Traditional Plato scholarship, in the English-speaking world, has assumed that Platonic dialogues are merely collections of arguments. Inevitably, the question arises: If Plato wanted to present collections of arguments, why did he write dialogues instead of treatises? Concerned about this question, some scholars have been experimenting with other, more contextualized ways of reading the dialogues. This anthology is among the first to present these new approaches as pursued by a variety of scholars. As such, it offers new perspectives on Plato as well as a suggestive view of Plato scholarship as something of a laboratory for historians of philosophy generally.
The essays gathered here each examine vital aspects of Plato’s many methods, considering his dialogues in relation to Thucydides and Homer, narrative strategies and medical practice, images and metaphors. They offer surprising new research into such much-studied works as The Republic as well as revealing views of lesser-known dialogues like the Cratylus and Philebus. With reference to thinkers such as Heidegger, Gadamer, and Sartre, the authors place the Platonic dialogues in an illuminating historical context. Together, their essays should reinvigorate the scholarly examination of the way Plato’s dialogues “work”—and should prompt a reconsideration of how the form of Plato’s philosophical writing bears on the Platonic conception of philosophy.