Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Notomi, Noburu. Review of Gail Fine's OXFORD HANDBOOK OF PLATO. NDPR (May 2009).

Fine, Gail, ed. Oxford Handbook of Plato. Oxford: OUP, 2008. The Oxford Handbook of Plato (OHP) contains twenty-two articles of substantial length (from 20 to 30 pages). Short footnotes and a bibliography accompany each chapter, and another concise bibliography and indices (locorum, nominum, subject) are added at the end of the volume. Readers may perhaps be overwhelmed by this huge volume of over 600 pages. The book is not to be used as an encyclopedia or dictionary. But it evokes new ideas and challenges to readers of Plato who, like its contributors, work in the analytic style. Each chapter guides readers to a particular topic or phase of Plato's philosophy, but each is, more or less, an independent contribution. Cross-references between the chapters are rare. Apart from the Introduction (ch.1), by the editor, the twenty-one contributions can be grouped into four categories: general background (chs.2-4), philosophical topics (chs.5-14), specific dialogues (chs.15-20), and legacies or receptions (chs.21-22). The combination of these different categories is one of the salient features of OHP that differentiate it from other similar volumes. For example, A Companion to Plato, edited by H. Benson (Blackwell 2006), is clearly intended as a topic-oriented guide (with 29 chapters); a similar arrangement is adopted in the Cambridge Companion to Plato, edited by R. Kraut (CUP 1992), which, however, has chapters that mix specific topics and some individual dialogues (Men., Rep., Soph., Phlb.). The editor indicates in her Introduction to this volume a clear policy of multiple approaches to particular dialogues or topics (pp.4-5). This policy certainly succeeds in enriching our understanding of Plato's philosophy. If readers find it difficult to move across the chapters, they are advised to consult the editor's Introduction first, which nicely summarizes the main points of each chapter. The Introduction is, however, not a mere summary of the following chapters, but also connects them together, in a way that presents the editor's own view of Plato's philosophy. Read the whole review here:

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