Notes in **Interpreting Plato's Dialogues**

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This is my notes of the content of the book **Interpreting Plato's Dialogues** by Prof. J. Angelo CorlettIn this book, he argues against the orthodox Mouthpiece Interpretation of Plato's Dialogues and advances the Socratic (anti-mouthpiece) Interpretation.I read this book in order to prepare myself in reading Plato's dialogues as well as fiction containing dialogues of philosophic nature. If I haven't read this book, I would have read Plato in a manner akin to the Mouthpiece Interpretation. Thanks to this book, I have an arsenal of frameworks by which to attack the Platonic Corpus.Elevic


<ul><li><p>Interpreting Platos Dialogues by J. Angelo Corlett</p><p>a description and critical evaluation of variousways of approaching Platos dialogues, along withthe articulation and defense of a new paradigm forinterpreting the Platonic corpus</p><p>a philosophical work</p><p>Chapter 1 Introduction: Approaching PlatosDialogues</p><p>On having a taxonomy of interpretive approaches</p><p>Different from Robert Brumbaughs Four Types of PlatoInterpretation in Platos Dialogues: New Studies and</p><p>Interpretation</p><p>Ideal approach: it makes sense of the contents of the entirety ofPlatos works; takes into account the various features of Platosworks{without this, a fallacy of misattribution is committed}; doesnot rely on an overly prejudiced understanding of what Plato is up</p><p>to in composing his writings</p><p>A disputed writing The Seventh Letter may provide some answeron what characters spoke for Plato, but its authorship is disputed</p></li><li><p>We can never for sure that the following approaches do justice toPlato. We have to assume that our writings of Plato at hand is all</p><p>there is to it, i.e. there are no non-extant writings</p><p>Final desideratum: a plausible approach must be able to explainwhy competing approaches are less plausible to we</p><p>analyze competing approaches</p><p>A TAXONOMY OF THE PLATONIC QUESTION</p><p>This is complex.according to secondary sources, Antistheneswas probably the most important follower of Socrates; if we want toknow more about Socrates, we may have to study his writings morethan Platos but we know that we have more of Platos writings thanhis.Antisthenes is regarded as the father of the Cynic philosophy</p><p>The Mouthpiece Interpretation</p><p>Authorial Intentionality and Unintentionality in the MouthpieceInterpretation: his dialogues are a product of every ideas held byPlato</p><p>.one proponent of this is Kahn [Plato and the Socratic Dialogue]</p><p>Some believe that his dialogues contain Platos mindunintentionally. They believe that Platos aim in creating thesedialogues was to create philosophical and literary masterpieces</p><p>The Theoretical, Doctrinal, and Doxatic MouthpieceInterpretations</p></li><li><p>Theoretical Interpretation: the Platonic corpus intentionally orunintentionally contains Platos philosophical theories aboutknowledge, reality, justice, love, and so forth. p.5</p><p>most popular version of this attributes to Plato a Theory ofForms</p><p>Doctrinal Interpretation: his doctrines are contained in thePlatonic corpus intentionally or not</p><p>.its distinction from the theoretical interpretation lies that itsabout Platos deeply held convictions and not a full blown theory</p><p>Dogmatic Mouthpiece Interpretation: contents reflectintentionally or not Platos own beliefs..this is milder than thefirst two.also known as Doxatic</p><p>These three types assume that Platos mind is in the Platoniccorpus; the question is up to what extent?</p><p>Local, Moderate, and Global Unity</p><p>The theoretical and dogmatic interpretations raise the question ofwhether theres a unity of Platos thoughts in his writings</p><p>Unity Thesis: there is a conceptual unity in Platos thoughtseefootnote 15 in pp. 5-6</p><p>Local Unity Thesis: This unity is obtained within a particulardialogue.</p><p>Moderate Unity Thesis: This unity is obtained within a selectionof particular dialogues.</p></li><li><p>Global Unity Thesis: This unity is obtained within the entirePlatonic corpus.