The Archaeology of the Soul: Platonic Readings in Ancient Poetry and Philosophy by Seth Benardete, Ronna Burger and Michael Davis (St. Augustine's Press)
The Archaeology of the Soul is a testimony to the extraordinary scope of Seth Benardete's thought. Some essays concern particular authors or texts; others range more broadly and are thematic. Some deal explicitly with philosophy; others deal with epic, lyric, and tragic poetry. Some of these authors are Greek, some Roman, and still others are contemporaries writing about antiquity. All of these essays, however, are informed by an underlying vision, which is a reflection of Benardete's life-long engagement with one thinker in particular – Plato. The Platonic dialogue presented Benardete with the most vivid case of that periagoge, or turn-around, that he found to be the sign of all philosophic thinking and that is the signature as well of his own interpretations not only of Plato but also of other thinkers.
The late Benardete (1930-2001), was an outstanding teacher and scholar in classical literature and philosophy and taught at New York University; editors are Ronna Burger, who teaches philosophy at Tulane University and Michael Davis, who teaches philosophy at Sarah Lawrence College.
The core of The Archaeology of the Soul consists of a set of essays Benardete produced in his last years; the collection provides at the same time an entry into that world through some of Benardete’s earliest articles on Plato and on Greek poetry. Benardete’s earlier path of close textual analysis always reflected his intimate philosophic dialogue with the thinker in whose work he was immersed; later, he drew on resources of erudition acquired over a lifetime to present a broader picture, on a theme like the dialectics of eros or freedom and necessity.
In his late work Benardete was not only engaged in putting together in more general form material he had worked out earlier; he was still on the trail of new discoveries, above all, by extending his Platonic understanding of philosophy to pre- and post-Platonic thinkers. He had become increasingly aware that the discovery of philosophy through the ‘Socratic turn’ was really the rediscovery of an understanding already present in some form in the Greek poets and that awareness guided his last years of study of the pre-Socratic philosophers. According to the standard view of the history of Greek philosophy, the Socratic turn, with its focus on ‘the human things,’ marks a point of radical change in philosophy’s history. Benardete’s late studies led him to the conclusion that the kind of pivotal reorientation thought to be Socratic is in fact the mark of what it means to think philosophically, and Heraclitus or Parmenides is a genuine philosophic thinker precisely to the extent that a Socratic turn can be found in some form within his own thought.
At the same time that he was pursuing a track backward, from Plato to the poets and pre-Socratic philosophers, Benardete was also proceeding on a forward path, from Plato to the Latin writers, who adopt the Platonic way of thinking with full understanding of what it means to be ‘post-Platonic.’ As the essays collected in The Archaeology of the Soul demonstrate, the Platonic notion of a ‘second sailing’ gave Benardete a key to the relation between Greek and Latin thought – and with that to a comprehensive understanding of antiquity – as it did to the relation between poetry and philosophy as such.
According to the preface, The Archaeology of the Soul contains essays on eros, freedom, and poetry in antiquity; on Hesiod, Pindar, Aeschylus and Sophocles; on Heraclitus and Parmenides; on several Platonic dialogues and on Aristotle. It contains as well essays on Horace, Vergil, Apuleius, and Cicero; and on Jacques Derrida and Leo Strauss. Some essays concern particular authors or texts; others range more broadly and are thematic. Some deal explicitly with philosophy, others with epic, lyric, and tragic poetry. Some of the authors are Greek, some Roman, and still others are contemporaries writing about antiquity.
