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Three Platonic Dialogues > Resources for reading Plato

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Plato is probably one of the most, if not the most, talked about, written about, analyzed and re-analyzed, philosophers in Western culture. There is a vast array of resources to consult if one wishes to.

The dialogues themselves, of course, are the first place to go. But beyond them, if you have found any resources of particular usefulness in reading our dialogues, or in reading Plato generally, feel free to share them here.


message 2: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) I've had good results from these; they're accessible and readable rather than dense and obscurantist.
The Story of Philosophy
Ancient Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction
Plato: A Very Short Introduction
Critical Theory Since Plato
The Greek Philosophers
Trying to recall others..


message 3: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments One thing I like about reading Plato is that all his works can be found online and downloaded for free.

1. Complete Works of Plato at Perseus
2. Works of Plato at Adelaide
3. Works of Plato (with apocryphal works) at demonax.info

I haven't read any commentaries yet, due to the same problem/paradox as presented in Meno. If I don't know Plato, how can I know which commentary is good? If I do know Plato, what need is there for commentaries?


message 4: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments Nemo wrote: "I haven't read any commentaries yet, due to the same problem/paradox as presented in Meno."

One can only hope there is a lost dialogue called "Nemo."


message 5: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments For good measure, you can download with one click the complete works of Plato (HTML, EPUB, KINDLE/MOBI) translated by Benjamin Jowett from Project Gutenberg.

The Project Gutenberg Works of Plato (translated by Benjamin Jowett)

Or from the individual book pages:

Critias
Charmides
Laches
Lysis
Republic
Eryxias
Theaetetus
Timaeus
Meno
Alcibiades I
Alcibiades II
Cratylus
Protagoras
Statesman
Gorgias
Ion
Menexenus
Lesser Hippias
Phaedrus
Apology
Euthydemus
Phaedo
Philebus
Laws
Parmenides
Symposium
Sophist
Euthyphro
Crito



message 6: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) | 2456 comments Thomas wrote: "Nemo wrote: "I haven't read any commentaries yet, due to the same problem/paradox as presented in Meno."

One can only hope there is a lost dialogue called "Nemo.""


What do you suppose would be in that dialogue? :)


message 7: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Nemo wrote: "What do you suppose would be in that dialogue? :)
"


Ooooh, don't tempt me! [g]


message 8: by Cass (new)

Cass | 533 comments There was some commentary (introduction and explanation) at the front of my copy of Meno. I also skipped it. I have never liked introductions that give away the essence of the book without allowing the reader the joy of discovering it for themselves.

Though I am not adverse to commentary (or even better... a good book group!!) after I have read a great book.


message 9: by Cass (new)

Cass | 533 comments I have a dumb question (forgive me, I had put this Greek stuff in the way-too-hard basket). I am researching, but a one paragraph answer would be great.

Is Socrates a real person? Did this conversation really happen? Or is it fictional and Plato is making it up. I thought Plato and Socrates were mentor/mentee.

Is this what Plato did... just write little books with dialogue about philosophical arguments?

How is reading Plato relevant today? I mean... a discussion about Virtue (in which we first have to redefine the greek word to even figure out what they are talking about) seems really obscure. Don't get me wrong, I am enjoying it immensely... but why do people make careers out of studying Plato, what does it offer?

I know I sound argumentative.. I promise I am not, I am really enjoying the opportunity to study a text like this in a group situation... I know that it is famous, highly-regarded, and taken very seriously... I just know nothing about it (I also promise I am researching, but everything I have read kind of skips right over my questions).


message 10: by Cass (new)

Cass | 533 comments One more question (sorry, I was recently criticised for being too wordy on message forums).

Where do these three readings fit into Plato as a whole. ie. Are they are good place to start. Does Plato have readings that are "the best place to start"?

I don't plan on stopping... I just am trying to get a big picture of Plato (and I suppose his Greek compatriots).


message 11: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1717 comments Cass wrote: "I have a dumb question (forgive me, I had put this Greek stuff in the way-too-hard basket). I am researching, but a one paragraph answer would be great.

Is Socrates a real person? Did this convers..."


Okay, I'll take a crack. Socrates is, or was, real. Whether he really had a dialogue with Meno like we're reading is doubtful; more likely Plato made most or all of it up. Plato also wrote letters, some of which have survived, and treatises, all of which are lost. He also ran a school (the Academy) and spent some time advising the ruler of Syracuse. Plato is relevant today because he asked and answered the Big Questions better than anyone before him, and as well as anyone since. People make careers out of studying him for the same reason that they make careers out of studying beetles: they enjoy it, and someone will pay them to do it. The Meno is as good a place to start as any.


message 12: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments Cass wrote: " Is Socrates a real person? Did this convers..."

