At Phaedo 105c, Socrates introduces a type of explanation (αἰτία) he describes as “clever.” Rather than explaining a body’s hotness in terms of the body’s participation in the Form Hot, for example, the clever αἰτία attributes a body’s hotness to the presence of fire in the body. Traditional interpretations argue that the clever αἰτία accounts for the interaction between fire and the body in terms of logical entailment relationships among the Forms. On this view, fire makes bodies hot because fire (...) participates in the Form Fire and the Form Fire entails the Form Hot. In Part One of this paper, Jelinek shows that this traditional interpretation yields problematic results. In Part Two, Jelinek considers the possibility that the clever αἰτία is a hybrid explanation that invokes both Forms and particulars as irreducible sources of explanation. Though an explanation that invokes particulars as explanatory modes may seem at odds with Plato’s Form-based metaphysics, Jelinek shows that this kind of explanation can be plausibly attributed to him. This novel interpretation of the clever αἰτία attributes to Plato a more complex and nuanced understanding of explanation than previously thought. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that Plato's views on Forms play a central role in his educational philosophy. In response to what certain commentators have recently written, I contend that this interpretation not only is accurate but also is advantageous because of how it can help philosophy of education. I also address the view, proposed by one philosopher of education, that Plato believes that the most valuable sort of knowledge cannot be fully expressed in words and that the objects of (...) this knowledge are something other than transcendent Forms. Preferable to that view, I argue, is the idea that Plato wants knowledge of Forms which is nonrepresentational. (shrink)
In this paper, I offer a new interpretation of Aristophanes’ speech in Plato’s Symposium. Though Plato deliberately draws attention to the significance of Aristophanes’ speech in relation to Diotima’s (205d-206a, 211d), it has received relatively little philosophical attention. Critics who discuss it typically treat it as a comic fable, of little philosophical merit (e.g. Guthrie 1975, Rowe 1998), or uncover in it an appealing and even romantic treatment of love that emphasizes the significance of human individuals as love-objects to be (...) valued for their own sakes (e.g. Dover 1966, Nussbaum 1986). Against the first set of interpreters, I maintain that Aristophanes’ speech is of the utmost philosophical significance to the dialogue; in it, he sets forth a view of eros as a state of lack and a corresponding desire for completion, which is the starting-point for Diotima’s subsequent analysis. Against the second, I argue that Aristophanes’ speech contains a profoundly pessimistic account of eros. Far from being an appreciative response to the individuality of the beloved, eros, for Aristophanes, is an irrational urge, incapable of satisfaction. It is this irrationality that precludes Aristophanes’ lovers from achieving the partial satisfaction of erotic desire that is open to their Socratic counterparts through their relationship to the forms. (shrink)
The essays in this collection, though ranging in their keys from the teacherly to the scholarly, are united by their search for the deepest questions Plato gives us. The title essay on the Republic is a paradigm case, exploring with a mix of speculative daring and Socratic pleasure in aporia the ring structure of the dialogue, the emergent perspective of a "knowing soul," dianoetic eikasia, and the implicit presence of the One and the Dyad in the metaphysical figures of the (...) central books. See also, especially, the two essays on the Phaedo's legacy of questions and the Minotaurs that threaten it. (shrink)
For years now the “Tübingen School”, represented above all by Konrad Gaiser and Hans Krämer, has had an important position, philologically and philosophically speaking, in current research on Plato. Its richly documented and constantly sophisticated “New Image of Plato” has resulted in a “para-digm-change” in Plato-interpretation as well as developing many of its aspects. It revises the basic attitude, which can be traced back to Schleiermacher, that Plato’s published dialogues are the one authentic source for any adequate and complete comprehension (...) of Platonic thought. By contrast it is especially Krämer and Gaiser who in numerous publications have energetically—and to great effect—drawn attention to what have since Aristotle come to be known as the “unwritten doctrines” and—taking up and modifying specific intentions of L. Robin, J. Stenzel, P. Wilpert and others—attempted to present them not only as a necessary supplement to the dialogues of Plato but even more as the systematically conceived centre, the “essential” in Platonic thought. This hermeneutical maxim has made it possible to reconstruct the basic features of a principles-theory for Plato which not only constitutes the systematic fundament of the Platonic dialogues but has become decisive for the basic conceptual and ontological structure of Neoplatonism and the philosophical systems which are connected with it materially and historically speaking. This has not meant suppressing the dialogues or demoting them to a “quarry” for the real-authentic: thanks to the principles-theory and the theorems connected with it, much which used to have to appear as a break, as something enigmatic or giving rise to discrepancy or aporia, can now be understood in a more thorough way, a way which is more intense in terms of argumentation and even more complex in terms of substance, without that which Plato considered it impossible to say being laid bare in a dull abstraction. Thomas Alexander Szlezák’s book testifies to the degree to which taking seriously those doctrines of Plato which he himself was very “serious” about can be productive—precisely for a new interpretation of the dialogues themselves. Amidst the virtually endless deluge of publications on Plato, a deluge which continues to swell to worrying proportions because of superfluous repetition, Szlezák’s book stands out very strikingly through the originality of its perspective, through the consistent realization of a basic idea which is highly instructive for the subject-matter at hand and through the thoroughness of its examination of competing and above all of opposing ideas which are—with greater or lesser reason—sceptical as regards the new Plato paradigm. Plato’s criticism—discussed in great detail by Szlezák—of the written communicating of philosophical thought becomes for him the key to the question as to the relationship of the oral pursuit of philosophy and the written presentation of the living dialogue. In accordance with Platonic writing-critique it is very much intrinsic to the philosophical logos that it can defend itself, can help itself, that it is in a position productively to continue the questions which are placed in it and which it is asked and in so doing refer to “timiotera”, to “all that is more valuable”, i.e. more extensively justified; not only must these “timiotera” not be explicitly stated, but they ought consciously to be held back, to be omitted and reserved for conversations with real friends who are capable of understanding a higher problem-level. Books, thus also dialogues published in written form, are not inherently able to do this: they “are constantly saying the same thing” and remind one at times of “the prolonged din of cymbals”. It follows from this that “he who has knowledge”, he who has knowledge of “timiotera” and has a sensible attitude towards them, “Plato” the author of philosophical book-dialogues, quite consciously and consistently omits the “problems which are especially to do with principle”. (shrink)
Approaching Plato is a comprehensive research guide to all (fifteen) of Plato’s early and middle dialogues. Each of the dialogues is covered with a short outline, a detailed outline (including some Greek text), and an interpretive essay. Also included (among other things) is an essay distinguishing Plato’s idea of eudaimonia from our contemporary notion of happiness and brief descriptions of the dialogues’ main characters.