Plato

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Article abstract: Greek philosopher{$I[g]Greece;Plato} Plato used the dialogue structure in order to pose fundamental questions about knowledge, reality, society, and human nature—questions that are still alive today. He developed his own positive philosophy, Platonism, in answer to these questions, a philosophy that has been one of the most influential thought-systems in the Western tradition.

Early Life

Plato (PLAY-toh) was originally named Aristocles but may have acquired the nickname Plato (“broad” or “wide” in Greek) on account of his broad shoulders. Both of Plato’s parents were from distinguished aristocratic families. Plato himself, because of family connections and expectations as well as personal interest, looked forward to a life of political leadership.

Besides being born into an illustrious family, Plato was born into an illustrious city. He was born in the wake of Athens’s Golden Age, the period that had witnessed Athens’s emergence as the strongest Greek power (particularly through its leadership in repelling the invasions of Greece by the Persians), the birth of classical Athenian architecture, drama, and arts, and a florescence of Athenian cultural, intellectual, and political life. By the time of Plato’s youth, however, the military and cultural flowers that had bloomed in Athens had already begun to fade. A few years before Plato’s birth, Athens and Sparta—its rival for Greek supremacy—had engaged their forces and those of their allies in the Peloponnesian War.

This long, painful, and costly war of Greek against Greek lasted until Plato was twenty-three. Thus, he grew up witnessing the decline of Athens as the Greek military and cultural center. During these formative years, he observed numerous instances of cruelty, betrayal, and deceit as some unscrupulous Greeks attempted to make the best of things for themselves at the expense of other people (supposedly their friends) and in clear violation of values that Plato thought sacred.

It was also at an early age, probably in adolescence, that Plato began to hear Socrates, who engaged a variety of people in Athens in philosophical discussion of important questions. It could fairly be said that Plato fell under the spell (or at least the influence) of Socrates.

When, as a consequence of losing the Peloponnesian War to Sparta, an oligarchy was set up in Athens in place of the former democracy, Plato had the opportunity to join those in power, but he refused. Those in power, who later became known as the “Thirty Tyrants,” soon proved to be ruthless rulers; they even attempted to implicate Socrates in their treachery, although Socrates would have no part in it.

A democratic government was soon restored, but it was under this democracy that Socrates was brought to trial, condemned to death, and executed. This was the last straw for Plato. He never lost his belief in the great importance of political action, but he had become convinced that such action must be informed by a philosophical vision of the highest truth. He continued to hold back from political life, devoting himself instead to developing the kind of training and instruction that every wise person—and political people especially, because they act on a great social stage—must pursue. Plato maintained that people would not be able to eliminate evil and social injustice from their communities until rulers became philosophers (lovers of wisdom)—or until philosophers became rulers.

Life’s Work

In his twenties and thirties, Plato traveled widely, becoming aware of intellectual traditions and social and political conditions in various areas of the Mediterranean region. During these years, he also began work on his earliest, and most “Socratic,” dialogues.

When he was about forty years old, Plato founded the Academy, a complex of higher education and a center of communal living located approximately one mile from Athens proper. Plato’s Academy was highly successful. One famous pupil who studied directly under the master was Aristotle, who remained a student at the Academy for twenty years before going on to his own independent philosophical position. The Academy continued to exist for more than nine hundred years, until it was finally forced to close in 529 c.e. by the Roman emperor Justinian I on the grounds that it was pagan and thus offensive to the Christianity he wished to promote.

In 367 b.c.e., Plato went to Sicily, where he had been invited to serve as tutor to Dionysius II of Syracuse. The project offered Plato the opportunity to groom a philosopher-king such as he envisioned in Politeia (388-368 b.c.e.; Republic, 1701) but this ambition soon proved to be unrealizable.

One of the main tasks Plato set for himself was to keep alive the memory of Socrates by recording and perpetuating the kind of impact that Socrates had had on those with whom he conversed. Virtually all Plato’s written work takes the form of dialogues in which Socrates is a major character. Reading these dialogues, readers can observe the effects that Socrates has on various interlocutors and, perhaps more important, are themselves brought into the inquiry and discussion. One of the explicit aims of a Platonic dialogue is to involve readers in philosophical questioning concerning the points and ideas under discussion. In reading essays and treatises, readers too often assume the passive role of listening to the voice of the author; dialogues encourage readers to become active participants (at least in their own minds, which, as Plato would probably agree, is precisely where active participation is required).