We know that Socrates was real because there is what scholars call "independent attestation." (A similar argument is made for the historical Jesus.) We have at least three independent contemporary writers who talk about Socrates -- Aristophanes, Xenophon, and Plato. They don't give us a totally consistent picture of Socrates, but it's evidence that he almost certainly existed.

Meno was also real, as Patrice noted. We know him primarily though Xenophon, who shows Meno basically as a mercenary and a traitor. Benjamin Jowett calls Meno a "Thessalian Alcibiades." We can see what Plato thinks of him in the dialogue as well: Socrates begins the discussion by mocking both Meno and his teacher, Gorgias. The fact that Meno is the student of a sophist is important.


message 13: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Cass wrote: "I have a dumb question

There's no such thing in this group. If you have a question, by definition it's not dumb, at least not here.

Is Socrates a real person? Did this conversation really happen? Or is it fictional and Plato is making it up. I thought Plato and Socrates were mentor/mentee."

Yes, Socrates was a real person. Plato was one of his students, to the extent that you can consider his admirers and followers to be students. And as far as we can tell, all the people mentioned in the dialogues are real people. Various commentaries on the dialogues discuss who those people are and, where it's relevant, why that dialogue was particularly appropriate to them.

Socrates did engage in dialogue with anybody who would talk with him. And he probably had dialogues with most or all of the people Plato writes the dialogues about. But these are almost certainly not verbatim transcripts of the dialogues, and how close they are to what was actually talked about is a very good question I don't know the answer to. Plato certainly did a lot of editing, but probably at least parts of the dialogues are based on his recollection of what was said at the conversations he was at personally, or based on what he was told by other students at the conversations he didn't attend. But how much is Socrates and how much is Plato is has been the subject of an almost uncountable number of books, articles, theses, etc., and if there is an agreed answer I don't know it.


message 14: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Cass wrote: "One more question (sorry, I was recently criticised for being too wordy on message forums)."

Not this one. Relevant and useful wordiness is welcome here.


message 15: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments Cass wrote: "Where do these three readings fit into Plato as a whole. ie. Are they are good place to start. Does Plato have readings that are "the best place to start"?
"


This is the place to start! Seriously, if you are frustrated by Socrates, you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Please do stick with it, and ask whatever questions you like.


message 16: by Cass (new)

Cass | 533 comments Thank you. I feel more comfortable now, I felt a little lost amongst it all.

I have no intentions of stopping... I am loving it... I think Socrates is so wrong and I am enjoying arguing with him... it is a really fun style of book to read.

On another note, I always enjoy this book group too. (I have read along with one or two other books). While it is clear that some people have seriously study the books, it is never to the point that readers with less knowledge feel like they can't have an opinion. In my mind this is how books should be. You should be able to discuss your opinions after a single reading, you shouldn't need to be 'wrong' because you haven't read it 5 times and taken a course at uni. It is a great group.


message 17: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Cass wrote: "I think Socrates is so wrong and I am enjoying arguing with him"

If you read my review of the Republic, you will see that that is exactly the position I take.


message 18: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Cass wrote: "I think Socrates is so wrong and I am enjoying arguing with him"

If you read my review of the Republic, you will see that that is exactly the position I take.


message 19: by Cass (new)

Cass | 533 comments Everyman wrote: "Cass wrote: "I think Socrates is so wrong and I am enjoying arguing with him"

If you read my review of the Republic, you will see that that is exactly the position I take."


I will read it now. I have The Republic on my dusty bookshelf.


message 20: by Cass (new)

Cass | 533 comments So Plato wrote this and then used is as a kind of textbook?


message 21: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments Not a textbook exactly, if a textbook is thought of as a collection of facts that one is supposed to learn. Perhaps a Platonic dialogue is better thought of as an example of how to think about a problem.

One of the wonderful things about Socrates is that he provides no definitive answers. All the conclusions he comes to are at best provisional; more often than not his conclusions just lead to more questions. Socrates is a valiant defender of argument and language and reason, what he calls "logos" in Greek. The process of thinking clearly and arguing correctly is always more important than the final answer.


message 22: by Cass (new)

Cass | 533 comments What a good explanation. I have been thinking about it today and I kind of got the same impression.

He is very focused on using the exact word. Body language, intonation, sarcasm, or anything else that acts upon a word to change its meaning (the stuff we do in everyday speech) is at odds with a discussion with him.