Given the independent origin of each of these essays and the remarkable diversity they display, it is reasonable to ask whether The Archaeology of the Soul constitutes a whole, and if so, what the principle of its unity is. The title of this volume points to that difficulty as well as to its resolution: the underlying vision that informs all these essays is a reflection of Benardete's life-long engagement with one thinker in particular – Plato. Only because Plato seemed to him to come so close to the truth of things could he hope to learn so much by unearthing Platonic resonances in other thinkers – whether earlier or later, poetic or philosophic. Accordingly, Benardete could make the startling claim that "What philosophy is seems to be inseparable from the question of how to read Plato." To read a Platonic dialogue one must attend to its action, which "both explains the inadequacies of the argument and deepens the argument." This relation between argument and action reflects the linking of soul and logos. Plato's psychology is the way to Plato's ideas. It was his deep understanding of this path that led Benardete to discover an ‘archaeology of the human spirit’ in all the thinkers he studied.
Benardete's ongoing conversation with Plato is manifest in the characteristic features of interpretation present throughout the essays in The Archaeology of the Soul. By calling readers’ attention to neglected details that sit concealed on the surface of a text, Benardete spurs observations that illuminate its central concerns. The deceivingly superficial brings a text to light "in such a new and yet convincing way that the reader is forced to experience simultaneously a shock of surprise and a sense of recognition." The Platonic dialogue presented Benardete with the most vivid case of that periagoge, or turn-around, that he found to be the sign of all philosophic thinking and that is the signature as well of his own interpretations not only of Plato but also of other thinkers. If Benardete's initial claims are frequently at odds with the ‘obvious,’ it is because such claims provide the occasion for a periagoge in our thought. In following the movement produced by such a turn-around – the action of the argument – Benardete articulates a new argument, which, rather than reinforcing the explicit argument of a text, undermines it in such a way as to compel one to rethink things from the beginning. Benardete thus reproduces in his own writing the ‘second sailing’ of the Platonic dialogues that requires philosophic thinking to begin in error. In recognizing our error, we learn that certain things cannot be seen at all without first having been missed.
The core of The Archaeology of the Soul consists of a set of essays written after the previously published collection of Benardete's essays in The Argument of the Action. It provides at the same time an entry, through some of Benardete's earliest work, into the world of his later thought, whose difficulty results in part from his sustained reexamination of challenging texts over the course of many years, building on earlier layers of understanding without repeating them. The present volume makes available Benardete's first articles on the dialogues to which he repeatedly returned – the Sophist, Statesman, and Timaeus. Some particularly concrete and helpful keys to his understanding of how to read Plato are to be found in a set of brief articles, written near the start of his career, reprinted in The Archaeology of the Soul. In "The Right, the True, and the Beautiful," for example, he begins to uncover the philosophic significance of the seemingly casual responses of Socrates' interlocutors, by which they unwittingly add so much to the argument of the dialogue. Benardete's early articles on Plato show the mark of a gifted scholar; but they also indicate already what it means for him to have found in Plato a measure of genuine thinking. He holds others up to that standard, as in this collection when he allows Derrida to reveal himself in his reading of the Phaedrus, Strauss in his reading of the Republic.
The body of work Benardete produced in his last years is in several ways strikingly new. His earlier path of close textual analysis always reflected his intimate philosophic dialogue with the thinker in whose work he was immersed; later, he drew on resources of erudition acquired over a lifetime to present a broader picture. This is especially evident in three pieces. In "Socrates and Plato: The Dialectics of Eros," Benardete moves freely about the entire Platonic corpus to indicate why "Eros is central to Plato in a way that it is not for any other philosopher." In "Freedom: Grace and Necessity" Benardete turns first to Livy and then to Thucydides, Herodotus, Plato, Homer, the Greek tragedians, Tacitus, and Longinus to enter into a meditation with them on the necessity of self-opacity for human freedom. In "The Poet-Merchant and the Stranger from the Sea" Benardete reflects on the way "the relation between the local and the universal, between the law and the transcendence of the law, which is at the heart of ancient poetry, recurs in the element of philosophic reflection in Plato."
