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Plato and the Socratic Dialogue: The Philosophical Use of a Literary Form [Anglais] [Broché]

Charles H. Kahn

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4 juin 1998
This book proposes a new paradigm for the interpretation of Plato's early and middle dialogues. Rejecting the usual assumption of a distinct 'Socratic' period in the development of Plato's thought, this view regards the earlier works as deliberate preparation for the exposition of Plato's mature philosophy. Differences between the dialogues do not represent different stages in Plato's own thinking but rather different aspects and moments in the presentation of a new and unfamiliar view of reality. Once the fictional character of the Socratic genre is recognised, there is no reason to regard Plato's early dialogues as representing the philosophy of the historical Socrates. The result is a unified interpretation of all of the dialogues down to the Republic and the Phaedrus.

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'… Kahn's writing is attractively lucid … this will become an important reference-point in Platonic studies.' JACT Review

' … Kahn's extremely rich account of Plato and his work … an important book, one of which all those interested in Plato will want to form an opinion'. New York Review of Books

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Première phrase
We begin this study of Plato's Socratic dialogues with a survey of what is known about other Socratic writings in the same period. Lire la première page
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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.3 étoiles sur 5  7 commentaires
12 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Controversial and Challenging 19 novembre 2000
Par Scott Carson - Publié sur
This is one of the best books on Plato that I have read. Kahn's thesis--that Plato's early and middle dialogues present a unified philosophical vision that is gradually revealed from dialogue to dialogue (what Kahn calls the "ingressive method")--is a new twist on the unitarian thesis that the Platonic corpus gives no evidence for the sort of philosophical development that has been spotted by interpreters such as Grote, Campbell, Vlastos, Owen, and many others (probably most others, in fact). But even if one is a developmentalist at heart, one can benefit greatly from reading this book. The approach is both philosophical and scholarly, of use both to the philosopher and to the classicist. Even when it is difficult to agree with Kahn (for example, he holds that the Gorgias is an earlier work than the Protagoras, in spite of what appears to be a more complex moral psychology and a more sensitive treatment of the hedonist thesis in the former), grappling with his arguments can be both a challenge and a thrill. Rarely does disagreement serve to educate so well.
It is disappointing, though fully understandable, that this book does not treat the late dialogues. There are hints here and there that Kahn thinks he could extend his thesis further, but his treatment of the Pheadrus in the last chapter is more promisory than productive.
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Brilliant 5 avril 2014
Par Reader - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
In ‘Plato and the Socratic Dialogue: The Philosophical Use of a Literary Form’ Charles Kahn puts forth a bold and provocative unitarian interpretation of Plato’s early and middle dialogues. Kahn is a long time University of Pennsylvania professor and a leading contemporary Plato scholar.

Much contemporary Plato scholarship has been framed by the so-called evolutionary model. A schema wherein Plato’s thought is seen to move from an initial position heavily influenced by Socrates (e.g. Charmides, Laches, Euthyphro), to a refinement and critical assessment of these views (e.g. Gorgias and Meno), and finally culminating in an articulation of his own views (e.g. Republic and later works). And, while within this paradigm there are disputes with regard to the precise chronology of the dialogues and other issues these disagreements are framed within the developmental hypothesis.

In contrast to the prevailing evolutionary model Kahn posits that the early and middle dialogues are best understood as a unified literary project; a project that Plato deployed in its particular manner for literary and pedagogical considerations- not as a consequence of his evolving philosophical views. As such, Kahn argues that the early dialogues purposely foreshadow and set the stage for the subsequent middle dialogues such as the Republic and Phaedrus wherein Plato provides a fuller elaboration of his philosophical project.

The text has much strength. Not only is Kahn’s writing lucid and flowing, the unveiling of his argument is a true tour de force - erudite, insightful and entertaining. The discussion of thinkers such as Antisthenes, Aristippus, Aeschines and Xenophon is excellent and has encouraged me to revisit these often overlooked but important non-Platonic Socratic sources. His handling of Aristotle is also insightful. The evolutionary model is no small part tied to Aristotle’s comments regarding Socratic and Platonic discontinuities. Hence, doubts regarding the reliability of Aristotle’s testimony are advantageous to Kahn’s thesis. And, while I am not fully convinced by his arguments against Aristotle’s reliability they nevertheless warrant consideration. Additionally, Kahn’s discussion of the forms and his thoughts on the evolution of Plato’s later writing (post- Republic) are invaluable regardless of the success or failure of his overall project

