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Great Dialogues of Plato

by Plato

ISBN: 9780451471703
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ISBN: 9780451471703

Publisher Description

"Plato is philosophy, and philosophy, Plato."-Emerson

The Republic and other great dialogues by the immortal Greek philosopher Plato are masterpieces that form part of the most important single body of writing in the history of philosophy. Beauty, love, immortality, knowledge, and justice are discussed in these dialogues, which magnificently express the glowing spirit of Platonic philosophy.

Translated by W. H. D. Rouse, one of the world's most outstanding classical scholars and translator of Homer's The Odyssey and The Iliad, this volume features the complete texts of seven of Plato's most revered works.

"In Rouse's pages Socrates' strength of mind, his dedication to philosophical truth, are borne in on the modern reader with something of the power that impressed and disturbed the ancient Greeks."-Time

Author Biography

Plato(c. 427-347 b.c.) founded the Academy in Athens, the prototype of all Western universities, and wrote more than twenty philosophical dialogues.

W.H.D. Rouse (1863-1950)was one of the great modern experts on Ancient Greece, and headmaster of the Perse School, Cambridge, England, for 26 years. Under his leadership the school became widely known for the successful teaching of Greek and Latin as spoken languages. He derived his knowledge of the Greeks not only from his wide studies of classical literature, but also by travelling extensively in Greece.

Matthew S. Santirocco is Professor of Classics and Dean of the College of Arts and Science at New York University. He has written on Greek and Roman literature and edits the journal Classical World.Rebecca Goldstein Newbergeris the author of such novels as The Mind-Body Problem, The Late-Summer Passion of a Woman of Mind, and 36 Arguments for the Existence of God, as well as acclaimed nonfiction including Betraying Spinoza- The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity and Plato at the Googleplex- Why Philosophy Won't Go Away. Among her many honors and awards are a Guggenheim Fellowship, a MacArthur Fellowship, and grants from the National Science Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies. She was named Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association and elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.She is currently Visiting Professor of Philosophy, New College of the Humanities, London.