The written dialogue is an effective mode of writing for a philosophy with the aims of Plato, but it sometimes leaves one uncertain as to Plato’s own views. It is generally agreed among scholars that the earlier works—such as Apologia Sōcratis (Apology, 1675), Euthyphrōn (Euthyphro, 1804), and Gorgias (English translation, 1804), written between 399 and 390 b.c.e.—express primarily the thought and spirit of Socrates, while middle and later dialogues—such as Menōn (Meno, 1769), Symposion (Symposium, 1701) Politeia, Theaetētos (Theaetetus, 1804; all 388-366 b.c.e.), Philēbos (Philebus, 1779), and Nomoi (Laws, 1804; both 360-347 b.c.e.)—gradually give way to the views of Plato himself.

The dialogues of Plato are among the finest literary productions by any philosopher who has ever lived, yet there is evidence that Plato himself, maintaining the superiority of the spoken word over the written word, and of person-to-person instruction over “book learning,” regarded the written dialogues as far less important than the lectures and discussions that took place in the Academy. There is, however, very little known about those spoken discussions, and the best evidence available for Plato’s views is in his many dialogues.

The fundamental thesis of Plato’s work is the claim that there are “forms” or “ideas” that exist outside the material realm, that are the objects of knowledge (or intellectual cognition), and that, unlike material objects, do not come into existence, change, or pass out of existence. These forms, rather than material things, actually constitute reality. This is Plato’s well-known theory of forms (or theory of ideas).

The theory attempts to take two points of view into consideration and to define their proper relationship. The two points of view give the questioner access to a changing world (of sensible or material things) and an unchanging world (of intellectual objects). From the first perspective, human beings know that they live in a changing world in which things come into existence, change, and pass out of existence. If one tries to pin something down in this world and determine whether various predicates apply to it (whether it is big, or red, or hot, or good, for example), one finds that the object can be viewed from a variety of standpoints, according to some of which the predicate applies and according to some of which it does not apply. Socrates, for example, is big compared to an insect but not big compared to a building. This train of thought leads one, however, to the other point of view. An insect, Socrates (that is, his body), and a building belong to the changing physical world in which the application of predicates is problematic or changing.

In the nonphysical, or intellectual, world, however, there must be some fixed points of reference that make possible the application of predicates at all. These latter fixed points do not change. Whether one compares Socrates with the insect or with the building, when one judges which is bigger one is always looking for the same thing. Bigness or largeness itself, Plato thought, must always exist, unchanging, and it must itself be big. It is this abstract or intellectual element with which a person must be familiar if the person is to be in a position to decide whether various objects in this changing material world are big.

The forms, or objects of intellect, are quite different from (and superior to) physical objects, or objects of sense. Plato thought of knowledge as occurring only between the intellect (or reason) and its objects, the forms. The bodily senses give human beings only belief, he said, not true knowledge.

Plato considered human beings to be composed of a rational aspect and an irrational aspect. The intellect or reason, that which communes with the forms, is rational. The body, which communes with the physical world, is irrational. Plato looked down on the body, considering it merely the seat of physical appetites. Additionally, there is a third, intermediate aspect of people: passions, which may follow intellect (and thus be rational) or follow the bodily appetites (and thus be irrational).

In each person, one aspect will dominate. Reason is best, but not everyone can achieve the state in which his or her life is under the direction of reason. Thus, communities should be organized in such a way that those who are rational (and not led by physical appetites) will be in command. The philosopher-king is one who both attains philosophical insight into the world of the forms and holds power in the day-to-day changing world.