</p><p>Local, Moderate, and Global Development</p><p>Developmental Thesis: Plato wrote dialogues that show theongoing changing of his theories, doctrines, and/or beliefs.</p><p>Local Developmentalism: There can be a development of theconcept of x from one part of a dialogue to another part of it.</p><p>Moderate Developmentalism: There can be a development of aconcept of x from one dialogue to another.</p><p>Global Developmentalism: There is a development of a conceptx throughout the Platonic corpus.</p><p>Developmentalist approaches depend on the classification ofPlatos writings into early, middle, and/or late periods.</p><p>Developmentalists just assume this, and seem to provide nojustification for this classification.</p><p>Further Complexities</p><p>Mixing and considering the plausibility of these approaches showhow complex the task of approaching Plato is.</p><p>Dialogues should be read as dialogues, not treatises. Themouthpiece interpreters make this hermeneutical mistake.</p></li><li><p>The Anti-Mouthpiece Interpretation</p><p>holds the question of how to read the Platonic dialogues isintimately bound up with the even more evasive question of whyPlato employed the dialogue format in his philosophical writings</p><p>it denies that Platos theories or doctrines can be deduced fromhis writings</p><p>but it does not deny that we can understand Platos way ofdoing philosophy</p><p>it denies that anything we can gain from reading his works aresubstantive</p><p>Plato surely had views and theories, but it is certain that he didnot compose his dialogues with the aim of communicating them</p><p>Until external evidence can be found in favor of a mouthpieceinterpretation, the mouthpiece interpretation does not hold.</p><p>The author will seek to elaborate and defend on the SocraticInterpretation approach</p><p>The moderate mouthpiece interpretation combines mouthpieceand anti-mouthpiece approaches</p></li><li><p>Chapter 2 The Mouthpiece InterpretationPlatonic Question: How ought Platos writings to beinterpreted, and why?</p><p>Mouthpiece interpretation = Platos dialoguescommunicate his ideas; to different degree based on theextend that his dialogues are his mouthpiece</p><p>unclear on what they meant that this theories ordoctrines are expresses in his dialogues</p><p>ASSESSING THE MOUTHPIECEINTERPRETATION</p><p>JUSTIFICATIONS FOR IT</p><p>Whatever philosophical gaps or contradictions there arein the dialogues, they are due to the lack of Platosphilosophical acumen</p><p>There is a development of Platos thought over time</p></li><li><p>There are also esoteric interpretators who hold thatPlatos ideas are not found within his dialogues</p><p>instead, they are communicated to his students in theAcademy such as Aristotle</p><p>Starting on p23 onwards, author will examine more recentarguments for the Mouthpiece Interpretation. Unless hisobjections can be met, the alternative interpretation, i.e.anti-Mouthpiece, must be accepted</p><p>More specifically, the Socratic Interpretation: one oughtto interpret Platos works as dialogues and that Platowas deeply committed to the Socratic method ofdoing philosophy</p><p>that his commitment to the philosophical dialectic is sostrong that it is near impossible to extract from his writingshis actual views or doctrines</p><p>Therefore, we ought not to ascribe directly to Platowhatever views that any of the characters in his the absence of sufficient reason todo so</p></li><li><p>The basic reason to reject the Mouthpiece Interpretation:It lacks sufficient rational support p24</p><p>Key hermeneutical points of mutual agreementbetween mouthpiece and anti-mouthpieceinterpreters: p24</p><p>1. Plato writes several dialogues, but no treatises2. There are certain views propounded by certain</p><p>dialogical characters in the Platonic corpus3. Plato writes dialogues for a purpose, or a set of</p><p>purposes, one of which is to guide readers tophilosophical and objective truths</p><p>4. Plato indeed has philosophical views, howevertentatively held</p><p>5. There are better and worse ways to read Platosdialogues</p><p>Notwithstanding these agreements, there are manydisagreements between the two camps.