In most of the Platonic dialogues, Socrates is the main speaker while Plato remains absent or silent. This basic fact generates interpretative difficulties for modern scholars. Is it possible to separate Socrates from Plato and, if so, how? In his recent work Christopher Rowe re-examines this issue and proposes a new approach, namely reading Plato's dialogues as essentially ‘Socratic’ even after what are usually called the ‘Socratic dialogues’. I explore this issue from a different angle by focusing on the Phaedo. In a volume of essays which addresses directly the question of the Socrates–Plato relationship and the periodisation of Plato's work, Julia Annas and Christopher Rowe point out a ‘growing disaffection’ with traditional ways of reading Plato's dialogues, including the widespread assumption that we are able ‘to isolate a “Socratic” phase of Plato's thought’. In his contribution to this volume, Rowe comments critically on Terry Penner's attempt, based on Aristotle's testimony, to separate the ‘real, historical Socrates’ from Plato. In Plato and the Art of Philosophical Writing (Rowe 2007a), Rowe challenges more explicitly the use of Aristotle as an authority for separating Plato's theory of forms from Socrates’ thought. I agree with him that we rely too much on Aristotle when we assume that Plato departs from his master on specific doctrines, for instance in maintaining that the objects of philosophical inquiry, that is, forms, are separated from sensible things. I think we should read Plato's dialogues without taking Aristotle's views on such points for granted. We should read the dialogues without these preconceptions in order to determine how ideas such as the theory of forms arise within the dialogues and how they are actually presented there.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities(all)