Plato Writes Dialogues Others wrote Dialogues –Hume –Berkeley Only Dialogues –Never writes in his own voice –Controversies concerning Socrates –Not always Socrates –External evidence
ARISTOXENUS’ report of Plato’s lecture on the Good, Elementa Harmonica ii. 1 (tr. Myles Burnyeat, 78): ‘Everyone came expecting they would acquire one of the sorts of thing people normally regard as good, on a par with wealth, good health, or strength. In sum, they came looking for some wonderful kind of happiness. But when the discussion turned out to be about mathematics, about numbers and geometry, and astronomy, and then, to cap it all, he claimed that Good is One, it seemed to them, I imagine, something utterly paradoxical. The result was that some of them sneered at the lecture, and others were full of reproaches.’
Plato Writes Dialogues First Rate Literature –Not obvious systematic treatments of specific topics –Appear to be genuine record of conversations –Easy to get caught up in the drama
Plato Writes Dialogues Often No Obvious Conclusions –Aporetic (aporia) dialogues Euthyphro Laches Protagoras Theaetetus Why did Plato write dialogues –Kahn 1981 –Press 1995 –Thesleff 1993
Inconsistencies & Tensions: Examples Laches & Protagoras on courage Apology & Phaedo on immortality Phaedo & Republic on parts of soul Forms –Laches, for example –Phaedo, for example –Parmenides
Socratic (or Platonic) Irony Euthyphro 15c-16a Republic 337a –By Heracles,..., that’s just Socrates’ usual irony. I knew, and I said so to these people earlier, that you’d be unwilling to answer and that, if someone questioned you, you’d be ironical and do anything rather than give an answer. [Republic 337a4-7; Grube/Reeve trans.]
Socratic (or Platonic) Irony Irony is always available to –Resolve tensions –Dismiss bad arguments –Save an interpretation A clear, non-ad hoc, decision procedure is needed but is not available Irony should be an interpretation of last resort
Aristotle Metaphysics I.6 1.Numbers come from participation of the Great and the Small in Unity. 2.Sensible things are constituted by the Forms and the Great and the Small. 3.Forms are composed by the Great and the Small and Unity. 4.Forms are numbers. 5.The Good is Unity.
Standard Responses Can be found in the dialogues - Neoplatonists Rejection of secondary tradition - (Cherniss 1945) Last unwritten phase of Plato’s thought - (Zeller 1885) Accept tradition and dialogues are for the uneducated public- esoterists - (Gaiser 1980) - Tübingen school Both dialogues and tradition in dialogues - Straussians
Moderate Developmentalism Benson/Kraut/‘Common View’ The Philosophical Development of Plato’s Thought –Socratic Period –Classical Period –Critical Period Same General Perspective –Plato’s position throughout –Same General Questions –Solutions to Problems from Earlier Period
Alternatives Vlastos (Vlastos 1991 and 1994), who would be sympathetic with much of what I have said, thinks that the early view is as different from the later view as the views of Wittgenstein in the Tractatus are from the views in the Investigations. Shorey (Shorey 1968), would deny that there is any serious change throughout the corpus - Unitarians. More recently, see Kahn 1996 and Annas Others would deny that the dialogues represent the views of Plato - the Germans and the unwritten dialogues, the Straussians and the hidden meaning, and Burnet 1911 and Taylor 1956 who attribute the whole business to Socrates.
PLATO’S BIOGRAPHY Personal Data Chronology
Personal Data Born: 428 B.C.E. Family: Aristocratic/political –Father - Ariston (died in Plato’s childhood); –Mother - Perictione –Step-father - Pyrilampes –Brothers - Glaucon and Adeimantus –Sister - Potone –Cousin – Critias –Uncle - Charmides (members of the Thirty) Dies: B.C.E.
Chronology (Seventh Letter) Born: 428 –Athens from 428 to 400 Socrates Dies: 399 First Trip: 387 (39-40 years old) Founding of the Academy: Aristotle enters the Academy: 367 Second Trip: 365 (60 years old) Third Trip: (65 years old) Dies:
CHRONOLOGY OF DIALOGUES Data External Remarks References to Historic Events Internal References Comparative Doctrinal Maturity Stylometry (Brandwood 1992) A ‘Safe’ View
Early (Socratic)MiddleLate ApologyCratylusCritias* CharmidesParmenides*Laws* CritoPhaedoPhilebus EuthydemusPhaedrusPoliticus* EuthyphroRepublic^Sophist* GorgiasSymposiumTimaeus* Hippias Major#Theaetetus Hippias Minor Ion Laches Lysis Menexenus* Meno Protagoras
FLESHING OUT MY VIEW A BIT (Philosophical Developmentalism) I.The ‘Socratic’ Period value of knowledge or wisdom the elenchos a pre-occupation with definition the unity of virtues virtue happiness the focus of ethics the close connection (perhaps identity) of virtue and knowledge (intellectualism) II.The Meno Problems Objects of definition Paradox of inquiry Plausibility of intellectualism Initial Solutions Theory of Recollection Method of hypothesis Virtue is true belief III.Classical Platonism ( Symposium, Republic, Phaedo, Phaedrus) Theory of Forms Theory of Recollection Dialectic Form of the Good IV.Critical Period Theaetetus, Parmenides V.Late Period Philebus, Timaeus, Sophist, Laws
FLESHING OUT ALTERNATIVES I.Unitarians 1.Shorey 2.Kahn 3.Annas II.Esoterists 1.Findlay 2.Kramer III.Straussians or Hidden Doctrine 1.Strauss 2.Rosen 3.Schmid 4.Roochnik
“Our best chance of understanding Plato is therefore to begin with the assumption that in each dialogue he uses his principal interlocutor to support or oppose certain conclusions by means of certain arguments because he, Plato, supports or opposes those conclusions for those reasons.... This methodological principle is not an a priori assumption about how Plato must be read, but is rather a successful working hypothesis suggested by an intelligent reading of the text and confirmed by its fruitfulness.... The fundamental idea is that unless we have good evidence to the contrary, we should take Plato to be using the content of his interlocutors’ speeches, the circumstances of their meeting, and whatever other material he has at his disposal, to state conclusions he believes for reasons he accepts.” (Kraut 29-30).