Thursday, August 20, 2009
Vernon, Mark. "Plato's Dialogues, Part 3: Philosophy as a Way of Life." GUARDIAN August 17, 2009.
Plato wrote dialogues. This is striking not only because it differs so wildly from the usual philosophical style today; often dry, usually abstract, always tightly argued prose. It matters because we can be sure Plato believed dialogues were the best way to do written philosophy: scholars are confident we have all of his "published" works, so there are no treatises waiting to be found that would imply Plato believed prose was as good a way of doing philosophy too. Given that's true, what can be made of it? In a word, much. Today, scholars try to place the Dialogues in chronological order, and thereby discern something of Plato's development. However, the ancient world made no such attempt. Instead, they were read according to their content and the aptitude of the reader. This is, perhaps, closer to Plato's own intention. For one thing, it is obvious that the dialogues differ substantially in terms of their sophistication and subject. Some seem more designed to draw a novice philosopher into the subject. Others seem more targeted at an audience with an already developed knowledge of the matter in hand. Others again seem to be summaries of arguments that originally took place between members of the Academy. In other words, the attempt to track Plato's changing ideas could be a mistake: it may be that he wrote different dialogues for different purposes. . . . Read the rest here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/aug/17/philosophy-plato-dialogues.