Synopses & Reviews
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.
"This outstanding work of scholarship issues serious challenges to many of the reigning orthodoxies of Platonic studies....Strongly recommended for its originality and imaginative scholarship." J. Bussanich, Choice"...Kahn's book has a great deal to offer besides this central argument. His account of the theory of Forms is subtle and profound. He does full justice to the role of love in Plato's thought." Jasper Griffin, New York Review of Books"...quite rewarding." David Sider, American Journal of Philology"The fact is that Plato and the Socratic Dialogue is a very interesting book. Its interest lies not in the analysis of methodology but in the nuanced reading of a set of ancient texts that Kahn "offer[s]...[as] a comprehensive interpretation, at once literary, historical, and philosophical, the fruit of a lifetime of reading and teaching Plato" (p. xiii). Kahn does offer a nearly comprehensive interpretation of the early and middle dialpgues. His interpretation is literary, historical, and philosophical. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, his interpretation brings out some of what is truly awe inspiring about the ancient Greek period and about Plato's contribution to this period of human development." Review of Metaphysics
This book offers a new interpretation of Plato's early and middle dialogues as the expression of a unified philosophical vision.
This book offers a new interpretation of Plato's early and middle dialogues as the expression of a unified philosophical vision. Whereas the traditional view sees the dialogues as marking successive stages in Plato's philosophical development, we may more legitimately read them as reflecting an artistic plan for the gradual, indirect and partial exposition of Platonic philosophy. The magnificent literary achievement of the dialogues can be fully appreciated only from the viewpoint of a unitarian reading of the philosophical content.
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.