In his late work Benardete was not only engaged in putting together in more general form material he had worked out earlier; he was still on the trail of new discoveries, above all, by extending his Platonic understanding of philosophy to pre- and post-Platonic thinkers. From the beginning, Benardete was following the traces of Platonic themes he discovered in Homer, Greek tragedy, and Herodotus. Later this approach became more conspicuous, for example, in the essay included in The Archaeology of the Soul, "On Reading Pindar Platonically," or in the book he subtitled "A Platonic Reading of the Odyssey." Benardete came to see that the discovery of philosophy through the ‘Socratic turn’ was really the rediscovery of an understanding already present in some form in the Greek poets.
With this thought in mind Benardete turned in his last years to the pre-Socratic philosophers. His final graduate seminars were devoted to Heraclitus, Parmenides, and Plato's Parmenides. As he always had in the past, Benardete sat down at the end of each semester to write up the understanding he had developed in the course, leaving readers with three brilliant essays, which undercut the standard view of the history of Greek philosophy. According to this view, the Socratic turn, with its focus on ‘the human things,’ marks a point of radical change in philosophy's history: it transforms the prior stage of philosophic thought by turning inquiry for the first time away from direct observation of the beings to their indirect examination through the opinions or appearances that come to light in speeches. Through his careful study of the pre-Socratics, Benardete arrived at a different conception: the kind of pivotal reorientation thought to be Socratic is in fact the mark of what it means to think philosophically, and Heraclitus or Parmenides is a genuine philosophic thinker precisely to the extent that a Socratic turn can be found in some form within his own thought.
At the same time that he was pursuing a track backward, from Plato to the poets and pre-Socratic philosophers, Benardete was also proceeding on a forward path, from Plato to the Latin writers, who adopt the Platonic way of thinking with full understanding of what it means to be ‘post-Platonic.’ Benardete was not so much interested in these thinkers as Platonic epigones – he was no stranger to the philosophical difficulties of various historical ‘Platonisms.’ He developed instead a series of intriguing and illuminating analyses of Horace, Cicero, Vergil, and Apuleius with a view to uncovering the self-understanding these authors have of themselves as Platonic thinkers who were not present at the beginning, who could, therefore, never be for Rome what Homer was for Greece. Vergil means readers to understand him in light of Homer. Not only Cicero's Laws but also Apuleius's Metamorphoses is self-consciously modeled on Plato's Phaedrus. As Benardete's readings indicate, Latin authors, given their historical situation, are particularly well-placed to understand the degree to which all genuine thinking is rethinking.
The Platonic notion of a ‘second sailing’ thus gave Benardete a key to the relation between Greek and Latin thought and with that to a comprehensive understanding of antiquity – as it did to the relation between poetry and philosophy as such. Taken individually and bound together as a whole, the essays in The Archaeology of the Soul map that understanding, which Benardete developed, with Plato as a guide, over a lifetime of philosophic reflection on the human soul.
New Perspectives on Plato, Modern and Ancient edited by Julia Annas, Christopher J. Rowe (Harvard University Press) The seven essays in this collection are based upon the August 1999 Colloquium at the Center for Hellenic Studies, Washington , D.C. , entitled "Plato and Socrates: Approaches to the Interpretation of the Platonic Dialogues." Ostensively the Colloquium was designed as a collaborative investigation into the significance of two particular changes that have occurred in the field of Platonic studies. The first is the rapidly increasing breakdown of the long-accepted paradigm for interpreting Plato along developmental schemes that rests on a broad division of the dialogues into "early" (and "Socratic"), "middle," and "late." There is growing disaffection with many of the assumptions that sustained this paradigm, such as, for example, the ability to isolate a "Socratic" phase of Plato's thought, or the usefulness of the chronology of composition to establish the development of that thought. Indeed, the whole idea of a developmental interpretation of Plato's ideas has perhaps lost much of its allure, not least in view of increased attention to ancient interpretations of Plato that do not invoke development. But while the established paradigm-which, of course, many have always resisted-is losing its hold, no generally accepted alternative has emerged to replace it. Rather, the reverse: any disinterested observer, surveying current books and periodical articles on Plato, might easily gain an overwhelming impression of fragmentation--even if the survey restricted itself to publications in English. (There have long been significant differences, within the modern period, between the types of approach to Plato adopted within different cultural traditions, whether in English-speaking counries, in Europe at large, or in Latin America; the present tendency toward "fragmentation," if such it is, is a new phenomenon, belonging chiefly to those areas in which English is the first language.)
