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Where to Start with Plato?

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Where to Start with Plato?

Postby Scribo » Wed Aug 27, 2014 11:29 am

It occurs to me I've never really "read" Plato in any meaningful manner. Sure, passages of his come up either in textbooks or exams or examples of Greek prose (and for this reason I've read the Euthypro, Protagoras and the Apologia) or for historical reasons (really why I've read the Republic and lots of the Laws etc) but it occurs to me I've never *read* Plato. I've never sat and down and read him for his sake despite reading through a decent amount of his work. I think actually his Cratylus is the only work I've read for its own sake (even then I was investigating linguistic observations in the Greek world and cf'ing him to, say, Ap. Dysc.).

So, what am I missing out on? where do I begin? what are the really interesting issues P-daddy brings up regardless of time and context?
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Re: Where to Start with Plato?

Postby Qimmik » Wed Aug 27, 2014 11:01 pm

I'm waiting for an answer, too.
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Re: Where to Start with Plato?

Postby cb » Thu Aug 28, 2014 1:40 pm

hi, this is an interesting one. i still read plato every day. i was on the island of naxos a few weeks ago and read through 5 plato dialogues over several mornings sitting on the shore, before everyone woke up apart from the locals taking their dawn swims, super nice. it really depends on what stage in plato's life you want to read. i recommend reading gilbert ryle's "plato's progress" before you launch in, to see how his trip to sicily changed his approach to science etc, also his massive change away from eristic dialogues (maybe brought about by a crisis in his life like a proposed prosecution). preview here: http://books.google.fr/books?id=tP03AAAAIAAJ

like all philosophers, there are different phases to plato's development, e.g. if you want the eristic, go the early dialogues, if you want the theory of ideas (just a short phase in plato's life) focus on that particular period, etc, and then you can see how he destroys his own theory in the parmenides beginning, etc. if you want to get a broader view then you can take dialogues from the different phases of his development. cheers, chad
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Re: Where to Start with Plato?

Postby Scribo » Fri Aug 29, 2014 12:10 pm

Qimmik: hwæt! I had you in mind here, I figured you'd know.

CB: Ah Naxos! I hope you managed to get well into the khora and try the Smyrnan place (I think it's just called Smyrnaiko). Wonderful place. Ok thanks for that, that looks like a better introduction than most. Since you've read so much of him, do you have any particular recommendations?
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Re: Where to Start with Plato?

Postby Qimmik » Fri Aug 29, 2014 1:32 pm

Qimmik: hwæt! I had you in mind here, I figured you'd know.


I'm where you are, Scribo--I've read some dialogues but I've never really felt I've truly been able to engage with Plato. I would like to read more because of Plato's importance, and also because I enjoy reading Greek, but I don't really know where to dig in. So I'm grateful for CB's suggestions.
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Re: Where to Start with Plato?

Postby Incertus » Fri Aug 29, 2014 2:51 pm

Well, I'm new here, and not an expert on Plato by any means, but I think the answer may depend on what topics you find yourself drawn to. For instance, a few years ago I was really interested in Plato's treatment of Homer and poetry in general, and this lead me down a meandering path that included parts of the Hippias Minor, Ion, Protagoras, Gorgias, and The Republic (and maybe some others I can't think of at the moment.) So, my advice would be to start with a topic you're interested in, and research from that point.
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Re: Where to Start with Plato?

Postby cb » Fri Aug 29, 2014 3:31 pm

hi, i'm definitely not a plato expert, but what i have figured out is that you need to read lots of plato's dialogues to get into him. there's not a core dogma that can be summarised and that he's padding out into dialogue - if there was there might be some late dialogue where he finally decided to lay it all out, but it doesn't exist. the ryle book i mentioned above is one of the books that helps you see this is not right, but mostly you get this just by reading him.

as to where to dive in, i would pick out something from each of his phases, to see his complexity, and then go into each of them further. i'm still doing this.

for eristic, ie if you want socrates being super crafty and dragging people into confusion, you could start with book 1 of the republic (the rest of the book was probably written later for a different audience) - or if you want a bigger one, i really like gorgias, or in between the euthyphro is one of my staples, a full dialogue but short.

then for the non-eristic phase, ie if you want the deeper stuff, theory of forms and all that, phaedo is great, and the rest of the republic.

then if you want to see plato post-sicily, try the philebus, and then to see plato fully destroy the theory of forms and get into hardcore dialectic, read the parmenides.

another completely approach, one i've taken before, is to select dialogues based on number of words, so you get through lots quickly. ion is a good read, so is laches, etc. if you could clock up a large number of dialogues through reading lots of short ones and a couple of the bigger ones, over his different periods, then you would have dug into plato pretty well i think.

cheers, chad
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