Protagoras and Meno

Protagoras and Meno

Protagoras and Meno

Protagoras and Meno

Synopsis

In this new edition, two of Platos most accessible dialogues explore the question of what exactly makes good people good.

Excerpt

The Protagoras and Meno are two of the most enjoyable and readable of Plato's dialogues. Whatever one may think of the philosophical content and the methods of argument employed in the Protagoras, it is universally acknowledged to be a dramatic masterpiece. It introduces an unusually large number of characters, and lively, accurate portraiture obviously ranked high among its author's aims. The portraits are drawn with humour and a keen appreciation of personal foibles, but the caricature is not overdone, and one is left with no doubt at all that this is substantially what the living men were like, and that by introducing us not only to their ideas but to their mannerisms, turns of speech and little vanities Plato has done more than would have been possible by any other means to make us personally acquainted with some of the leading figures of thought and life in fifth-century Athens.

Much of the secret of this lies in the stylistic device of the reported dialogue. The dialogue form conveys the dramatic sense of actual presence, whereas the fact that the dialogue is not presented directly, but narrated by Socrates to a friend, allows also for a lively description of scene and actors. It involves, of course, acceptance of the improbability that Socrates could remember by heart the conversation of some hours, including several long and elaborate single speeches. But this is a convention of which one is hardly conscious in reading, and makes no greater demands than do many novels written in the first person. In the Meno, where the dramatic element plays a smaller part, this device is not used. We read the whole dialogue like the text of a play. With the Protagoras we seem, not simply to read the play, but to see it acted; and when one considers its characters and setting, it is a marvel of good fortune that we should possess this particular first-hand document of life and thought in the great age of Athens. We enter the . . .

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