The second major change which lay behind the original idea for the Colloquium was the gradual emergence of a new debate between philosophers and classicists about the relationship between form and argument in the Platonic corpus. This debate is informed to some degree by currents in modern literary theory, which have helped to produce an increased sensitivity to the problems and possibilities of interpreting the highly complex and elusive set of texts contained in the Platonic`corpus. But it too increasingly recognizes the relevance of ancient approaches to Plato (and to Socrates) and their potential usefulness to modern interpreters, especially in offering perspectives and preoccupations different from our own.
Seven speakers were invited to address some aspect of these problems. Each invited presentation also had a respondent who presented critical comments and context to the remarks of the principle speaker. After presentation and a recording of comments from the floor the essays were reworked and reordered for presentation in this volume.:
Julia Annass (with Dorothea Frede responding) investigation of how should we categorize the "middle" and "late" periods, acts as an introduction to the essays. Middle period in the Platonic corpus used to mean "optimistic," "constructive," while "late" meant "critical"; but that seems to depend too heavily on a particular reading of Parmenides. Certainly, some dialogues must have been written "in the middle," between those written earlier and those written later, but that by itself obviously carries no implication for our interpretation of them. Have we perhaps gone on using categories whose justification has actually been forgotten, and indeed lost?
Next David Sedley (with David Blank responding) comments on the Ancient Platonic perspectives on Socratic irony. Academic skepticism, Middle and NeoPlatonism all contribute to images Socratic irony which contracts significantly with modern philosophical interpretations.. What do these ancient interpreters have to offer us, if anything? One position that is widely held, at least by implication, is that anything which makes Plato look less like a modern academic philosopher will simply make him look less like a philosopher. If, then, we are (modern) philosophers, we had better go on interpreting him as one-and ignoring the Neo-Platonists, at any rate, whose Plato is often about as far from the model of a modern philosopher as it is possible to be. Is there anywhere to go beyond this position? Is it inevitable that we reject later Platonist interpretation, or does such interpretation, however alien it may seem to be, have something of value for us?
Christopher Taylor (with Brad Inwood responding) comments upon the modern origins of our present paradigms. At what point, and precisely why, did "Socrates" begin to be separated off from "Plato" in the interpretation of Plato? (In one sense, perhaps, with Aristotle; but the particular notion that one group of dialogues is essentially Socratic is a modern one. Who invented it, and why?) When did scholars of Plato first begin systematically to detect, or assume, a difference between "middle" and "late"?
Charles Kahns (with Charles Griswold. Jr. responding) offers a summary of Platonic chronology. What are the grounds for supposing that knowing when a particular dialogue was written (if we could know it), whether absolutely or in relation to other dialogues, should significantly affect our understanding of it? Kahn provides an adroit reading of the historical approaches that have given us the developmental perspective.
Christopher Gill (with Kathryn Morgan responding) looks at the dialogue form and the nature of dialectics. Is there any such thing as "the" dialogue form? Discussion has usually centered on the "Socratic" dialogues, treating the rest as a kind of falling-off from the real thing-the real dialogue; but is Laws, for example, written as it is-as a conversation-merely, as it were, out of habit? Do we have anything to learn from ancient reactions to Plato as a literary artist?
