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Plato's Philosophers: The Coherence of the Dialogues Hardcover – June 1, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0226993355 ISBN-10: 0226993353 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 896 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (June 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226993353
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226993355
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 2.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,625,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Embracing the challenge of the Platonic corpus as a whole, Catherine Zuckert uncovers its overarching narrative: by tracing a path through the dialogues in a sequence of dramatic dating, while contrasting Socrates with Plato’s other philosophical spokesmen, Zuckert’s comprehensive and thought-provoking study brings to light the Platonic understanding of the problems bequeathed to Socrates by his predecessors, the development of his response and its limits, and finally the superiority of Socratic philosophy to its alternatives.”

(Ronna Burger, Tulane University)

“In Platonic studies there is little agreement on how the dialogues are to be read as a whole. Dislocating our sense of the chronology of the dialogues, Catherine Zuckert’s Plato’s Philosophers presents both a dramatic challenge to the reader of Plato’s dialogues as a whole and a clear and penetrating analysis of the dialogues and their interconnections.”

(Diskin Clay, Duke University)

“Very few scholars have attempted to discuss all thirty-five dialogues, and no one before Catherine Zuckert had to my knowledge followed their dramatic order in doing so. This order informs her reading, but does not govern it; she considers each dialogue individually, allowing the thought of each character to stand out on its own.  Her approach unquestionably brings out features of the dialogues that would otherwise remain unnoticed. The exercise of trying to get a handle on Plato as a whole is one that anyone who is serious about understanding the dialogues should undertake, and Zuckert’s labors have made it easier for us to do so.”

(Jacob Howland, University of Tulsa)

2009 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

"Brimming with original insights, this massive book offers a comprehensive vision of the entire Platonic corpus. . . . Both analytic philosophers . . . and literary interpreters, who eschew argument in favor of artistic structure and presentation of character, will profit from engagement with this brilliant study. . . . This book will allow scholars of all persuasions to make discoveries at every turn as the author guides them through territory they thought they knew well."—Choice

"No serious student of Plato could fail to benefit from [Zuckert's] careful, intelligent, probing, and illuminating discussions. . . . An important, impressive, and, one hopes, lasting book."
(Mark Blitz Claremont Review)

About the Author

Catherine H. Zuckert is the Nancy R. Dreux Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame. She is the author of Postmodern Platos and coauthor of The Truth about Leo Strauss, both published by the University of Chicago Press.

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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Asia Khuf on May 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You'd think that after 24 centuries there might not be a whole lot of new things to say about Plato, but Zuckert makes startling discoveries about the Platonic corpus that everyone else seems to have overlooked. The first bombshell is that chronologically (in terms of when it was supposed to take place) Laws is the very first dialogue, not the last as many scholars have assumed. Since there's no mention of the Peloponnesian War, it must take place before 431, and in fact a close look shows that the Athenian Stranger's views are all rooted in pre-Socratic philosophy. Zuckert's clear, detailed, well substantiated argument about Laws got me hooked, and I ended up reading the entire 862 pages with interest and enjoyment--at the same time going over many of Plato's dialogues again.

Having read several essays on Plato by Leo Strauss, Zuckert's teacher, and his other followers, I was familiar with the idea that the argument of each dialogue emerges in tandem with the unfolding of the action, as well as the idea that the narrative structure (narrated by Socrates, told by a third person, not narrated, etc.) is related to the theme. Zuckert's approach, encompassing as it does the entire corpus, also makes clear the significance of the dramatic dates. For example, when we see that Lysis takes place years after Symposium and Phaedrus, we find that it "contains a critique of both the definitions of love presented in the two earlier dialogues" (p. 511). So what has sometimes been pigeonholed as a "minor" dialogue comes alive in the discussion of an important topic.
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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Alfonso Florez on May 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Prof. Zuckert offers in this amazing piece of scholarship a full review of Plato's Dialogues, from the perspective of their literary setting. The author's hermeneutical commitment is clear: A single dialogue can only be interpreted against the background of the complete set of Plato's Dialogues. And the entire collection of Plato's Dialogues cannot be understood based on compositional criteria, according to which there would be juvenile, transitional, mature, critical and old-age dialogues. Instead Zuckert follows the trend established by authors like Jacob Howland and Drew A. Hyland that reads the Dialogues in the dramatological order derived from their literary contents. However, Zuckert goes farther than previous scholars and proposes a comprehensive reading of the whole corpus. This reading makes manifest the originating motives of Socrates' engagement with philosophy, how it developed itself through successive stages, and what limits had eventually to confront. The table of contents can offer a glimpse of the wide scope and deep scholarship of this book.

Introduction: Platonic dramatology (1)

Part I: The political and philosophical problems (49)

1. Using Pre-Socratic philosophy to support political reform. The Athenian Stranger (51)

2. Plato's Parmenides: Parmenides' critique of Socrates and Plato's critique of Parmenides (147)

3. Becoming Socrates (180)

4. Socrates interrogates his contemporaries about the noble and good (215)

Part II: Two paradigms of philosophy (279)

5. Socrates' positive teaching (281)

6. Timaeus-Critias: Completing or challenging Socratic political philosophy? (420)

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Plato's Philosophers: The Coherence of the Dialogues
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