(I am sure I said this reminded me of my mother). In fact it reminds me of watching a TV trial (not a real one, where the judge takes great care to get the truth out) but a TV trial in which a prosecutor condemns a person because they said "I am going to kill you" refusing to accept that it was honest humour (etc).


message 23: by Aprilleigh (new)

Aprilleigh (aprilleighlauer) It's also where new graduate students at St Johns College start, regardless of which segments they're registered for.


message 24: by Cass (new)

Cass | 533 comments I read through the SJC link that Everyman mentioned in another thread... and it horrified me.

Am I understanding correctly that the students read all these books? 3 days to read Meno, 6 days to read Middlemarch, 7 days for War and Peace?


message 25: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1717 comments Cass wrote: "I read through the SJC link that Everyman mentioned in another thread... and it horrified me.

Am I understanding correctly that the students read all these books? 3 days to read Meno, 6 days to r..."


Yes, they read all those books. I often did the seminar readings more than once. They take reading very seriously there.


message 26: by Cass (new)

Cass | 533 comments But I don't understand how they absorb the books. When I finished reading War & Peace I didn't read another book for at least a month. I just couldn't disturb the feeling that the book had left me... the way I mulled over it and enjoyed it.

Ditto for all the great books that I have read... Time was such an important factor... The time to ponder without the distraction of any other books.

Isn't there a risk that the students miss out on that, that they also resort to cliff notes and skimming.

Anyhow, I am judging, I am quite sure it works very well for a great many people.


message 27: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1717 comments Cass wrote: "But I don't understand how they absorb the books. When I finished reading War & Peace I didn't read another book for at least a month. I just couldn't disturb the feeling that the book had left me...."

It is certainly an intense place, in its own way. None of us complained about it. Cliff notes were unknown. Of course, that was in the days of my youth, when men were giants--they could read books that no ten men of today could read.


message 28: by Cass (new)

Cass | 533 comments Thank you for sharing. I would love to know more about it (another time of course).


message 29: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments Roger wrote: "It is certainly an intense place, in its own way. None of us complained about it. Cliff notes were unknown. Of course, that was in the days of my youth, when men were giants--they could read books that no ten men of today could read.
"


Don't forget the croquet. That's what really ratchets up the intensity. Well, that, and the waltzing.


message 30: by Cass (new)

Cass | 533 comments I love the idea that, after reading their list, the physics classes seemed like the "take a break" classes.


message 31: by Cass (new)

Cass | 533 comments Do students come to the college having read a great deal of these works. Are they all Rory Gilmores? (She has her own reading list and it is quite a good one).


message 32: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1717 comments Patrice wrote: "I'm wondering. Does anyone come out of St John's and go into the sciences? I've been talking up the school for years and my son always comes back with "I bet they all become lawyers or English pr..."

It happens, but it's rarish. One generally has to catch up on some "normal" undergraduate work. I'm in operations research (a branch of applied math).


message 33: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments Patrice wrote: "I'm wondering. Does anyone come out of St John's and go into the sciences?

Quite a few, actually. Among friends from my graduating class there are three doctors (two physicians, one psychiatrist), a couple psychologists/therapists, a professor working with nanotechnology, an aeronautical engineer, and half a dozen computer scientists. Also one rabbi. :)


message 34: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments Cass wrote: "Do students come to the college having read a great deal of these works. Are they all Rory Gilmores? (She has her own reading list and it is quite a good one)."

I had read very few of the books on the list. Some of the Bible, some Shakespeare, that's about it. After two weeks of Homer I was just about ready to quit and go home. But things gradually got better, as they tend to do when you're 17.


message 35: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments Patrice wrote: "Thanks guys, now I have an answer for my son, yes and no. lol ..."

Ha! Well, maybe it's a generational thing. And I forgot one: there's an architect.


message 36: by Lily (last edited May 08, 2014 04:22PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5012 comments Cass wrote: "Do students come to the college having read a great deal of these works. Are they all Rory Gilmore's? (She has her own reading list and it is quite a good one)."

http://www.listchallenges.com/rory-gi...

This one (books seen reading on screen), or some other one?

(I believe one of the St. John grads on here posted a link to some version of a reading list for there -- maybe a freshman year core?)


message 37: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1717 comments The current seminar reading lists in Annapolis are here:

http://www.sjc.edu/academics/undergra...
http://www.sjc.edu/academics/undergra...
http://www.sjc.edu/academics/undergra...
http://www.sjc.edu/academics/undergra...