Terry Penner (with Christopher Rowe responding examines the philosophical implications of "Socratic" dialogues How distinct are they from the "middle" and "late" ones? Some reconstructions of the "Socratic" positions allegedly contained in these dialogues suggest that they are more or less interestingly different; on the other hand, different forms of unitarianism do not seem obviously silly, and there are some indications that Plato thinks the methods we see deployed in the "Socratic" dialogues are compatible with those deployed in the "middle" and "late" period. Is the notion of "Socratic" dialogues ultimately tenable or useful?
Andrea Nightingale (with R.B. Rutherford responding) examines fantastic and realistic mimesis in Plato as a demonstration of a literary approach to Reading. Exactly what does a self-consciously literary approach to Plato have to offer, if anything, toward an understanding of the dialogues as literary works? (Clearly, form has some bearing on the central issues-or does it? The "Socratic" dialogues differ in form from most of the others; or is this merely a matter of artistic/writerly choice?)
Taken together the volume shows that the nature of Platonic studies is vigorous if no longer unified by scholarly consensus about the over-all shape or order of the corpus. Given the plethora of methodologies in use still working out their various filters on this complex set of texts, it may be several generations before any such unitive frame is like to cycle round again.
Plato the Man and His Work: The Man and His Work by A. E. Taylor (Dover Books on Western Philosophy: Dover) In order to read Plato with some facility it is almost imperative to read a commentary a long with the Dialogues. A.E. Taylor is a true guide to what Plato actually says and provides useful classical context that will keep out the most egregious error. This is an essential volume in any philosophers library.
One of the greatest thinkers of the ancient world, Plato instigated groundbreaking inquiries into morality, ethics, and the quest for happiness that continue to inform and influence philosophical discussion today. In this outstanding work of scholarship, a renowned expert on Plato presents a scrupulously accurate historical view of the great philosopher's life and works. Distinguished by its dispassionate scholarly analysis, Professor Taylor's discourse is refreshingly free of the biases that have frequently tainted other studies.
A brief introductory chapter acquaints readers with the known events of Plato's life. The author then proceeds to an illuminating examination of the philosopher's voluminous writings, including the minor Socratic dialogues, as well as such major works as Phaedo, Symposium, Protagoras, Republic, Phaedrus, Timaeus, Laws, and other influential dialogues. The final chapter, "Plato in the Academy," attempts to pin down‑with the help of some of Plato's former students, such as Aristotle the philosopher's beliefs about numbers. In a substantial appendix, "The Platonic Apocrypha," Professor Taylor examines writings that have sometimes been attributed to Plato, including several letters, and offers cogent reasons for accepting or rejecting them as Plato's work.
Praised by Dean William R. Inge of Theology as "a great book, an honour to . . . British scholarship," this volume is an invaluable guide for students, teachers, and other readers interested in philosophy.Dover (2001) unabridged republication of the seventh (1960) edition of the work originally published by Methuen & Co., Ltd., London, 1926. Preface. Notes. Addenda. Chronological Table. Appendix. Indexes. xii+562pp. 5X x 8Y. Paperbound.
Plato (Hardcover, one volume edition) edited and introduced by Gail Fine, Professor of Philosophy at Cornell University, brings together some of the most important recent articles on central topics in Plato's philosophy from the last three decades. This is a one-volume version of two paperback volumes in the Oxford Readings in Philosophy series: Plato 1: Metaphysics and Epistemology (paperback); and Plato 2: Ethics, Politics, Religion, and the Soul (paperback). It includes all the articles and Introductions found in these two volumes, but the separate bibliographies have been combined into one. The aim of the composite volume, as of the individual volumes, is to introduce the reader to just some of the important dialogues and issues, with the hope the interested reader will be encouraged to pursue the study of Plato further. Divided into two parts, the first part looks at metaphysics and epistemology. It includes essays on Socratic method, Socrates' disavowal of knowledge, the theory of forms, knowledge and belief, being and not being, and the philosophy of language. The second part deals with ethics, politics, religion, and the soul. It includes essays on virtue, knowledge, and happiness; justice and happiness; pleasure; Platonic love; feminism; the ideally just state, democracy and totalitarianism; and the nature of the soul and moral motivation.
