Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The Dialogues of Plato rank with the extant works of Aristotle as among the most important philosophical works of Western culture. The extent of Plato’s influence is partly due to the survival of his works, unlike those of earlier Greek philosophers, as well as to the fact that at various times in the history of the Christian church his ideas were used in the process of constructing a Christian theology (though in this respect Aristotle’s influence was greater). The principal cause of his past and continuing effect on human thought, however, is the quality of his work.
The distinctive character of Platonic thought finds adequate expression in the dialogue form. Although Plato, like all philosophers, had his favored perspectives from which he interpreted and, consequently, saw the world, he realized better than most philosophers that philosophy is more an activity of the mind than the product of an investigation. This is not to say that philosophy does not, in some legitimate sense, illuminate the world. In the process of making sense out of experience, the philosopher is restless: No single way of clarifying an idea or a view is entirely satisfactory, and there is always much to be said for an alternative mode of explanation. When distinctive Platonic conceptions finally become clear, they do so against a background of penetrating discussion by means of which alternative ideas are explored for their own values and made to complement the...
(The entire section is 1799 words.)
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