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ELPENOR - Home of the Greek Word

Three Millennia of Greek Literature

A History of Greek Philosophy / PLATO


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In Italy he devoted himself specially to a study of the doctrine of Pythagoras. It is said that at Syracuse he offended the tyrant Dionysius the elder by his freedom of speech, and was delivered up to the Spartans, who were then at war with Athens. Ultimately he was ransomed, and found his way back to Athens, but he is said to have paid a second visit to Sicily when the younger Dionysius became tyrant. He seems to have entertained the hope that he might so influence this young man as to be able to realise through him the dream of his life, a government in accordance with the dictates of philosophy. His dream, however, was disappointed of fruition,[1] and he returned to Athens, there in the ‘groves of Academus’ a mythic hero of Athens, to spend the rest of his days in converse with his followers, and there at the ripe age of eighty-one he died. From the scene of his labours his philosophy has ever since been known as the Academic[2] philosophy. Unlike Socrates, he was not content to leave only a memory of himself and his conversations.[3] He was unwearied in the redaction and correction of his written dialogues, altering them here and there both in expression and in structure. It is impossible, therefore, to be absolutely certain as to the historical order of composition or publication among his numerous dialogues, but a certain approximate order may be fixed. We may take first a certain number of comparatively short dialogues, which are strongly Socratic in the following respects: first, they each seek a definition of some particular virtue or quality; second, each suggests some relation between it and knowledge; third, each leaves the answer somewhat open, treating the matter suggestively rather than dogmatically. These dialogues are Charmides, which treats of Temperance (mens sana in corpore sano); Lysis, which treats of Friendship; Laches, Of Courage; Ion, Of Poetic Inspiration; Meno, Of the teachableness of Virtue; Euthyphro, Of Piety.

Elpenor's note : [1] But was going to be realised after a while by Alexander.

Elpenor's note : [2] Bearing little (and not the most important) in common with the specialized encyclopedic activity we call ‘academic’ today.

Elpenor's note : [3] Although he knew and first in all Greek thought described (mainly in Phaedrus) as the inherent almost complete impotence of language to serve knowledge.

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Cf.  Plato Complete Works, Plato Home Page & Anthology, Guthrie : Life of Plato and philosophical influences, Research a KeyWord in Plato's Works

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