Chapter Four

Gaps in the "Universe" of the Platonic Dialogues

in Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy
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Chapter Four

Gaps in the "Universe" of the Platonic Dialogues

in Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy


By my choice of an epigraph for Part I of this lecture, I expected to provoke one of two reactions. The first is expressed by Pascal: "Le silence 6ternel de ces espaces infinis m'effraie"; the second is the aphorism of Heraclitus (B 24) with which Professor Miller opens his response to my paper. His argument for a hidden harmony linking the Republic and Parmenides is precisely the kind of argument my paper envisages at its conclusion. 1 Combining Phaedrus 264b-c and 268d.

2 Hermeias von Alexandrien in Platonis Phaedrum Scholia, ed. P. Couv- reur, Paris 1901 (reprint Hildesheim 1971) 231.6-9; translated by James A. Coulter in his The Literary Microcosm : Theories of Interpretation of the Later Neo-Platonists, Columbia Studies in the Classical Tradition II, Leiden 1976, p. 78. 3 Both passages are displayed in Coulter (note 2 above) pp. 79 and 80.

4 Proclus, Commentary on the First Alcibiades of Plato, ed. L.G. West- erink, Amsterdam 1954, as translated by Coulter (note 2 above) p. 95. 5 Anonymous Prolegomena to Platonic Philosophy, ed. L.G. Westerink, Amsterdam 1962, 15.1-7: "One has to state why he (Plato) employed such a genre of writing. We say that he made the choice he did because the dialogue is like the universe. For just as there are, in the case of the dialogue, a variety of actors speaking their appropriate parts, so in the universe there are different constituents with their different voices; each speaks according to its individual nature. Now in imitation of the products of the divine demiurge—and by this I mean the universe- he adopted the dialogue" (my translation).

6 In Poetics 1459al7-24. 7 Paul Friedlander, Plato: An Introduction, translated by Hans Meyer- hoff, Princeton 1958, vol. I, p. 162. Friedlander goes on to speak of "that higher organic unity achieved by Plato's total work," and (in vol. III, p. 448) he describes the body of Plato's dialogues as representing a "cosmos of forms." He had already employed this Neoplatonic langu- age in his Der grosse Alcibiades, Bonn 1921-23, vol. I, p. 2. Another strikingly Neoplatonic description of the plenitude of the Platonic dialogues taken as a whole comes from Leo Strauss's essay on the Republic in his City and Man, University of Virginia Press 1963, p. 61: "Plato's work consists of many dialogues because it imitates the many- ness, the variety, the heterogeneity of being." This is to transfer the conception of the Anonymous Prolegomena (translated in note 5 above) from the microcosm of a single dialogue to the macrocosm of the whole.

g This is seldom recognized by readers of Plato, but it has been well and briefly stated by E.N. Tigerstedt, Interpreting Plato, Stockholm Studies in History of Literature 17, Uppsala 1977, p. 99.

9 Metaphysics XII 1073a32, referring to Physics VIII 8-9. 10 De Finibus II 18.59.

11 In Part IV of this paper on the programmatic dialogues. For now, I would commend the translation of J.B. Skemp, "when discussing the sophist," in his Plato's Statesman, New York 1957. 12 What I here describe as "inner" and "outer" dialogue, Tigerstadt has called the "double dialogue," in Interpreting Plato (note 8 above) p. 98. His brief remarks are worth recalling: "What Socrates says he says to a certain person, in a certain situation, and we cannot simply apply it to ourselves. But-and this is the paradox of the Platonic Dialogue— neither can we refrain from doing so. To read a Platonic Dialogue, means silently to participate in a discussion."

13 The Gorgias moves to a conclusion that is equally indicative of the view political men would take of such discussions (cf. Gorgias 513c ff.). 14 This holds for the Sophist/Statesman especially, where Socrates'

invitation to the visitor from Velia to speak either in Eleatic dialectic or a set speech is designed to establish a contrast with the dialectic of the Theaetetus; cf. Sophist 217c and the apology for the stranger's makrologia in Statesman 286b-287a. In both dialogues, the ready assent of Theodorus' young friends is framed and qualified by Socrates' virtually total silence. There are sensitive observations on the meaning of the silence of the older Socrates in Mitchell H. Miller, Jr., The Philosopher in Plato's Statesman, The Hague 1980, pp. 8-10. I would argue that his silence is the silence of the philosopher underlying the epiphenomena of the sophist and statesman. 15 Cf. Politics II 1260b27-1262b35; Aristotle only touches on the artisan cast (in 1264a11) and the rulers (in 1264b6). A fine survey of the range of Cicero's interpretation of the Republic as a whole (in a work which is fragmentary) can be found in Victor Poeschl's R6mischer Staat und

griechisches Staatsdenken bei Cicero: Untersuchungen zu Ciceros Schrift de re publica, Berlin 1936, Chapter 3. 16 This in his rambling Zur Komposition des platonischen Staates, originally published in 1895, and included in his Kleine Schriften, Leipzig 1901, vol. I, pp. 229-270. The honor of this hypothesis, if it is an honor, goes back to K.F. Hermann's s Geschichte und System der platon- ischen Philosophie, Heidelberg 1839, pp. 538-539 (in part on the author- ity of Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae 14.3). 17 Dummlei views are accepted by Friedlander, who devotes to the "Thrasymachus" in his Plato: An Introduction (note 7 above) vol II, pp. 50-66. His "Thrasymachus" follows his Protagoras and Laches as dia- logues of the "First Period." 18 Jacques Derrida's "La pharmacie de Platon," La dessemination, Paris 1972, pp. 69-179, is the prime example; Stanley Fish's remarks on the Phaedrus in Self consuming artifacts: The experience of seventeenth-century Literature, Berkeley 1972, are more sensitive to a truly Platonic mode of

writing. 19 In a variety of expressions Glaukon's assent marks the conclusion to Books II-III and V-IX; and Adeimantus' that of Book IV. Here his on yap eixo5 is the prelude to his challenge that by the deliberation of a Platonic accident stirs up the three waves of paradox of Book V.