Significance

Plato defended the role of reason in human life, in opposition to many ancient Greek teachers who were called Sophists. The Sophists traveled from city to city and claimed to be able to teach young men how to be successful in life. They offered such services for a fee. Although the Sophists were never a unified school and did not profess a common creed, certain beliefs are characteristic of them as a group and are almost diametrically opposed to the views of Plato. The Sophists mainly taught the art of speaking, so that a person could speak well in public assemblies, in a court of law, and as a public leader. Plato thought, however, that such speakers were probably more likely to appeal to feelings and emotion than to reason. Such speakers may hold forth and sound impressive, but they tend not to be acquainted with the objects of the intellect, the ground of true knowledge. Plato argued that such speakers may, for example, be persuasive in getting a man who is ill to take his medicine, but it is only a real doctor who can prescribe the right remedy. Plato also compared the Sophist to a makeup artist, who makes only superficial changes in people’s looks. The true philosopher, on the other hand, is compared to a gymnastic trainer, who is genuinely able to bring health and soundness to people’s bodies.

In Plato’s view, however, the stakes are really much higher, for both Sophists and philosophers actually affect people’s souls or inner selves, not their bodies, and Plato followed Socrates in thinking of the cultivation of the soul as much more important than the cultivation of the body. Moreover, Plato went beyond the views of other Greek philosophers and beyond the cultural norms of ancient Athens by affirming that women and men had the same potential for philosophical wisdom and community leadership. Many writers in the twentieth century have referred to Plato as the first feminist, although it is also true that the vast majority of ancient, medieval, and modern philosophical Platonists did not follow him in this particular. The Sophists, in any case, were false teachers and false leaders, in Plato’s view. True leaders must have wisdom, and the acquisition of such wisdom, he believed, could only come about in a cooperative community of inquirers who were free to follow argument, not carried away by speech making.

Throughout the history of more than two millennia of Western philosophy, Plato has been one of the most influential thinkers. One twentieth century philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead, has said that philosophy since Plato’s time has consisted mainly of a series of footnotes to Plato. There have been numerous revivals of Plato’s thought in Western philosophy. Platonists, Neoplatonists, and others have made their appearances, but Plato’s influence is probably better gauged in terms of the importance of the questions he has raised and the problem areas he has defined, rather than in terms of the numbers of his adherents or disciples. From both dramatic and philosophical points of view, Plato’s dialogues are so well constructed that even today they serve well as a student’s first encounter with the philosophical practice of inquiry and argument.

Further Reading:

Cropsey, Joseph. Plato’s World: Man’s Place in the Cosmos. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995. Discusses Plato’s views on human nature, with attention to his political theories.

Gonzalez, Francisco, ed. The Third Way: New Directions in Platonic Studies. Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1995. A helpful sampling of late twentieth century research on Plato, his continuing significance, and trends of interpretation in Platonic studies.

Irwin, Terrence. Plato’s Ethics. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. A thorough study of Plato’s moral philosophy, including its political implications.

Kahn, Charles H. Plato and the Socratic Dialogue: The Philosophical Use of a Literary Form. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996. A study of Plato’s use of the dialogue form as a means for exploring and developing key philosophical positions and dispositions.

Kraut, Richard, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Plato. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Eminent Plato scholars analyze and assess key Platonic dialogues and issues in Plato’s thought.

Moravcsik, J. M. E. Plato and Platonism: Plato’s Conception of Appearance and Reality in Ontology, Epistemology, and Ethics and Its Modern Echoes. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1992. A scholarly study of Plato’s key distinction between appearance and reality and the continuing impact of that distinction.

Pappas, Nikolas, ed. Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Plato and the “Republic.” New York: Routledge, 1995. Helpful articles that clarify key Platonic concepts and theories.

Rutherford, R. B. The Art of Plato: Ten Essays in Platonic Interpretation. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995. Well-informed essays on key elements of Plato’s theories.

Sayers, Sean. Plato’s “Republic”: An Introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000. An accessible commentary on the works of the philosopher.

Tarrant, Harold. Plato’s First Interpreters. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2000. An examination of the earliest debates about Plato’s ideas.

Tuana, Nancy, ed. Feminist Interpretations of Plato. University Park: Pennsylvania State University, 1994. Scholarly essays evaluate Plato’s understanding of gender issues and appraise his philosophy from the perspectives of feminist theory.

Williams, Bernard A. O. Plato. New York: Routledge, 1999. An excellent biographical introduction to the thoughts of the philosopher, clearly presented. Includes bibliography.

