The Seventh Platonic Letter: A Seminar

Oxford University Press UK (2015)

Abstract
The Seventh Platonic Letter describes Plato's attempts to turn the ruler of Sicily, Dionysius II, into a philosopher ruler along the lines of the Republic. It explains why Plato turned from politics to philosophy in his youth and how he then tried to apply his ideas to actual politics later on. It also sets out his views about language, writing and philosophy. But is it genuine? Scholars have debated the issue for centuries. The origin of this book was a seminar given in Oxford in 2001 by Myles Burnyeat and Michael Frede, two of the most eminent scholars of ancient philosophy in recent decades. They question the authenticity of the letter head-on by showing how its philosophical content conflicts with what we find in the Platonic dialogues. They also reflect on the question of why the Letter was written, whether as an attempt to exculpate Plato from the charge of meddling in politics, or as an attempt to portray, through literary means, the ways in which human weakness and emotions can lead to disasters in political life.
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