</p><p>Doctrines and theories attributed to Plato presuppose theMouthpiece Interpretation.</p></li><li><p>P25</p><p>SOME RECENT ARGUMENTS FOR THE MOUTHPIECEINTERPRETATION</p><p>Richard Kraut argues that the anti-MouthpieceInterpretation holds the mistaken view that Plato is adramatist</p><p>if he were so, such view is valid</p><p>He addresses #2 and #3. His distinction of Plato and thedramatist is insightful but begs the question on whetherPlatos goal is different from that of a dramatist</p><p>If Platos goal is the Truth, this does not necessitate thathe infuse his unique thoughts in his dialogues</p><p>Kraut also provides another argument that Platosconvictions are held to some extend in some of hisdialogues</p><p>but his chain of thought cannot discount the validity ofthe anti-Mouthpiece Interpretation</p></li><li><p>In other words, Kraut presumes the MouthpieceInterpretation as innocent of errors till proven guilty</p><p>Terence Irwin attributes Aristotles interpretations ofPlatos Dialogues as ancient evidence that they werereally Platos mouthpiece</p><p>Aristotle is external evidence, but this should becorroborated by internal evidence within the PlatonicCorpus; unfortunately, it isnt</p><p>Deeper reason why Irwins reasoning is problematic: Oneought to accept the Aristotle as external guide to Platoview unless sufficient reason can be found in thedialogues against it</p><p>.but the dialogue form being internal and primaryevidence is against this view by Irwin</p><p>Furthermore, we cannot always rely on Aristotle preciselybecause he does not always agree with Plato; worse hemay actually misunderstood what Plato meant</p></li><li><p>We can concede that we cannot NOT consult Aristotle forgreater understanding of Plato. But the silence ofdialogues for Mouthpiece Interpretation as well as itsdialogue forms are sure internal evidence against it</p><p>p29</p><p>Even if we suppose that Aristotle is a reliable guide toPlato, it does not follow that he is the best externalwitness</p><p>P31 Irwin cannot be clear to have uttered a strongargument for support of the Mouthpiece Interpretation</p><p>Julia Annas argues that the anti-Mouthpiece Interpretationmakes Plato a sceptic</p><p>.this is merely an assumption</p><p>She appeals to AUTHORITYSEXTUS</p></li><li><p>All that is need to support at first glance the anti-Mouthpiece Interpretation is to neutralize or underminethe Mouthpiece Interpretation</p><p>.this makes the anti-Mouthpiece Interpretation plausible</p><p>P34</p><p>Michael Frede thinks The Sophist is Platos mostdogmatic dialogue</p><p>Granted, are these sufficient grounds for the MouthpieceInterpretation?</p><p>Reasons the Mouthpiece Interpretation Fails toSatisfy the Desiderata of Plausible Approach to Plato</p><p>1. It fails to account for the dramatic and Socratic featuresof most of Platos writings</p><p>2. Failure to account for these features has led to manyfundamental attribution errors</p><p>3. It prohibited from answering the Platonic Question</p></li><li><p>Chapter 3 The Anti-Mouthpiece Interpretationto discuss in this chapter two leading alternatives to theMouthpiece Interpretation:</p><p>1. The Dramatic (Anti-Mouthpiece) Interpretation2. The Socratic (Anti-Mouthpiece) Interpretation</p><p>THE DRAMATIC INTERPRETATION</p><p>Plato is the invisible author of his dialogues</p><p>never appearing as a participant</p><p>He used the dialogue form in order to make SocraticInquiry lively</p><p>Philosophical Inspiration for the Dramatic Interpretationcame from John Deweys reflections on Plato</p><p>Taking the dramatic elements seriously in no way discountthe philosophical analysis embed in the Dialogues</p></li><li><p>Gerald A. Press sets forth three hermeneutical principlesfor the dramatic study of Platos Dialogues:</p><p>1. Holism = the unit of study is the whole dialogue2. Contextualism = sensitivity to</p><p>a. languageb. culturec. politics</p><p>3. Organicism = to see how, as in an organic body, allparts work together to a common end</p><p>Presss principles rest on the following assumptions:</p><p>1. Plato wrote dialogues (not treatises) and they ought tobe interpreted as such</p><p>2. Plato employed the dialogue form deliberately and fora specific end</p><p>3. each