PLATO: AN INTERPRETATION

PLATO: AN INTERPRETATION

  1. R. KHASHABA

From the preface:

“It has been said that Plato probably ‘has never been studied more intensively than in the late twentieth century.’ Unfortunately we can also say that Plato probably has never been more misunderstood, travestied, and disfigured than in that same period.

“Until late in the nineteenth century or early in the twentieth Platonists gave their various interpretations of the works of Plato. Later in the twentieth century, scholars no longer interpreted but dissected. They murdered Plato and were happily cutting up the cadaver into tiny pieces to examine them under their analytical microscopes.

“It was not the intention of Plato in his writings, or in his oral teaching, to expound a finished system of philosophy. Just as the sole end of the Socratic elenchus was not, as is commonly supposed, to arrive at correct definitions …  it was the aim of Plato to ignite in the souls of his hearers and readers that spark of understanding which ‘suddenly, like light flashing forth when a fire is kindled, … is born in the soul and straightway nourishes itself’, as he puts it in Epistle VII.

“It is therefore worse than useless – it is positively damaging – to subject the writings of Plato to minute analysis and formal criticism in an attempt to extort from them hard-fixed doctrines and a theoretical system. Plato’s writings should be approached imaginatively, responsively, that we may glimpse in them the ineffable insights that could only be conveyed in myth and metaphor but never in fixed theoretical formulations.

“… Plato has left us some thirty pieces of verbal composition …  My purpose in this work is to present the philosophy I derive for myself from these, for my own satisfaction.

“I enter into living dialogue with the living Plato and offer the understanding I come out with for myself from that dialogue, not claiming any authority or any veracity for my interpretation. …  I draw from the flowing founts of Plato to water my own garden, and offer my version of Platonism for what it may be worth intrinsically.”

  1. R. Khashaba

July `4, 2016

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