In keeping with the aims of the Oxford Readings in Philosophy series, all the selections are relatively recent: the earliest appeared in 1970. Several of the essays have been specially revised for this collection and an introductory essay precedes each part by the editor, which sets the articles in a broader context and guides the reader through the intricacies of the subject while acknowledging lacuna in the selection of arguments.
Having the articles available in a single volume should prove useful, as they are often interestingly related to one another. This reflects the fact that areas of philosophy that are now often studied in relative independence of one another are viewed by Plato as being importantly connected. For example, he takes failure in the elenchus---his method of cross-examining interlocutors---to indicate not only a failure of knowledge but also a moral failure. He takes the notion of goodness to be central not only to ethics and politics but also to metaphysics and epistemology. His metaphysical and epistemological views, as well as his views of human psychology, ground many of his ethical and political views. Indeed, one might speak of the metaphysical, epistemological, and psychological bases of his ethical and political views.
Since this volume is not comprehensive, the Introductions fill in some gaps; hence they discuss some issues to which no article neatly corresponds. They also situate the articles within a broader context. However, space limitations obviously preclude a full and thorough discussion. Footnotes make suggestions for further reading, as does the Bibliography.
Though most of the articles are previously published, some of them have been revised-sometimes in minor, sometimes in major, ways-for inclusion in these volumes. The work is an intermediate introduction to current discussions of Plato in contemporary Angelo-American philosophical discourse.
The volumes is not quite a fair introduction to Platos works themselves but rather an introduction to the philosophical use of his ideas by Angelo-American scholars.
Plato and Platonism: Plato's Conception of Appearance and Reality in Ontology, Epistemology, and Ethics, and Its Modern Echoes by Julius Moravcsik (Issues in Ancient Philosophy: Blackwell) provides a scheme to reach a conception of reality that places that realm outside the temporal and spatial, creating a translation of Platonic conception into contemporary formulations, which shows both the stark contrast and the perennial relevance of the philosopher and his inquiries and especially his explanatory strategies. In Plato and Platonism we are invited look at Plato's way of achieving a "quantum jump." The story of forging explanatory patterns goes further. Aristotle, at what one might call the fourth stage, attempts a unification. Stage-two explanations involve roughly what he came to view as the constitutive factor (material cause); stage one was refined to be the agential factor (efficient cause); and stage three was reworked to become the structural and functional factors (formal and final causes) in his analysis of the natures of kinds.
Suggesting that the explanations under consideration primarily concern kinds and their natures. At stage three this focus undergoes considerable change. The concern with qualitative sameness and difference in relation to whatever mathematical, geometrical, and other order-producing structures Plato thought to have discovered. Thus what matters is the extent to which proportion and equality have roles in specifying the structures of relatively stable elements in nature, regardless of whether they belong to specific biological kinds or not. Thus the notion of α natural kind, while central to Aristotle, does not play a key role in the Platonic explanatory mold.
Explanations need an explanans; hence if we view these explanatory chains within α metaphysical system, either we face an infinite regress or some elements need to be viewed as self-explanatory. For Plato these self-explanatory elements turn out to be the Forms. Thus we need to try to understand what it is about the Forms that led Plato to view them in this way.
So far we have discussed only metaphysics. But Plato's forging of the new explanatory mold in his metaphysics affected also dramatically his epistemology and ethics. Given the third explanatory structure, with its two stages, the epistemology must focus on the insight and understanding that are involved in our attaining adequate representations of systems of abstract entities such as those we encounter in mathematical or geometrical proofs or the abstract models of α science like physics. Plato wants us to project onto the large canvas of metaphysics the exhilaration we all feel when we finally understand what is possibly just α simple mathematical proof and to strive to attain the same sense of discovery when eventually we understand what the Forms are and how they are interrelated. As we shall see, explicating this is the primary task of Platonic epistemology, rather than sketching the structure of proρositional knowledge and information processing.
