PLATO AND PLATONISM: An Introduction by J. N. Findlay


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This is a study of the Plato who might have been, but left little evidence of being, and the philosophy he might have written, but didn't. Although Findlay examines the accepted Plato canon, he grounds his interpretation and handling of it in a source twice removed: ""the Aristotelian reports of Plato's Unwritten Doctrine."" This doctrine consists mainly of claims for the logical and ontological identity of numbers and ideas. Dismissing Socrates as a soft-headed moralist whose philosophical importance lies only in having prompted Plato to think abstractly, Findlay traces Plato's progress through his documented and assumed arguments with peers and pupils to his final hope for ""arithmetization of ideas"": i.e., Plato comes to see ""the mathematical sciences"" as ""leading to the ultimate vision of the Good."" Findlay's ingenious project necessarily involves greater reliance on the ""must have been"" than one likes to see in historical reconstructions. And, combining as it does Findlay's unquestioning acceptance of questionable texts, like the Letters, his dogmatic assertions (such as, ""Plato's homosexuality. . . pervades dialogues like the Phaedrus and the Symposium, and becomes at times oppressively overflowing""), and his graceless writing, Findlay's guesswork about the true Plato often exasperates. Intended for a ""less technically expert audience"" than its parent volume, Plato: The Written and Unwritten Dialogues, this philosophical exercise is likely to strike that audience as too technical still, as well as pretentious and silly.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1978
Publisher: Times Books