Friday, August 14, 2009

A little more on "Plato for Pagans"

Here are a few scattered ideas that didn't find their way into the first post on this subject.

(1) I also plan to do additional volumes beyond the two already outlined in skeletal form. A volume apiece will be devoted the Timaeus and Parmenides, while another volume will include the dialogues on knowledge, logic and language: Cratylus, Theaetetus, Sophist and Statesman. If I live long enough maybe I'll do one on the Laws, too, although in the meantime I should probably try to figure out a way of covering Book X of the Laws - probably in the volume on the Timaeus.

(2) Wherever possible I will use R.E. Allen's translations, as well as relying heavily on his commentaries. But even when I follow Allen closely I will be, hopefully, making the material more accessible. I think it would be pretty much totally impossible for someone without a strong background to just sit down and read Allen's commentaries starting from scratch. I'm not sure if I will succeed in accomplishing that with my own commentaries, but I'll try.

(3) I also plan to make extensive use of Pierre Hadot's What is Ancient Philosophy? and also Julia Annas' The Morality of Happiness. Both of those books, in my opinion, do have the level of accessibility that I am hoping for - not that they are light reading!! Charle's Kahn's Plato and the Socratic Dialogue and Annas' Platonic Ethics Old and New will also be at my side quite a bit.

(4) I will also weave Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian War into the mix, especially in the first two sections of Volume One dealing with the life and death of Socrates. I also plan to make heavy use of the following secondary sources Perez Zagorin's book on Thucydides, Mark Munn's The School of History, Arlene Saxonhouse's Free Speech and Democracy in Ancient Athens, Robert Parker's two books on religion in Athens, and a number of the usual, and perhaps unusual, suspects concerning Athenian history. However, my goal will be to avoid any reliance on peculiarly modern interpretations of Plato, Socrates, or Greek history. Where a contemporary scholar's ideas seem consistent with a natural reading of Plato and/or with objectively agreed upon historical facts, then secondary sources will be used to explain and illustrate such interpretations and historical facts, but secondary sources will never be used as primary justifications.

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