A Forum for and the Background of the Mediation of Dialogue in Ancient and Modern Academies

Friday, 3 April 2009

Appeal to whom it may concern

Dear all,

According to my very last posts, I should be postponing my decisions on how to write about vexed issues on Platonic philosophy. But here I come, a couple of hours afterwards, so as to share my question on Plato-exegesis:

You will see that I am coming into the matter at a snail's pace. For now I am beginning with a question on method and hermeneutics rather than on content. The general background against which this question suggests itself or, to be sincere, disturbs my peace in the last days: It is often used as an argument in support of a (Plato-)interpretation that it provides economy of expression or it avoids a more complex story. The concrete context: I am learning a lot right now from Anglo-Saxon literature on the Sophist (John Ackrill, Michael Frede, G.E.L. Owen, Lesley Brown so as to mention only some of the most indeed dedicated contributors to the Sophist's minefields).

I am far from seeking an argument against this exegetical principle as I always appreciate interpreters who have a story to tell or, even better, a theory to provide. But still I am underlying the necessity of our continuous reflecting on and challenging our principles, and asking where from we approach Plato’s texts each time.

May we let Ockham rest and ask “Plato”? Even if we are not allowed to repeat Plato's written word and in this way nurture the illusion we have found Plato, let us ask the question, bearing in mind that he himself prompts us to interpret and (re)construct his solutions. Would he plead for more economical solutions rather than more complex ones? The answer I would initially tend to give is a negative one, based upon his digressions accompanied by his reflection on the proper length of argumentation and his distinction between two different kinds of measure (Plt.). Of course, it is not easy to discern how long each argument and explanation should last in each case.
On the other hand, isn't Plato the one who presents his theory of the greatest kinds as the one that should offer an answer not only to the Parmenidean ontology but also the late-learners' riddles and various sophistical paradoxes and triffles? You may say he failed and it is indeed an arduous endeavour to present that he did not. But even if he failed, he attempted to solve all these problems at once with the aid of his peirastike dialektike.
And moreover, isn't he the philosopher who provided a theory of an "Über"-science of dialectics and of two principles which prevail all parts of reality? Aristotle wanted himself to mediate between this too economical theory and Speusippus's proposal, who introduced different principles for each field of reality and thus composed its very bad tragedy (cf. Met.XII)!
Not only Cherniss praised Plato's economical theory of ideas but also the Tübingen School. Am I bringing the German School and the Anglo-Saxons closer than I should? I can reassure that provocation was not my intention.

Could you help me overcome this dilemma of mine or enrich its dialectics, and contribute to “my” Plato  perhaps with more argument?
Struggling with the Sophist in my chamber, I desperately needed some gasp for dialogue. Thank you for even listening to my question.

Yours sincerely



Anonymous Anonymous said...


are you pondering about the unity of science in antiquity? I like it that you are asking the most basic of methodological questions. Do you confront "modern" theories of scientific progress with it? Pragmatism has to dig for its own dogmas and dogmatism should ponder its pragmas. But in the antique context it might be easier not to lose the thread.

I hope I'll still be able to have this dialogue with you,

your free thinking


9 May 2009 at 20:32  

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