Rewriting the History of Ancient Greek Philosophy

Rewriting the History of Ancient Greek Philosophy

Rewriting the History of Ancient Greek Philosophy

Rewriting the History of Ancient Greek Philosophy

Synopsis

This book examines what we can reliably know about Plato and the historical Socrates. It shows how pervasively the sources of information were biased by Pythagoreanism, Platonism, and Neoplatonism. It gives a source-critical account of how the climate of opinion in fourth-century Athens was captured by the Pythagoreans and how Speusippos's Academy also came to be pythagorized--adding definitional idealism to Pythagorean number idealism, and elevating Plato to a divine level that makes him into a coequal of Pythagoras, thus capturing Plato for Pythagoreanism. By showing how Plato's dialogues were dedramatized, dedialogized, and read or understood as if they were works expounding pythagorizing doctrine, Tejera has created a provocative reappraisal for scholars of ancient Greek philosophy.

Excerpt

It has long been my concern in Plato studies to encourage people to readPlato dialogues dialogically, as readers know who have had occasion to use either Plato's Dialogues One by One (1984) or The City-State Foundations of Western Political Thought (1993). The former showed how twenty-two dialogues may be read dialogically with literary and conceptual success, but that the posthumous (actually post-Platonic) Laws are a pedagogical rather than dialogical construction. An essay on The Hellenistic Obliteration of Plato's Dialogism then showed how the sense was lost that Plato's works are dialogues and works of art. For philosophy's sake, finally, and in the interest of interpretation theory, Literature, Criticism, and the Theory of Signs presented a coherent theoretical context and semiotic rationale for replacing the (neo)Platonist practice of reading the dialogues for doctrine with a practice of reading them dialogically, that is, as the staged communicative interactions that their designs show them to be.

In contrast, the platomizing or doctrinal way of reading the dialogues has had no such rationale to offer, other than a tradition of "interpretation" that takes parts of interlocutory exchanges between named and characterized speakers out of their situational context, and propositionalizes them by abstracting from the load of affect and circumstantiality with which their speakers deliver them. As propositions, all citations become in this way anonymous and candidates for absorption into an exogenic system of doctrines. The following there-

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