- Paperback: 456 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press (June 28, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521648300
- ISBN-13: 978-0521648301
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,276,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Plato and the Socratic Dialogue: The Philosophical Use of a Literary Form
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"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. 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.
Top customer reviews
Much contemporary Plato scholarship has been framed by the so-called evolutionary model. A schema wherein Plato’s thought is seen to move from an initial position heavily influenced by Socrates (e.g. Charmides, Laches, Euthyphro), to a refinement and critical assessment of these views (e.g. Gorgias and Meno), and finally culminating in an articulation of his own views (e.g. Republic and later works). And, while within this paradigm there are disputes with regard to the precise chronology of the dialogues and other issues these disagreements are framed within the developmental hypothesis.
In contrast to the prevailing evolutionary model Kahn posits that the early and middle dialogues are best understood as a unified literary project; a project that Plato deployed in its particular manner for literary and pedagogical considerations- not as a consequence of his evolving philosophical views. As such, Kahn argues that the early dialogues purposely foreshadow and set the stage for the subsequent middle dialogues such as the Republic and Phaedrus wherein Plato provides a fuller elaboration of his philosophical project.
The text has much strength. Not only is Kahn’s writing lucid and flowing, the unveiling of his argument is a true tour de force - erudite, insightful and entertaining. The discussion of thinkers such as Antisthenes, Aristippus, Aeschines and Xenophon is excellent and has encouraged me to revisit these often overlooked but important non-Platonic Socratic sources. His handling of Aristotle is also insightful. The evolutionary model is no small part tied to Aristotle’s comments regarding Socratic and Platonic discontinuities. Hence, doubts regarding the reliability of Aristotle’s testimony are advantageous to Kahn’s thesis. And, while I am not fully convinced by his arguments against Aristotle’s reliability they nevertheless warrant consideration. Additionally, Kahn’s discussion of the forms and his thoughts on the evolution of Plato’s later writing (post- Republic) are invaluable regardless of the success or failure of his overall project
Readers interested in this topic may also enjoy ‘The Cambridge Companion to Plato” and “The Oxford Handbook of Plato”. Both texts include articles on a range of related topics from leading contemporary scholars. Overall, this is an outstanding addition to Plato scholarship - highly recommended for students and scholars alike.
Most scholars understand Plato's dialogues in terms of philosophical stages, that is to say, Plato had an early period, when his thought was dominated by Socrates, later came the middle period, culminating in the Republic, when he came, more and more to express his own ideas, and finally a period where he turns against Socrates entirely. But Kahn wants to know what if Plato had the plan of the dialogues mapped out in advance. What if he was critical of Socrates from the beginning? What if Socrates is not his spokesman, but an object of his criticism? Certainly, if Kahn's interpretation stands up, he has Occam's razor on his side. If Plato's dialogues break down into three groups on stylistic grounds, does that justify the assumption on that basis, the three groups date from differing periods, when Plato held differing points of view? Or are we better served to believe that these grouping constitute a literary device intentionally employed by Plato to advance a single, unchanging program? Moreover, how do we know Plato preserves the historical Socrates in his writing, or is even interested in doing so? My training is in biblical studies so I am glad to hear someone asking the same questions about the dialogues of Plato that have been commonplaces in relation to the Gospels for over a century? Are we to assume that because Socrates never performed miracles that that justifies shoddy scholarship? Certainly, from the perspective of Biblical scholars, who have been disavows the biographical nature of the Gospels for decades, reading books like Gregory Vlatos Socrates, Ironist and Moral philosopher gives one the impression that it was written in another century. And it was written (or at least published) in this decade.
This is serious scholarship. If such things intimidate you, you are better off leaving this one alone. If you enjoy such things, this is a treat.