Readers interested in this topic may also enjoy ‘The Cambridge Companion to Plato” and “The Oxford Handbook of Plato”. Both texts include articles on a range of related topics from leading contemporary scholars. Overall, this is an outstanding addition to Plato scholarship - highly recommended for students and scholars alike.
6 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Plato's single literary project 27 décembre 1999
Par J. C. Woods - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
I do not believe I can capture the sheer audacity and interpretive hubris of this book so I quote the author: "The anonymity of the dialogue form, together with Plato's problematic irony in the presentation of Socrates, makes it impossible for us to see through these dramatic works in such a way as to read the mind of their author. To suppose that one can treat these dialogues as a direct statement of the author's opinion is what I call the fallacy of transparency, the failure to take account of the doctrinal opacity of these literary texts. What we can and must attempt to discern, however, is the artistic intention with which they were composed. For in this sense the intention of the author is inscribed in the text. It is precisely this intention that my exegesis is designed to capture, by construing the seven threshold dialogues together with Symposium and Phaedo as a single complex literary enterprise culminating with the Republic. And that means to see this whole group of dialogues as the multi-faceted expression of a single philosophical view." (page 42)
Most scholars understand Plato's dialogues in terms of philosophical stages, that is to say, Plato had an early period, when his thought was dominated by Socrates, later came the middle period, culminating in the Republic, when he came, more and more to express his own ideas, and finally a period where he turns against Socrates entirely. But Kahn wants to know what if Plato had the plan of the dialogues mapped out in advance. What if he was critical of Socrates from the beginning? What if Socrates is not his spokesman, but an object of his criticism? Certainly, if Kahn's interpretation stands up, he has Occam's razor on his side. If Plato's dialogues break down into three groups on stylistic grounds, does that justify the assumption on that basis, the three groups date from differing periods, when Plato held differing points of view? Or are we better served to believe that these grouping constitute a literary device intentionally employed by Plato to advance a single, unchanging program? Moreover, how do we know Plato preserves the historical Socrates in his writing, or is even interested in doing so? My training is in biblical studies so I am glad to hear someone asking the same questions about the dialogues of Plato that have been commonplaces in relation to the Gospels for over a century? Are we to assume that because Socrates never performed miracles that that justifies shoddy scholarship? Certainly, from the perspective of Biblical scholars, who have been disavows the biographical nature of the Gospels for decades, reading books like Gregory Vlatos Socrates, Ironist and Moral philosopher gives one the impression that it was written in another century. And it was written (or at least published) in this decade.
This is serious scholarship. If such things intimidate you, you are better off leaving this one alone. If you enjoy such things, this is a treat.
9 internautes sur 15 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Hubris to the max 11 janvier 2000
Par J. C. Woods - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
When the first empirical experiments confirmed Einstein's theory of relativity, story has it he was unphased. "If it had been otherwise" he is quoted as saying, "I'd feel sorry for God." If Kahn's interpretation of Plato is not correct, I feel sorry for Plato. To hear Kahn tell it, Plato is a great genius who did not, as modern scholarly orthodoxy holds, develope his point of view over time, but rather developes his reader over time to accept his ideas. Kahn believes that the decisive influence on Plato's life (other than, of course, Socrates) was the coup of the Thirty. These aristocrats overturned the Athenian democracy and, instead of ruling nobly, showed Plato how depraved and stupid obligarchy can be. The worst of these revolutionaries were Plato's brother and cousin. The only is bright spot was Socrates' brave stand against the tyrants only to get it in the neck once democracy was restored. The problem was that the ancient Greek religion was an aristocratic, heroic religion (see Homer) which encouraged the aristocrats to behave like barbarians. What Plato was trying to do was introduce a new religion (philosophy) which would civilize the aristocracy. To prove his point, Kahn must progress from Ion and Hippias Minor, through Gorgias (where he states his question fully) to the aporetic dialogues (Lysis, Meno, Charmnides) to the Protagoras (the most problematic of the dialogues to fit into his theory)and finally to goal the great middle dialogues (Symposium, Phaedo and Republic). It's quite a ride.but if you can hold on, well worth it.
3 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 What do I know? I think this book is original. 3 mars 2002
Par Alan Rawn - Publié sur
... I'm not finished with Kahn's book, but I find the central thesis fascinating. I had not considered it before. Almost everyone seems to believe that Plato's philosophy developed over time. It seems possible to construct a time line of dialogues with the "early" ones representing Socrates more than the later ones.
Who before Kahn has ever suggested an "ingressive" approach, where Plato's philosphy is fully-formed, but only revealed in pieces? Perhaps others, I do not know. But I think the model Kahn suggests opens up a whole line of thinking about Plato. So Plato didn't discuss "recollection" in the Meno without having the fully fledged idea of Forms in mind. I've always had the impression that scholars were saying that Plato's doctrine of "recollection" was the most advanced position he had at that time, as if "Forms" hadn't occured to him yet.
Anyway, I like where Kahn is going. He may not be expressing the "common opinion," but he is correct to tie the literary qualities in with the philosophy. ... I could be wrong.
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