The Drama of Ideas: Platonic Provocations in Theater and Philosophy

By Martin Puchner | Go to book overview

5
The New Platonists

The influence of Plato on modern philosophy is pervasive and, for that reason, difficult to pinpoint. But what is certain is that for the last 130 years, Plato was not so much the acknowledged master to whom all philosophers paid homage as the straw man against whom they sought to define themselves as modern philosophers. In particular, they defined themselves against different versions of idealism, including the belief in the independent existence of ideas—concrete universals—but also in the ultimate coincidence of the true, the beautiful, and the good. Both these forms of idealism can be derived from Plato. However, the Plato I have been presenting in this book, the dramatic Plato, has little to do with these forms of idealism. Few of the authors of Socrates plays and none of the philosophers who continued Plato’s project of a dramatic philosophy were idealists in that sense. On the contrary, they often presented themselves as anti-Platonists because they wanted to distance themselves from idealism, the theory of forms for which the name Plato had come to stand. In order to find that other, dramatic Plato, it has thus been necessary to go beyond the equation of Plato and idealism. The “dramatic” component of that coinage emphasizes precisely what idealism seeks to leave behind, namely, the material, scenic, and corporeal elements of Plato. By writing dramatically, Plato presented us with constant reminders of the tangible, the personal, and the concrete. Only once this dramatic understanding of Plato has been established can we return to the theory of forms and understand it in new ways—in a dramatic context. When seen within this context, the theory of forms is no longer a stand-alone metaphysical construct, but rather a critique and reform of traditional drama; it establishes a tension within drama between the scenically grounded individual characters and the process of abstraction for which the term form serves as a convenient shorthand.

Yet there is a sense in which this book would be incomplete without a fuller engagement with self-declared Platonists. For this reason, I turn now

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The Drama of Ideas: Platonic Provocations in Theater and Philosophy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • 1 - The Poetics of the Platonic Dialogue 3
  • 2 - A Brief History of the Socrates Play 37
  • 3 - The Drama of Ideas 73
  • 4 - Dramatic Philosophy 121
  • 5 - The New Platonists 173
  • Epilogue - Dramatic Platonism 193
  • Appendix 1 - Socrates Titles 199
  • Appendix 2 - Charting the Socrates Play 209
  • Notes 211
  • Bibliography 237
  • Index 245
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