Synopses & Reviews
Drew A. Hyland, one of Continental philosophy's keenest interpreters of Plato, takes up the question of beauty in three Platonic dialogues, the Hippias Major, Symposium, and Phaedrus. What Plato meant by beauty is not easily characterized, and Hyland's close readings show that Plato ultimately gives up on the possibility of a definition. Plato's failure, however, tells us something important about beauty--that it cannot be reduced to logos. Exploring questions surrounding love, memory, and ideal form, Hyland draws out the connections between beauty, the possibility of philosophy, and philosophical living. This new reading of Plato provides a serious investigation into the meaning of beauty and places it at the very heart of philosophy.
This book consists of five chapters, only three of which are directly concerned with "the question of beauty" (although no explanation is given of what "the question of beauty" might be). After a brief introduction, Smith (Trinity College) offers chapters on the question of beauty in t! he Hippias Major, the Symposium, and the Phaedrus, respectively. The next chapter discusses the Second and Seventh Letters, and their various expressions of philosophy as something lived, rather than consisting in doctrines or dogma. The final chapter focuses on the critique of rhetoric and writing in Phaedrus. No other works in which beauty is discussed receive sustained attention. Hyland emphasizes the ways in which Plato carefully embeds his discussions in an "existential situation," which includes not only characterization of the participants in the dialogue, but also some dramatically relevant aspect of their actual life circumstances. Written within the Continental tradition of Platonic scholarship, this book fails to engage with most of the considerable scholarship outside of that tradition on the works it does discuss; the entire bibliography of sources cited is only barely over a single page in length. Summing Up: Not recommended. --Choice N. D. Smith, Lewis and Clark College, January 2009
"If beauty, as Hyland shows to be the case in the dialogues, is the phenomenon most suited to awaken and energize the philosophic eros of the soul, then not only are Plato's dialogues beautiful, but so too is Hyland's new book about the dialogues, and precisely because it so clearly reveals their beauty.... Hyland has brought the spirit of philosophy in the dialogues to life as few others have done--and so given us a gift very much in the spirit of Plato's own." --International Journal of the Classical Tradition, Vol. 17, No. 2, June 2010 Indiana University Press
"A well written and forcefully argued exposition of one of the most important themes in Plato's philosophy." --Walter Brogan, Villanova University
Reveals the intimate connection between beauty and the philosophical life
About the Author
Drew A. Hyland is Charles A. Dana Professor of Philosophy at Trinity College. He is editor (with John Panteleimon Manoussakis) of Heidegger and the Greeks (IUP, 2006).
Table of Contents
Preface and Acknowledgments
1. The Question of Beauty in the Hippias Major
2. The Question of Beauty in the Symposium
3. The Question of Beauty in the Phaedrus
4. The Second and Seventh Letters
5. The Critique of Rhetoric and Writing in the Phaedrus