Excerpt from Book

Great Dialogues of PLATO INTRODUCTORY NOTE This is a dialogue between Socrates and the "rhapsode" or reciter, Ion of Ephesus, who declares himself unequalled as a reciter and exponent of Homer. The rhapsodes ("song-stitchers") were men who made a living by giving public recitations from the great epic poets, chiefly Homer. The most successful held large audiences spellbound and moved them to amazement, laughter or tears. They also lectured or taught. Socrates suggests to Ion that his skill as a reciter and his hold on his audiences are due to divine inspiration passed down to him through the poet, and shows up as absurd the claims of the reciters to teach practical rules of conduct from Homer. The dialogue foreshadows the views on art as a whole which are explained in the Republic (see pp. 481-482). SOCRATES: Good morning, Ion. Where have you now come from in your travels? From home, from Ephesus? ION: Oh no, Socrates, from Epidauros; I have been at the feast of Asclepios. SOCRATES: Do the Epidaurians hold a contest of reciters of poetry in honour of the god? ION: Yes, of course, and in other fine arts also. SOCRATES: Well! and did you compete, please? And how did your contest go? ION: First prize is what I won, Socrates. SOCRATES: Well done! Now then, we must win the Panathenaia too! ION: So we will, please God. SOCRATES: I have often envied you reciters that art of yours, Ion. You have to dress in all sorts of finery, and make yourselves as grand as you can, to live up to your art! And you are, at the same time, bound to spend your time on no end of good poets, especially Homer, the best and most divine of all poets; you have to learn his meaning thoroughly, not only his verses, another enviable thing. For no one could be a good reciter unless he understood what the poet says. Yes, the reciter must be the interpreter of the poet''s mind to the audience; and to do this, if he does not understand what the poet says, is impossible. So all that very properly makes one envy. ION: Very true, Socrates. At least I found this myself the most troublesome part of the art; and I believe I can speak on Homer better than any other man alive. Not Metrodoros of Lampsacos, not Stesimbrotos the Thasian, not Glaucon, nor anyone else who ever was born could utter so many fine thoughts on Homer as I can. SOCRATES: I''m glad to hear it, Ion, for it is clear you won''t mind giving me a show. ION: I will most certainly. You''ll find it a treat to hear, Socrates, how finely I have decked out Homer! I believe I''ve earned a golden crown from the Homer Association.+ SOCRATES: Many thanks. I''ll make leisure to hear it some time, but just answer me one question now: Are you as good at Hesiod and Archilochos, or only Homer? ION: Only Homer, no one else; I think Homer''s quite enough. SOCRATES: But is there anything which both Homer and Hesiod speak about, and say the same? ION: Yes, I think so, a good many things. SOCRATES: Well then, in such matters could you explain what Homer says better than what Hesiod says? ION: Oh, just the same, Socrates, when they say the same. SOCRATES: What about when they don''t say the same? For example, they both say something about divination? ION: Yes, certainly. SOCRATES: Well then, could a good diviner explain better what these two poets say about divination, both when they say the same and when they don''t, or could you? ION: A diviner could. SOCRATES: But if you were a diviner, and if you were able to explain what was said the same, you would know how to explain what was said otherwise? ION: That''s obvious. SOCRATES: Then how comes it that you are good at Homer but not at Hesiod and the other poets? Does not Homer speak about those very things which all other poets speak of? War, now--has not he said nearly everything about war, and the intercourse of men together, good men and bad men, craftsmen and laymen, about the gods'' dealings with men and with each other, how they do it, about what happens in heaven and in the house of Hades, and the origins of gods and heroes? Are not these the things about which Homer made his poetry? ION: That is quite true, Socrates. SOCRATES: And the other poets, did not they speak of these same things? ION: Yes, they did, Socrates, but not as Homer did. SOCRATES: What then--worse than Homer? ION: Much worse. SOCRATES: And Homer did it better? ION: Better indeed, I should think so, by Zeus! SOCRATES: Now listen, dear heart alive! Suppose there are several people talking about number, and one speaks much better than the rest; I suppose somebody will be able to pick out the good speaker? ION: I should say so. SOCRATES: Will it be the same person who can also pick out the bad speakers, or somebody else? ION: The same, I suppose. SOCRATES: Well, this will be the person who has arithmetic, the art of numbers? ION: Yes. SOCRATES: Very well. Suppose a number of people discussing which foods are healthy, and one speaking much the best; will the same person recognise that the best speaker speaks best and the worse worse, or will one person recognise the best and another the worse? ION: The same, that''s clear, I suppose. SOCRATES: Who is he? What''s his name? ION: Doctor. SOCRATES: So we should say that in general the same person will always know who speaks well and who speaks badly, when a number of people are speaking about the same things; or else, if he does not know the bad speaker, it is clear he will not know the good speaker either about one and the same thing. ION: Just so. SOCRATES: Then the same person is good at both? ION: Yes. SOCRATES: Very well. You say, then, that both Homer and the other poets, two of them being Hesiod and Archilochos, speak about the same things, but not in the same way: that Homer speaks well, and the others not so well? ION: Yes, I do say so, and it is true. SOCRATES: Then if you recognise the one who speaks well, you would recognise the ones who speak worse, and know that they do speak worse? ION: Yes, so it seems. SOCRATES: Then, my dear fellow, if we say Ion is good at Homer and good at the other poets alike, we shan''t be wrong, since you admit yourself that the same person is a sufficient judge of all that speak about the same things, and the poets pretty well all poetise the same things. ION: Very well, Socrates, kindly explain the reason for something I am about to tell you. When someone speaks about any other poet, I can''t attend. I can''t put in one single remark to the point, I''m just in a doze--but only mention Homer and I''m wide awake in a jiffy, and I attend, and I have plenty to say! SOCRATES: Oh, that''s not hard to guess, old fellow. Anyone can see that not by art and science are you able to speak about Homer; for if art made you able, you would be able to speak about all the other poets too; for there is, I suppose, an art of poetry as a whole; isn''t there? ION: Yes. SOCRATES: Well now, if one gets a grasp of any other art whatever, the whole of it, the same way of looking at your problem holds good for all the arts, doesn''t it? Would you like me to say what I mean, my dear Ion? ION: I should indeed, my dear Socrates; I love to listen to a clever man like you. SOCRATES: I only wish that were true, my dear Ion. But clever! You are the clever ones, you reciters and actors, and the poets whose verses you chant;* all I can do is to tell the truth, as any plain man can do. Just look at my question; how plain and simple it is; everyone recognises, as I said, that if one takes any art as a whole, it is the same problem for all arts. Suppose for our discussion we take, say, painting; there is a general art of painting, isn''t there? ION: Yes. SOCRATES: And there have been also many painters, good and bad? ION: Certainly. SOCRATES: Well, have you ever seen anyone who was good at Polygnotos, son of Aglaophon, and could show which of his paintings are good and which are not, but with the other painters was incapable? When someone shows him works of other painters, does he just doze, and has nothing to say, and can''t put in a remark: but when he has to give an opinion about Polygnotos, or any other one painter that you may choose, does he wake up and take notice, and does he find plenty to say? ION: Oh dear me, no, not at all. SOCRATES: Well then, take sculpture: Did you ever see anyone who was good at Daidalos, Metion''s son, or Epeios, Panopeus'' son, or Theodoros the Samian, or any other one sculptor, and could explain all his good work, but before the work of the other sculptors is dumb-founded, starts dozing, and has nothing to say? ION: Oh dear me, no, I have not seen him either. SOCRATES: Go on, then, to piping and harping and singing to the harp and reciting poetry; you saw never a man, as I think, who was good at discoursing on Olympos or Thamyras or Orpheus, or Phemios,+ the Ithacan reciter, but is struck dumb before Ion the Ephesian, and has no remark to make when he recites well or ill! ION: I can''t contradict you there, Socrates. But one thing I do know about myself: I speak about Homer better than any other man alive, I have plenty to say and all declare that I speak well; but yet about the others, no. Do just see what that means. SOCRATES: I do see, my dear Ion, and I''m going to show you what I think that means. Really, as I said just now, this is no art in you to speak well about Homer; no, some divine power is moving you, such as there is in that stone which Euripides called the Magnesian, but most people

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