The ethics, too, reflects the Platonic division between reality and appearances. It centers on finding an adequate ideal for life. This involves an appropriate overall aim, α character that goes with pursuing such an aim or goal, and the resulting happy discovery that in being that kind of α human one can find meaning in life. The appropriate aims and goals, as well as the appropriate character structures as Plato sees these, are described - as we shall see - in terms of our relations to what for Plato is the real and fundamental and our disdain for that which for Plato belongs merely to the world of appearances.
Moravcsiks ultimate aim in this book is to sketch this Platonic explanatory scheme, which, with its impacts on epistemology and ethics, was revolutionary for its time, both in its historical context and so as to bring out its implications for the problems and conceptual arsenal of today.
Images of Persons Unseen: Platos Metaphors for the Gods and the Soul by E.E. Pender (Academia Verlag) In recent years metaphor has received much critical attention leading to important new insights in various literary and scientific disciplines. This book presents the first comprehensive study of Platonic imagery written in the light of modern approaches to metaphor. Through close analysis of Platonic texts the author seeks both to advance interpretation of the dialogues and to promote understanding of the cognitive functions of metaphor and imagery - aspects of language long dismissed as merely ornamental. Three emerging positions on metaphor's capacities - the epistemic, illustrative and emotive theses - are applied to Plato's metaphors for the gods and the soul and it is concluded that, while some of these metaphors play an illustrative role, others become an integral and irreplaceable element in Platonic theory.
Elizabeth`Pender is Lecturer in Classics at the University of Leeds. She was a British Academy Post-doctoral Research Fellow (1992-95), and has taught at the University of Durham, and King's College and Royal Holloway, University of London. Her PhD thesis, on which this book is based, was awarded the 1993 Hellenic Foundation prize for the best UK doctoral thesis in Greek Studies (Classical Literature and Philosophy).
Plato's Symposium by Plato, translated by Seth Benardete, Commentary by Allan Bloom (University of Chicago Press) Plato, Allan Bloom wrote, is "the most erotic of philosophers," and his Symposium is one of the greatest works ever written on the nature of love. This new edition brings together the English translation by renowned Plato scholar and translator Seth Benardete with two illuminating commentaries: Benardete's "On Plato's Symposium" and Allan Bloom's provocative essay "The Ladder of Love." In the Symposium, Plato recounts a drinking party following an evening meal, with guests including the poet Aristophanes, the drunken Alcibiades, and, of course, the wise Socrates. The revelers give their views on the timeless topics of love and desire, all the while addressing many of the major themes of Platonic philosophy: the relationship of philosophy and poetry, the good, and the beautiful. Benardete's translation of the Symposium is meticulously faithful and gracefully invitational; it enables every Greek‑less reader to encounter Plato's art and thought in all its charm, power, and mystification. Bloom's patient attention to the text results in some brilliant readings. He is especially good in ferreting out the extraordinary riches of the Symposium. The commentary was previously published in Blooms essays about friendship.
On Ideas : Aristotle's Criticism of Plato's Theory of Forms is Fines previous work on this central theme in platonic studies. Her contribution is a closely reasoned and textually grounded reading with a bow to the rhetorical ambiguity that requires generations of scholars to constantly rethink these issues.
Most interpretations of Plato follow two courses: the most ancient is doctrinal, where Plato's dialogues offer a definitive picture of the universe. This view dominated Neoplatonism down to the beginnings of the 1700s.
The modern course is to read Plato with Socratic skepticism. Most readings of Plato have leaned in one of these two directions. In this text we are offered a variety of nonskeptical, nondogmatic approaches to Plato.
We are offered some rhetorical readings of the philosopher as well as dramatic and poetic attempts to reinvent the originating Platonic voice. The essays are very accessible and offer important ways to broach the meanings in Plato without being deluged with historical baggage.
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