Plato

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2587

Article abstract: Plato used the dialogue structure in order to pose fundamental questions about knowledge, reality, society, and human nature—questions that are still alive today. He developed his own positive philosophy, Platonism, one of the most influential thought systems in the Western tradition.

Early Life

There is an ancient story (very likely a true one) that Plato was originally named Aristocles, but he acquired the nickname Plato (“broad” or “wide” in Greek) because of his broad shoulders. Both of Plato’s parents were from distinguished aristocratic families, and Plato, because of family connections and expectations as well as personal interest, looked forward to a life of political leadership.

Plato was born in the wake of Athens’s Golden Age, the period that had witnessed the emergence of Athens as the strongest Greek power (particularly through its leadership in repelling the invasions of Greece by the Persians); the birth of classical Athenian architecture, drama, and arts; and a florescence of Athenian cultural, intellectual, and political life. By the time of Plato’s youth, however, the military and cultural flower that had bloomed in Athens had already begun to fade. A few years before Plato’s birth, Athens and Sparta—Athens’s rival for Greek supremacy—had engaged their forces and those of their allies in the Peloponnesian War.

This long, painful, and costly war of Greek against Greek lasted until Plato was twenty-three. Thus, he grew up witnessing the decline of Athens as the Greek military and cultural center. During these formative years, he observed numerous instances of cruelty, betrayal, and deceit as some unscrupulous Greeks attempted to make the best of things for themselves at the expense of other people (supposedly their friends) and in clear violation of values that Plato thought sacred.

It was also at an early age, probably in adolescence, that Plato began to hear Socrates, who engaged a variety of people in Athens in philosophical discussion of important questions. It could fairly be said that Plato fell under the spell, or at least the influence, of Socrates.

When, as a consequence of losing the Peloponnesian War to Sparta, an oligarchy was set up in Athens in place of the former democracy, Plato had the opportunity to join those in power, but he refused. Those in power, who later became known as the Thirty Tyrants, soon proved to be ruthless rulers; they even attempted to implicate Socrates in their treachery, although Socrates had no part in it.

A democratic government was soon restored, but it was under this democracy that Socrates was brought to trial, condemned to death, and executed. Socrates’ execution was the last straw for Plato. He never lost his belief in the importance of political action, but he had become convinced that such action must be informed by a philosophical vision of the highest truth. He continued to hold back from political life, devoting himself instead to developing the kind of training and instruction that every wise person—and political people especially, since they act on a great social stage—must pursue. Plato maintained that people would not be able to eliminate evil and social injustice from their communities until rulers became philosophers (lovers of wisdom)—or until philosophers became rulers.

Life’s Work

In his twenties and thirties, Plato traveled widely, becoming aware of intellectual traditions and social and political conditions in various Mediterranean regions. During these years, he also began work on his earliest and most Socratic dialogues.

When he was about forty years old, Plato founded the Academy, a complex of higher education and a center of communal living located approximately one mile from Athens proper. Plato’s Academy was highly successful. One famous pupil who studied directly under the master was Aristotle, who remained a student at the Academy for twenty years before establishing an independent philosophical position. The Academy continued to exist for more than nine hundred years; it was finally forced to close in 529 c.e. by the Roman emperor Justinian I on the grounds that it was pagan and thus offensive to the Christianity he wished to promote.

In 367 b.c.e., Plato went to Sicily, where he had been invited to serve as tutor to Dionysius II of Syracuse. The project offered Plato the opportunity to groom a philosopher-king such as he envisioned in his Republic, but this ambition soon proved to be unrealizable.

One of the main tasks Plato set for himself was to keep alive the memory of Socrates by recording and perpetuating the kind of impact that Socrates had on those with whom he conversed. Virtually all Plato’s written work takes the form of dialogues in which Socrates is a major character. Reading these dialogues, readers can observe the effects that Socrates had on various interlocutors and, perhaps more important, are themselves brought into the inquiry and discussion. One of the explicit aims of a Platonic dialogue is to involve readers in philosophical questioning concerning the points and ideas under discussion. In reading essays and treatises, readers too often assume the passive role of listening to the voice of the author; dialogues encourage readers to become active participants (at least in their own minds, which, as Plato would probably agree, is precisely where active participation is required).

