The Collected Dialogues of Plato, Including the Letters

The Collected Dialogues of Plato, Including the Letters

The Collected Dialogues of Plato, Including the Letters

The Collected Dialogues of Plato, Including the Letters

Synopsis

All the writings of Plato generally considered to be authentic are here presented in the only complete one-volume Plato available in English. The editors set out to choose the contents of this collected edition from the work of the best British and American translators of the last 100 years, ranging from Jowett (1871) to scholars of the present day. The volume contains prefatory notes to each dialogue, by Edith Hamilton; an introductory essay on Plato's philosophy and writings, by Huntington Cairns; and a comprehensive index which seeks, by means of cross references, to assist the reader with the philosophical vocabulary of the different translators.

Excerpt

These dialogues were written twenty-three hundred years ago, and the thought of the ancient world, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and that of contemporary times, have all come under their influence. They have been praised as the substance of Western thought, as the corrective for the excesses to which the human mind is, subject, and as setting forth the chief lines of the Western view of the world as they have never been delineated before or since in philosophy, politics, logic, and psychology. It has been held that a return to the insights of the dialogues is a return to our roots. But the dialogues have also had their enemies. They have been attacked as politically aristocratic and as philosophically mystical. However, few serious and fair students of the dialogues have ever denied their suggestiveness and the extent to which they stimulate thought. Many strands are interwoven in the dialogues but always at the center as their meaning is the Greek insight that Reason, the logos, is nature steering all things from within. In this approach nature is neither supernatural nor material; it is an organic whole, and man is not outside nature but within it. By concentration on this point of view and its implications Greek thought and art achieved a clarity never equaled elsewhere and Plato became its supreme spokesman.

Plato has been presented to us as a man of the study, a weaver of idealistic dreams; he has also been held up as a man with great experience of the world. There is no denying that he was learned, fully aware of the intellectual currents of his day. The variety of the quotations and allusions which appear in the dialogues show that he had read the extant literature. His life covered the period from the Peloponnesian War and the death of Pericles to Philip's capture of Olynthus. He was born about 428 B.C. and died at the age of eighty or eighty-one about 348 B.C. His family was an ancient one with political connections in high places and it is reasonable to assume that he saw military service in his youth. He had a wide acquaintance with the prominent men of his time, traveled extensively abroad, and at the age of forty founded the Academy and directed its affairs until his death. Thereafter the Academy had a continuous life of nine hundred years, a longer life span than that of any other educational institution in the West. This is scarcely the portrait of an armchair philosopher spinning theories in a study lined with books from floor to ceiling. It still leaves open, however, the question of the extent of . . .

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