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Chapter 9 - Plato

from Part II - The past in the present

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 March 2022

Myles Burnyeat
Affiliation:
All Souls College, Oxford
Carol Atack
Affiliation:
Newnham College, Cambridge
Malcolm Schofield
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
David Sedley
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
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Summary

Plato’s philosophical writings have over the centuries evoked widely differing styles of response. Platonist metaphysical systems have been created, as by his first successors in the Academy, down to Plotinus and later Neoplatonists and beyond; while the questioning spirit they evince was what fuelled the scepticism of Arcesilaus and Carneades in the Hellenistic period, and what most impressed James Mill and George Grote, the nineteenth-century British ‘Philosophical Radicals’. Both types of response agreed, however, in rejecting what the dialogues call ‘opinion’, the metaphysicians because it lacks the security and clarity of true knowledge, the sceptics and radicals because it leaves prevailing norms unquestioned. They all took from Plato the precept: Think for yourself, whatever opinion or the prevailing norms may be. And from the beginning they disagreed among themselves too, with Speusippus, Plato’s nephew and his successor as head of the Academy, already rejecting the dialogues’ theory of transcendent Forms. Where the theory was embraced, it was developed further than its originator ever did himself or perhaps could have done. Plato wrote for eternity, to open minds and encourage independent thought in any reader, whatever their historical circumstances.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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  • Plato
  • Myles Burnyeat, All Souls College, Oxford
  • Prepared for publication by Carol Atack, Newnham College, Cambridge, Malcolm Schofield, University of Cambridge, David Sedley, University of Cambridge
  • Book: Explorations in Ancient and Modern Philosophy
  • Online publication: 24 March 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009047982.013
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  • Plato
  • Myles Burnyeat, All Souls College, Oxford
  • Prepared for publication by Carol Atack, Newnham College, Cambridge, Malcolm Schofield, University of Cambridge, David Sedley, University of Cambridge
  • Book: Explorations in Ancient and Modern Philosophy
  • Online publication: 24 March 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009047982.013
Available formats
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To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Plato
  • Myles Burnyeat, All Souls College, Oxford
  • Prepared for publication by Carol Atack, Newnham College, Cambridge, Malcolm Schofield, University of Cambridge, David Sedley, University of Cambridge
  • Book: Explorations in Ancient and Modern Philosophy
  • Online publication: 24 March 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009047982.013
Available formats
×