The written dialogue is an effective mode of writing for a philosophy with the aims of Plato, but it sometimes leaves one uncertain as to Plato’s own views. It is generally agreed among scholars that the earlier works—such as Apology, Euthyphro, and Gorgias, written between 399 and 390 b.c.e.—express primarily the thought and spirit of Socrates, while works from the middle to the last periods—such as Meno, Symposium, Republic, and Theaetetus (388-366 b.c.e.) and Philebus and Laws (360-347 b.c.e.)—gradually give way to the views of Plato himself.

The dialogues of Plato are among the finest literary productions by any philosopher who has ever lived, yet there is evidence that Plato himself, maintaining the superiority of the spoken word over the written word and of person-to-person instruction over “book learning,” regarded the written dialogues as far less important than the lectures and discussions that took place in the Academy. There is, however, very little known about those spoken discussions, and the best evidence available for Plato’s views is surely in his many dialogues.

The fundamental thesis of Plato’s work is the claim that there are “forms” or “ideas” that exist outside the material realm, are the objects of knowledge (or intellectual cognition), and, unlike material objects, do not come into existence, change, or pass out of existence. These forms, rather than material things, actually constitute reality. This is Plato’s well-known theory of forms (or theory of ideas).

The theory attempts to take two points of view into consideration and to define their proper relationship. The two points of view give the questioner access to a changing world (of sensible or material things) and an unchanging world (of intellectual objects). From the first perspective, human beings know that they live in a changing world in which things come into existence, change, and pass out of existence. If one tries to pin something down and determine whether various predicates apply to it (whether it is big, red, hot, or good, for example), one finds that the object can be viewed from a variety of standpoints. From some of these standpoints, the predicate applies, and from others, it does not. Socrates, for example, is big compared with an insect but not big compared with a building. This train of thought leads one, however, to the other point of view. An insect, Socrates (that is, his body), and a building belong to the changing physical world, in which the application of predicates is problematic or changing. In the nonphysical, or intellectual, world, however, there must be some fixed points of reference that make possible the application of predicates. These latter fixed points do not change. Whether one compares Socrates with the insect or with the building, when one judges which is bigger, one is always looking for the same thing. Bigness or largeness itself, Plato thought, must always exist, unchanging, and it must itself be big. It is this abstract or intellectual element with which a person must be familiar if the person is to be in a position to decide whether various objects in this changing material world are big.

The forms, or objects of intellect, are quite different from (and superior to) physical objects, or objects of sense. Plato thought of knowledge as occurring only between the intellect (or reason) and its objects, the forms. The bodily senses give human beings only belief, he said, not true knowledge.

Plato considered human beings to be composed of a rational aspect and an irrational aspect. The intellect or reason, that which communes with the forms, is rational. The body, which communes with the physical world, is irrational. Plato looked down on the body, considering it merely the seat of physical appetites. Additionally, there is a third, intermediate aspect of people: passions, which may follow intellect (and thus be rational) or follow the bodily appetites (and thus be irrational).

In each person, one aspect will dominate. Reason is best, but not everyone can achieve the state in which one’s life is under the direction of reason. Thus, communities should be organized in such a way that those who are rational (and not led by physical appetites) will be in command. The philosopher-king is one who both attains philosophical insight into the world of the forms and holds power in the day-to-day changing world.

Influence

Plato defended the role of reason in human life, in opposition to many ancient Greek teachers called Sophists. The Sophists traveled from city to city and claimed to be able to teach young men how to be successful in life. They offered such services for a fee. Although the Sophists were never a unified school and did not profess a common creed, certain beliefs are characteristic of them as a group and almost diametrically opposed to the views of Plato. The Sophists mainly taught the art of speaking, so that a person could speak well in public assemblies, in a court of law, and as a leader. Plato thought, however, that such speakers were probably more likely to appeal to feelings and emotion than to reason. Such speakers may hold forth and sound impressive, but they tend not to be acquainted with the objects of the intellect, the ground of true knowledge. Plato argued that such speakers may, for example, be persuasive in getting a person who is ill to take medicine, but it is only a real doctor who can prescribe the right remedy. Plato also compared the Sophist to a makeup artist, who makes only superficial changes in people’s looks; the true philosopher, on the other hand, is compared to a gymnastic trainer, who is genuinely able to bring health and soundness to people’s bodies.