20 In a note to his Psyche: Seelencult und Unsterblichkeits-Glaube der Griechen, Freiburg i. B., Leipzig, and Tubingen 1898, p. 285, n. 2.

21 Thus we have Socrates account of the career of Alcibiades in VI 494a- 495a ; of Theages in VI 496b; and, by a superior Platonic irony, of his own fate in VI 496c-e and VII 517a. 22 As Gilbert Ryle calls them in his fascinating chapter on the public- ation or performance of the dialogues in Plato's Progress, Cambridge 1966, pp. 44-54. 23 proclus mistook Socrates' Panathenaikos logos for Plato's Republic, and

thought that the speech of Timaeus was delivered on the day after the Bendidea on 20 Thargelion. But he was aware that the reference in the Timaeus to the festival setting as the Panathenaea is problematic; cf. in Procli Diadochi in Platonis Timaeum Commentaria 26.10-20 Diehl; and 55.10-26. Porphyry seems to have anticipated this conclusion; cf. A.R. Sodano, Porphyrii in Platonis Timaeum Commentaria Fragmenta, Naples 1964, p. 3. 24 My bill of particulars is not far different from that of F.M. Cornford in his commentary to his Plato's Cosmology: The Timaeus of Plato, Lon-

don 1937, pp.1-8. 25 Zeller took what he took to be the allusions of the Laws to the Re- public to be evidence for his view that Plato was not the author of the Laws, (Platonische Studien, Tubingen 1839, pp. 100-112 and 117-135); his very errors are instructive. It is not Plato's manner to repeat himself, even in his old age and in the Laws. For sensible comments on the "reference" of Republic IV 430c to the Laches, one can turn to Paul Shorey's The Unity of Plato's Thought, Chicago 1903, notes 77 and 603. 26 "No treatise of Plato exists nor will one ever exist—those treatises that now go by his name belong to a Socrates become fair and new," Let- ter II 314c. Plato, or the author of the second letter, cannot possibly mean that Socrates wrote sygrammata. He must mean that the fiction of the Socratic dialogues remains the fiction of the Socratic dialogues.

27 A tag borrowed from Euripides' Melanippe (preserved in Dionysius of Halicarnassus' Rhetoric 9.11). It is twice applied by Socrates to his own derivative wisdom; cf. Apology 20e and Symposium 177a. 28 Burnet's suggestion is to be expected, since he took Plato to be the

historian of Socrates' life and conversations; cf. Plato's Euthyphro, Apology of Socrates, and Crito, Oxford 1924, ad. loc. 29 He is not quite anonymous. He is named by Socrates in Apology 34a and 38d; and by Phaedo in Phaedo 59b. Ludwig Edelstein's "Platonic Anonymity," American Journal o Philology 83 (1962) pp. 2-22, makes Plato a Pythagorean even in his silence and anonymity. 30 there he figures as either "the Academician" or "our mutual friend"; cf. Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, translated by Stillman Drake, Berkeley 1967, pp. 55, 65, 71, and 336.

31 In the Sophist he is audibly present only in 216a-217d; in the States- man in 257a-258e. His are the last words of the Statesman 311c.

32 A conspectus or tetrateuch of the four major attempts at dating the Platonic dialogues is given by Sir David Ross in his introduction to Pla- to's Theory of Ideas, Oxford 1951, p. 2. Wilamowitz (and Ross), in dis- agreement with Lutoslowski, Raeder, and Ritter, accept the ordering imposed by the references from dialogue to dialogue. 33 Gilbert Ryle's characterization of the relation between the Sophist/ Statesman and the Theaetetus is one I would like to have invented my- self : "The chronological unity between the Theaetetus and the Sophist is now totally dislocated. Dramatically, we, the audience, are on our Monday in the company of Eucleides and Terpsion in Megara in 369, while the middle-aged Theaetetus is dying and Socrates has been dead for thirty years. But on Tuesday we are, dramatically, in Athens in 399 in the lively company of Socrates, Theodorus, the Stranger, and the promising lad Theaetetus" (Plato's Progress, note 22 above, p. 30).

34 In this, I am in partial agreement with the argument of Michael Haslam, "A Note on Plato's Unfinished Dialogues," American journal of Philology 97 (1976) pp. 336-339, although I would like to take the Sophist/Statesman to articulate into distinct dialogues.

35 This is Burnet's view, in his Plato's Phaedo, Oxford 1911, ad. loc. But Paul Friedlander is right to wonder to what extent any Platonic di- alogue can refer to another (Plato: An Introduction, note 7 above, vol. II, p. 383), even as he tacitly rejects Burnet's historicist suggestion.

36 John Burnet, of course, preferred the evidence of Plato to that of Apollodorus, who put Parmenides' �loruit at 504-500 (a generation after the founding of Velia), Early Greek Philosophy, London 1920, pp. 169-170; and he takes the references in the Theaetetus and Sophist as the record of an historical meeting and not a reference to the dialogue Parmenides, p. 169, n. 2. If the meeting is not historical, what cries for explanation is the meaning of Plato's invention. 37 Cf. note 32 above.

38 D.B. Monro, The Odyssey: Books XIII-XXIV, Oxford 1901, p. 325.

39 Denys Page, The Homeric Odyssey, Oxford 1955, p. 158. 40 Gregory Nagy, The Best of the Acheans: Concepts of the Hero in Archaic Greek Poetry, Baltimore and London 1979, pp. 20-21.

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