Plato and the Socratic Dialogue: The Philosophical Use of a Literary Form

Plato and the Socratic Dialogue: The Philosophical Use of a Literary Form

Paperback

By (author) Charles H. Kahn

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  • Publisher: CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS
  • Format: Paperback | 456 pages
  • Dimensions: 146mm x 228mm x 34mm | 739g
  • Publication date: 1 September 1998
  • Publication City/Country: Cambridge
  • ISBN 10: 0521648300
  • ISBN 13: 9780521648301
  • Edition statement: PBK.
  • Sales rank: 638,614

Product description

This book proposes a new paradigm for the interpretation of Plato's early and middle dialogues. Rejecting the usual assumption of a distinct 'Socratic' period in the development of Plato's thought, this view regards the earlier works as deliberate preparation for the exposition of Plato's mature philosophy. Differences between the dialogues do not represent different stages in Plato's own thinking but rather different aspects and moments in the presentation of a new and unfamiliar view of reality. Once the fictional character of the Socratic genre is recognised, there is no reason to regard Plato's early dialogues as representing the philosophy of the historical Socrates. The result is a unified interpretation of all of the dialogues down to the Republic and the Phaedrus.

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Review quote

'... Kahn's writing is attractively lucid ... this will become an important reference-point in Platonic studies.' JACT Review ' ... Kahn's extremely rich account of Plato and his work ... an important book, one of which all those interested in Plato will want to form an opinion'. New York Review of Books

Back cover copy

This book presents a new paradigm for the interpretation of Plato's early and middle dialogues as a unified literary project, displaying an artistic plan for the expression of a unified world view. The usual assumption of a distinct "Socratic" period in Plato's work is rejected. Literary evidence is presented from other Socratic authors to demonstrate that the Socratic dialogue was a genre of literary fiction, not historical biography. Once it is recognized that the dialogue is a fictional form, there is no reason to look for the philosophy of the historical Socrates in Plato's earlier writings. We can thus read most of the so-called Socratic dialogues proleptically, interpreting them as partial expressions of the philosophical vision more fully expressed in the Phaedo and Republic. Differences between the dialogues are interpreted not as different stages in Plato's thinking but as different literary moments in the presentation of his thought. This indirect and gradual mode of exposition in the earlier dialogues is the artistic device chosen by Plato to prepare his readers for the reception of a new and radically unfamiliar view of reality: a view according to which the "real world" is an invisible realm, the source of all value and all rational structure, the natural homeland of the human soul.

Table of contents

1. Sokratikoi logoi: the literary and intellectual background of Plato's work; 2. The interpretation of Plato; 3. Socrates; 4. Plato as a minor Socratic: Ion and Hippias Minor; 5. Gorgias: Plato's manifesto for philosophy; 6. The priority of definition: from Laches to Meno; 7. Charmides and the search for beneficial knowledge; 8. Protagoras: virtue as knowledge; 9. The object of love; 10. The emergence of dialectic; 11. The presentation of the Forms; 12. Phaedrus and the limits of writing; Appendix; Bibliography.