Language, search and aporia in plato’s seventh letter

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This article investigates the relation between Language and Being as it is articulated in the so-called philosophical digression of Plato‘s alleged Seventh Letter. Here the author of the letter claims, in contrast to the testimony of Plato‘s many dialogues, that there has never been and there will never be any written word on Plato‘s philosophy; and in addition, as if this was not sufficiently perplexing, he goes on to explain that the matters of philosophy do in fact not admit of verbal expression at all. In discussing the arguments for and the consequences of these claims, this paper explores what in the letter is argued to be the only viable way out of the ontological and epistemological deficiencies inherent in language. In trying to lay bare how the author of the letter argues for the insufficiency of a rational, theoretical and linguistic understanding of ultimate reality, this paper explores the notions of sunousia and tribo as the only acts powerful enough to overcome the obstacles of language and to reach a true understanding of Being. Arguing against a mystical interpretation of the notions of sunousia and tribo – in terms of a certain union between subject and object – this paper claims that a true philosophical relation to Being, according to the letter, is not be understood as the end of a particular type of search, but must rather be understood as the search itself. It argues that neither sunousia nor tribo are to capture a type of meditative situation, but rather an articulated conversation reflecting the particular conditions of a philosophical approach



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Olof Pettersson
Uppsala University

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