dialogue is thoroughly unified and essentiallyindependent of all other dialogueseach of thegenuine dialogues can be read sensibly withoutknowing anything about the content or action of anyother dialogue</p><p>4. The Dialogues of Plato are works of literary art of thehighest caliber</p><p>From Principles of Dramatic and Non-Dogmatic PlatoInterpretation</p></li><li><p>The Socratic Interpretation agrees on Presss principles onsome points</p><p>It differs however on the principle of holism in that it couldalso be followed by a mouthpiece or dogmatic interpreteras much as by a Socratic interpreter</p><p>The Socratic Interpretation adopts a stronger version ofholism: that each dialogue of Plato must be construed inlight of its dramatic contents and in light of the claim that,as far as we know, Plato never speaks in his own name inthe dialogues</p><p>But Socratic Interpretation assumes no specific view inwhich they are to be read, expect with the view that theyare philosophical discussions which engage the readers ina dialectic among various subjects</p><p>The Socratic Interpretation allows for a broader reading ofeach dialogue</p><p>You dont need to consider the true or original intentbehind the dialogue when you begin to state your views orinterpretations regarding it.</p></li><li><p>Another proponent of the Dramatic Interpretation is HenryG. Wolz, arguing that the dialogues offer indirection sothat readers may themselves seek the Truth</p><p>Mitchell Miller favors the Dramatic Interpretation byclaiming that there is a four-part structure to the PlatonicDialogue:</p><p>1. Elicitation = wherein he who leads the philosophicaldiscussion draws out an interlocutors view</p><p>2. Refutation = wherein the view is shown to rest onproblematic foundations</p><p>3. Reorienting Insight = wherein the one leading thediscussion recommends how to resolve the problemat hand</p><p>4. Return = wherein the insight is shed upon the originalissue</p><p>However, not all dialogues follow such dramatic form</p></li><li><p>READING PLATO SOCRATICALLYOne of the fundamental errors of the MouthpieceInterpretation is its neglect of the depth of the Socraticinfluence on Plato in composing the dialogues</p><p>e.g. one must view them as Platos way of teaching how tolive the examined life</p><p>They act as if understanding Plato had nothing to dobeyond the text of the Platonic corpus</p><p>no different from Christian Fundamentalism</p><p>The general purpose of the dialogues is to achievephilosophical enlightenment.</p><p>the reader must take the primary burden of doingphilosophy</p></li><li><p>THE SOCRATIC METHODIt is generally agreed that Plato was heavily influenced mySocrates method of doing philosophy.</p><p>It is crucial to delineate the Socratic Method in order toexplain the plausibility of the Socratic Interpretation</p><p>by taking into account that philosophy is an incessantsearch for truth and love of wisdom rather than a hardand fast method of systematizing ideas</p><p>Plato seems able to teach us how Socrates conceived ofthe nature and value of philosophical inquiry.</p><p>There is no formalized Socratic Method. Although trying toapply it will rid us of pretense of wisdom.</p><p>Socrates rejects the notion that philosophers are wise menendowed with special insight that must be followed by allmen. He shows ignorance in order to attain trueknowledge</p></li><li><p>The Socratic Method is nearly identical with philosophy,i.e. follow where philosophy leads if you care for your soul</p><p>The best light of reason must be the true guide of thephilosopher.</p><p>It features open-mindedness</p><p>But one must value good opinions rather than bad ones</p><p>Socrates repeats the claim that there is a right way to dophilosophy.</p><p>Humility is an important aspect of his method.</p><p>See p53 excerpt of Nozick</p><p>Socratic dialogues involves other people</p><p>P54</p><p>Not only is the Socratic Method open-minded, sincere,persistent, courageous, optimistic, and epistemicallyhumble, it is just.</p></li><li><p>Humor is recognized to lighten the seriousness of anydiscussion.Socratic humor</p><p>OBJECTIONS TO THE SOCRATICINTERPRETATION AND RE...</p></li></ul>