There are other readings in other classes besides the seminars, of course.

Note that the Meno is the first Platonic dialogue read, being the 8th reading in the freshman year, right after Homer.


message 38: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5012 comments Thx for posting, Roger!


message 39: by Cass (new)

Cass | 533 comments Lily wrote: "http://www.listchallenges.com/rory-gi...

This one (books seen reading on screen), or some other one?"


Yes, that is the one I was refering to. It is a list of all the books that she was seen reading, or referred to having read, in the TV series (which I ended up watching because I was so curious about this character).

It is a pretty well-rounded list (especially given that it is supposedly read by a 15-20 year old).


message 40: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Cass wrote: "I read through the SJC link that Everyman mentioned in another thread... and it horrified me.

Am I understanding correctly that the students read all these books? 3 days to read Meno, 6 days to r..."


Yes. If you go there in the first place, you expect to read at that level. But don't forget, there are no lecture courses to attend (just seminar and tutorials), no textbooks to read. There actually is one lecture a week -- on Friday night. Attendance is mandatory, it's by a different lecturer each week, the whole college attends the one lecture (and the community is invited too), and it is followed by a question and answer time which can go late into the night (in one memorable instance, the lecturer finally had to give in to exhaustion at 3:00 in the morning, with at least fifty students still in active attendance.) How many colleges can get away with holding a mandatory "class" for all students on Friday evening?

But the key is that those seminar readings are the core of the curriculum, and yes, we do read them in the time allowed.


message 41: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Patrice wrote: "I'm wondering. Does anyone come out of St John's and go into the sciences? "

Oh, yes. At least several from my years there did. In fact, they usually do better at graduate school than "proper" science majors did, for several reasons. One, they understood how the field got to where it is, rather than just concentrating, as most science curricula do, on where it is now, with maybe one token survey course. Second, they have learned how to think for themselves, and how to develop and refine an argument in a cooperative setting, which the seminar is -- it's a shared search for truth, which very few traditional college classes are. Very valuable in the sciences.


message 42: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Thomas wrote: "Cass wrote: "Do students come to the college having read a great deal of these works...."

I had read very few of the books on the list. "


Ditto for me.


message 43: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments Everyman wrote: "There actually is one lecture a week -- on Friday night. Attendance is mandatory, it's by a different lecturer each week,."

When I was in attendance (late '80's) the lecture was not mandatory, but many, if not most students went anyway. I keep hoping that the College will record them and throw them up on the web, but so far they haven't done so.


message 44: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Thomas wrote: "When I was in attendance (late '80's) the lecture was not mandatory, but many, if not most students went anyway.."

So they went soft. [g]

We could miss two lectures a term, if I recall correctly, without significant consequence. We had to sign in, and if they caught you having somebody else sign in for you, there was major trouble for both the signer and the signee.


message 45: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments SJC makes the list! Well, a different kind of list.

http://campusbeast.com/weirdness-u-aw...


message 46: by Lily (last edited May 15, 2014 07:52AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 5012 comments Thomas wrote: "SJC makes the list! Well, a different kind of list.

http://campusbeast.com/weirdness-u-aw..."


Enjoyed the article. Am sharing with friends -- and elsewhere on GR. Thx, Thomas.


message 47: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth (ElizabethHammond) | 233 comments I have heard that all of Plato's dialogues have a universal number associated with paragraphs and/or sections of his works. I've seen many of you cite these numbers when quoting Plato. I downloaded the free version of all Plato's works from Amazon, but it doesn't contain the paragraph/section references. Where can I find these? Thanks.


message 48: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4409 comments These are called Stephanus numbers after the 16th cent. editor who created them. They are in most print editions of the dialogues, but it sounds like they often don't appear in the digital versions. The Perseus edition is the only source online that I am am aware of that has the Stephanus page numbers, but it's not great as a reading text because the pages are chunked: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/t...


message 49: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth (ElizabethHammond) | 233 comments Thanks Thomas.


message 50: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 12 comments Meno may come first at SJC but the famous German translator of Plato-- the only German translator since he did such a superb job--has Meno much later, between Theaetetus and Sophist, and the 1st dialogue is Phaedrus.
There is much controversy regarding the ordering of the dialogues and Schleiermacher claims that: If you don't understand the order of the dialogues then you can't really claim to understand Plato!
For More info check out the Plato group... or
Tallyho - The Hunt for Virtue: Beauty, Truth and Goodness: Nine Dialogues by Plato: Phaedrus, Lysis, Protagoras, Charmides, Parmenides, Gorgias, Thea


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