Five ways of reading Plato

You may also like...

3 Responses

  1. I really like your readings, and I think they are mutually compatible and reinforce each other nicely.

    I particularly like view (3), because I tend to develop my own ideas through frivolous writing and do not expect them to have great consistency over time. Dialogues with ‘prophets’ or ‘moral exemplars’, in the particular form of Socratic dialogue, also seems like a popular medium of the time and since. However, I also doubt this view given that writing and publishing in Athens would have been significantly more difficult than it is today, even for somebody as wealthy as Plato. I can’t imagine that Plato would write frivolously instead of developing his philosophy through discussion with students, as Socrates before him and Aristotle after him did.

    • ippolit says:

      Frivolous writer should probably be between hyphens. I tend to agree with you that it is doubtful that Plato would simply write down whatever came to his mind; much thought definitely went into the dialogues, and much preceding discussion with his students, etc.

      My point is of course, as you understand, that he wrote not with a particular consistency in mind, but for the sake of writing. As the last paragraph of that view shows, there was a genre of writing where Socrates would meet people of fame and have arguments with them. The aims of the dialogue are irrelevant then, there is a level of entertainment, rather than learning, involved. And the audience then is very limited to the similar writers, not academics over two millennia later. But as other views, this is only a speculation. But I think it fruitful to occasionally approach Plato from this position as well, as you say, and I say too, a combination of these ways are always possible and indeed encouraged.

Leave a Reply