with poetry. The book does not adopt any monolithic point of view about Plato and poetry. Instead it openly explores Plato's attitudes to poetry, both comprehensively and within the intricate confines of particular dialogues. These reflections reveal a Plato who is deeply influenced by poetry; a Plato who writes, at least very often, from within a poetic (...) paradigm; a Plato whose concerns about the influence and ambiguity of words force him to play with meaning and to provoke questions about meaning. Thus, many of the contributions reveal a concern about the relation of philosophy to poetry, how the two categories are different and whether (or in what way) one is superior to the other. (shrink)
Deliberation is the intellectual activity of rational agents in their capacity as rational agents, and good deliberation is the mark of those who have practical wisdom. That is Aristotle's general view,2 one we may safely attribute to Plato as well. Some philosophers, however, have tried to specifiy Plato's view in ways that accentuate the differences between him and Aristotle. They align Plato's views about deliberation and virtue closely with views the fifth-century sophists, and suppose that Plato borrows from the sophists (...) certain suppositions that Aristotle would reject. In the Protagoras, for example, when Protagoras asserts that he teaches virtue, he claims to teach it as the expertise. (shrink)
Aesthetics presents a confusing domain for a philosopher. Its territory seems like an Empedoclean cosmos: a ceaselessly dynamic interchange of mixtures, at times resisting division, at times fracturing into an incomprehensible manifold. There may be no truth in aesthetics at all. Perhaps there is not even much truth about it. Some think of aesthetics primarily as a cultural or political phenomenon, others manage to reduce it to history (indeed, to a history that is over, and therefore safe). Still others investigate (...) it from the points of view of psychology, physiology, religion, technology, or morality. These are just a few of the innumerable “discourses” of aesthetics. Within a narrow focus some of these discourses appear to be meaningful, but this appearance owes much to the artificial and conditioned structure of the conversation. When viewed from the outside, the discourses of aesthetics often appear to be little more than babble. The hypothesis that they might someday converge on a perfectly general aesthetics seems implausible, even for arts and art histories of a more or less continuous, singular culture. (shrink)
Most readers of Plato’s dialogues would probably think of him as likely to approve more of the old masters than of new art. The old masters were on the whole far more realistic than modern painters—compare, say, Velázquez Innocent X (1650) with Matisse The Snail (1953)2—and Plato often seems to take issue with an artist if he departs even slightly from realism. A long section of the Ion, for example, is dedicated to showing that experts in charioteering, medicine, and other (...) areas make the best judges about what poets say on those subjects, ostensibly because only experts can tell how realistically the poet represents chariots, medical treatments and the like.3 Even more telling is the view, famously expressed in the Republic, which suggests that painters should paint things according to what they actually look like:. (shrink)
This little book, which ostensibly concerns "the conflict between Isocrates and Plato on the subject of Athenian culture, as seen through the Symposium," ought not to escape the attention of Plato scholars or philosophers. The antithesis between a rhetorical ideal of open conversation and a philosophical ideal of objective accord is the main issue here, and the lessons of the book are as important to the twentieth century as they are to the time of Plato. Wohlman sees the Symposium as (...) staging a battle between Plato and Isocrates over the conception of a common logos. For Isocrates the common logos is rooted in the humanism of Athenian culture, founded on the shared values of liberty and autonomy, and expressed in a diversity of intellectual endeavors. Thus, the rhetor, the aristocrat, the doctor, the poet, and the philosopher all share a cultural commitment to logos, which allows them to disagree about the contents and merits of their respective views, but which also requires them to acquiesce in irresolution: their "open" conversation cannot be closed. Plato is squarely opposed to irresolution, but he does not reject the whole of Athenian culture. Instead he proposes to supplant its humanist foundations with a conception of the common logos that "is capable of accepting, surpassing, and finally saving that same culture". For Plato "only the intelligible determination of the eidos can contribute to the mobile multiplicity of the common logos the principle of the authentically common character that it lacks". (shrink)
Once upon a time, a scholar, ascetic and relig-ious man named Abu Hamid Ibn Muhammad Ibn Muhammad al-Tusi al-Shafi'i al-Ghazali (AI-Ghazali, 1058-11 II) wrote a worl, called The Incoherence qf the Philosophers, 1\ clever philosopher, Abu AI-\Valid Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Ibn Hushd (Averroes, 112li-1 ID8), responded to this by writing The IlIcolurence (!l the Inroherence. In IVhat is Art;;, Tolstoy refers to the importance of art in order to ridicule itl He notes the attention paid to art, music, theatre, filrn, (...) and books in the press. IIe notes the in\'(~stment of gm'ernments in the support of museums, theatres and the like. He notes the time spent by artists and perlilrmers in learning- their craft. He presents the most sardonic description of an opera rehearsal you will ever read. He describes the eHilrt and money poured into art as "stupefying", "repulsive", "a gigantic absurdity", and "utterly incomprehensible".~ I-Imv can art be so important that a peasant should have to sell his only cow to pay the taxes that maintain the artist-producer in grand luxury~. (shrink)
JL his paper calls into question a conventional way of reading the passage concerning knowledge and belief at the end of book 5 of Plato's Republic. On the conventional reading, Plato is committed to arguing on grounds that his philosophical opponents would accept, but this view fails to appreciate the rhetorical context in which the passage is situated. Indeed, it is not usually recognized or considered important that the passage has a rhetorical context at all. Philoso phers typically reduce the (...) questions asked by Socrates and the an swers given by Glaucon in the presence of a large audience, to one continuous argument of Plato's. Unfortunately, this way of reading book 5 ignores two points that are crucial to its interpretation: (1) the Socrates-Glaucon dialectic is directed to hostile (not merely intel lectually opposed) interlocutors, and (2) the relation between Socra tes and his audience (Glaucon excepted) is one of antagonism.1 I shall argue that scholars have for a long time been trying to find more philosophical fruit in the passage than it has to bear, largely because they have misconstrued its role in the argument of the Re public. (shrink)
May I be permitted to chat a little, by way of recreation, at the end of a somewhat toilsome and perhaps fruitless adventure?”1 So begins the introduction to Robert Browning’s “transcription,” as he entitles it, of Aeschylus’s Agamemnon, in which the principles of literal translation are discussed and defended.2 As one who has recently been on the same adventure as Robert Browning, I wonder whether it is not salutary to review his arguments, for I have come to believe firmly that (...) the path he took was fruitless, or very nearly so. Yet of the many translators, stretching into the most recent times, who have provided us with literal renditions of ancient Greek texts, he at least offered an apology for it, and a better one, in my view, than any I have seen. I want to try, by reviewing Browning’s arguments, to shed some light on why his adventure of translation was barren, and in the process state some precautions for the translation of ancient Greek literature. I am not sure whether these precautions apply to the philosophy of translation in general, for the differences between two languages vary greatly with time and place; nevertheless, the review may be of some general help. (shrink)
These essays discuss Plato's dialogues understood as processes of habituation and discuss issues of moral expertise, moral training, moral knowledge, and the transcendent good. The essays considered include Crito, Charmides, Phaedo, Philebus, Republic, and Sophist.