THE PERIOD OF SCHOOLS
Plato. The Academy.
The Perseus Digital Library went online in 1995. The development of the
library began in 1987. Yale University Press published CD versions in
1992 and 1996.
Before that, we had to rely on books.
First page of the Phaedo (book four in the first tetralogy).
"Were you yourself, Phaedo, with Socrates on the day when he drank the poison in prison (αὐτός, ὦ Φαίδων, παρεγένου Σωκράτει ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ᾗ τὸ φάρμακον ἔπιεν ἐν τῷ δεσμωτηρίῳ) ...."
Platonis Opera, Tomvs I. Tetralogia I-II Continens. Edited by John Burnet. Oxford University Press, 1900.
(The yellow bottom left is from spilt coffee I tried to wipe from the page. I bought the book in graduate school.)
A new edition came out in 1995: Platonis Opera, Tomus. I. Tetralogias I-II Continens. Edited by E. A. Duke, W. F. Hicken, W. S. M. Nicoll, D. B. Robinson & J. C. G. Strachan). Oxford University Press.
"[T]he last of the Pythagoreans... were Xenophilus from the Thracian Chalcidice, Phanton of Phlius, and Echecrates, Diocles and Polymnastus, also of Phlius, who were pupils of Philolaus and Eurytus of Tarentum" (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers VIII.46).
"Phaedo was a native of Elis, of noble family, who on the fall of that city was taken captive and forcibly consigned to a house of ill-fame. But he would close the door and so contrive to join Socrates’ circle, and in the end Socrates induced Alcibiades or Crito with their friends to ransom him; from that time onwards he studied philosophy as became a free man" (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers II.105). Plato nowhere explains why he writes what he does, but it is easy to get the impression that his use of the character Socrates in the Phaedo and Republic (which traditionally are middle dialogues) marks a new phase in his effort to understand the historical Socrates and his love of wisdom.
Socrates continues in his role as chief interlocutor in these dialogues, but he no longer just asks questions as he does in the traditionally early dialogues. Now he argues for views. In particular, he argues for the views that have come be known in the secondary literature as
• The Theory of Recollection
• The Theory of Forms
• The Tripartite Theory of the Soul
• The Theory of Justice.
Textual Evidence for the Platonic Theories
The dialogues in which these theories appear are the Meno, Phaedo, and Republic. (The Meno is a transitional dialogue. It shares features with both the early and the middle dialogues.) These dialogues are difficult, and it is not feasible to read them in their entirety in the short time allotted in a semester class. Some of the more important passages are collected below.
Meno is visiting Athens from Thessaly. He asks Socrates how virtue is acquired. In the course of the conversation, Socrates introduces the Theory of Recollection.
The dialogue is set in Phlius. Echecrates asks Phaedo (who is apparently on his way home from Athens) about Socrates' last day. Phaedo retells Socrates' conversation with his friends. In this conversation, Socrates introduces the Theory of Forms.
Socrates argues that the just life is better than the unjust life. In the discussion, he introduces the Tripartite Theory of the Soul.
Sets of Selected Passages
The selection of passages that follow constitute the focus in the unit. Read the lectures first.
Theory of Recollection
The Theory of Recollection is a theory about the soul and about reason. It consists in two theses: the ontological thesis and the epistemological thesis. According to the ontological thesis, the soul exists before it enters the body and continues to exist after leaving it. According to the epistemological thesis, human beings have knowledge as a part of having reason. This knowledge is not acquired in experience. It is part of reason and so, given the ontological thesis, it is present before the soul enters the body.
Socrates' Intellectual Autobiography
Theory of Forms
Tripartite Theory of the Soul
The Tripartite Theory of the Soul is a theory about desire in the human soul. According to the theory, the soul has three parts (reason, the spirit, and the appetite) and in each desire can arise and move a human being to act. In reason, desire is or stems from belief about what is good or bad. In the appetite and the spirit, it is not. Just how desire arises in these parts is not completely clearly, but the suggestion seems to be that in the appetite desire arises in response to the perception of events in the body and in the spirit it arises in response to the perception of group behavior and instances of its violation.
- Theory of Justice