Plato for the Modern Age

Plato for the Modern Age

Plato for the Modern Age

Plato for the Modern Age

Excerpt

Plato is generally regarded as the most brilliant speculative mind the West has produced. Some philosophers have Preferred the greater patience and methodical procedure of Aristotle, Aquinas, or more recent analytic philosophy; others have argued that the Platonic vision did not do justice to our intuitions of duration and existence; but no one will ever deny the continuing inspiration that Western philosophy has gained from Plato.

A recent study of the teaching of philosophy in the United States showed something else about Plato that may surprise the reader who thinks of classical Greek philosophy as something cultural and beautiful, but remote and long past. For Plato was found to be the most widely read contemporary writer on philosophy in America (in various English translations) by a margin of two to one. In 1960, I casually picked up twenty-five new English and American editions of translations of dialogues, individually or in sets, and I am sure that there were more. The reason is not only that Plato was unique in his ability to present philosophy in a dialogue form which draws his reader into the inquiry and makes it vital, but also that one has the feeling of a remarkable vision, addressed for the most part to problem that are central in our lives today.

Even in translation, we are aware of a brilliant logical and aesthetic coherence; there is no fine detail of any authentic dialogue, except perhaps a few minutiae of the model municipal legal code, that does not have a reason which makes it logically and aesthetically just right. But with this flawless sense of form, Plato combined a restless, engaged programmatic imagination; each new idea suggests to him a new proposal for research or a new project for human welfare. In . . .

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