In Plato’s view, however, the stakes are really much higher, for both Sophists and philosophers actually affect people’s souls or inner selves, not their bodies, and Plato followed Socrates in thinking of the cultivation of the soul as much more important than the cultivation of the body. Moreover, Plato went beyond the views of other Greek philosophers and beyond the cultural norms of ancient Athens by affirming that women and men had the same potential for philosophical wisdom and community leadership. Many writers in the twentieth century have referred to Plato as the first feminist, although it is also true that the vast majority of ancient, medieval, and modern philosophical Platonists did not follow him in this particular. The Sophists, in any case, were false teachers and false leaders, in Plato’s view. True leaders must have wisdom, and the acquisition of such wisdom, he believed, could only come about in a cooperative community of inquirers who were free to follow argument, not carried away by speech making.

Throughout the history of more than two millennia of Western philosophy, Plato has been one of the most influential thinkers. One twentieth century philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead, said that philosophy since Plato’s time has consisted mainly of a series of footnotes to Plato. There have been numerous revivals of Plato’s thought in Western philosophy. Platonists, Neoplatonists, and others have made their appearance, but Plato’s influence is probably better gauged in terms of the importance of the questions he has raised and the problem areas he has defined, rather than in terms of the numbers of his adherents or disciples. From both dramatic and philosophical points of view, Plato’s dialogues are so well constructed that in modern times, they serve well as a student’s first encounter with the philosophical practice of inquiry and argument.

Additional Reading

Brumbaugh, Robert S. Plato for the Modern Age. New York: Crowell-Collier, 1962. A good introduction to Plato’s thought and the Greek world in which he developed it.

Copleston, Frederick. A History of Philosophy: Greece and Rome. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1969. Copleston devotes several clear chapters to a discussion of the full range of Plato’s view.

Cropsey, Joseph. Plato’s World: Man’s Place in the Cosmos. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995. Discusses Plato’s views on human nature with attention to his political theories.

Gonzalez, Francisco, ed. The Third Way: New Directions in Platonic Studies. Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1995. A helpful sampling of late twentieth century research on Plato, his continuing significance, and trends of interpretation in Platonic studies.

Irwin, Terrence. Plato’s Ethics. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. A thorough study of Plato’s moral philosophy, including its political implications.

Jones, W. T. The Classical Mind. Vol. 1 in A History of Western Philosophy. 2d ed. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1969. A reliable introduction to the main themes and issues on which Plato focused.

Kahn, Charles H. Plato and the Socratic Dialogue: The Philosophical Use of a Literary Form. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996. A study of Plato’s use of the dialogue form as a means for exploring and developing key philosophical positions and dispositions.

Kraut, Richard, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Plato. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Eminent Plato scholars analyze and assess key Platonic dialogues and issues in Plato’s thought.

Moravcsik, J. M. E. Plato and Platonism: Plato’s Conception of Appearance and Reality in Ontology, Epistemology, and Ethics and Its Modern Echoes. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1992. A scholarly study of Plato’s key distinction between appearance and reality and the continuing impact of that distinction.

Pappas, Nikolas, ed. Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Plato and the “Republic.” New York: Routledge, 1995. Helpful articles that clarify key Platonic concepts and theories.

Rutherford, R. B. The Art of Plato: Ten Essays in Platonic Interpretation. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995. Well-informed essays on key elements of Plato’s theories.

Sayers, Sean. Plato’s “Republic”: An Introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000. An accessible commentary on the works of the philosopher.

Tarrant, Harold. Plato’s First Interpreters. Ithica, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2000. An examination of the earliest debates about Plato’s ideas.

Tuana, Nancy, ed. Feminist Interpretations of Plato. University Park: Pennsylvania State University, 1994. Scholarly essays evaluate Plato’s understanding of gender issues and appraise his philosophy from the perspectives of feminist theory.

Williams, Bernard A. O. Plato. New York: Routledge, 1999. An excellent biographical introduction to the thoughts of the philosopher, clearly presented. Bibliography.

Bibliography updated by John K. Roth

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