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Platonic Errors : Plato, a Kind of Poet

by Gene Fendt, David Rozema

Buy the book: Gene Fendt. Platonic Errors : Plato, a Kind of Poet

Release Date: 30 December, 1998

Edition: Hardcover

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Buy the book: Gene Fendt. Platonic Errors : Plato, a Kind of Poet


Plato without the ideological biases

This book should be seen as something of a triumph. The authors are two men from a small philosophy department in the midwest, neither of whom is well-known in the circles of Plato scholars. Yet, they have written one of the best treatments of Plato which I have read in the past 10 years. Let it be said that Plato has undergone something of a renaissance in recent times as scholars are now reading Plato's dialogues as dialogues, instead of badly written philosophy textbooks. The only problem is that most of these scholars are still committing the same errors which their positivist brethren had done around mid-century. In other words, they are too quick to assume that Socrates is the sympathetic "hero" of the dialogues and they also dismiss those parts of the dialogues which don't fit their pet theses. Those who call themselves "straussians" are also frequently guilty of importing the concerns of Leo Strauss into their readings. In a marked contrast, Fendt and Rozema treat the dialogues AS dialogues. They don't assume that the dialogues are meant to procure for us a ready-made answer to the problems which are broached within the dialogue. In other words, they believe that Plato means to tell us that philosophy is a constant striving instead of a contented repose. To quote from the last page of the book, "[a]nd since the last argument is not the right answer, or its conclusion does not exactly follow from the argument, the answer is never clearly given in the back of the book, to be remembered for the exam while the rest is forgotten. Any answer must be worked out in thought and worked out in life" (164). What is even more refreshing is that both authors appear to be very familiar with literary criticism (in the best sense of the term) and this informs their readings of the dialogues. They are able to speak cogently about the form of the work as well as the speeches and actions within the dialogues. Furthermore, they read the dialogues with such care that they reveal the assumptions which many other commentators have imported into their readings of Plato. The book itself is a series of essays covering the Ion, Theaetetus, Laws, Euthyphro, Meno, and Republic. There is no "grand thesis" which claims that all of these works represent "plato's theology" or "plato's theory of television ratings." The readings are calm, intelligent, nuanced, spiked with humor and very effective. Though primarily of interest to scholars, I would place this work on par with John Sallis' "Being and Logos", Seth Benardete's "The Being of the Beautiful", and any of Stanley Rosen's commentaries on Plato. It is simply that good.

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