"Book Report: Dialogues by Plato"

The Republic and other Dialogues book cover

Dialogues by Plato

This covers 4 of the 5 most popular dialogues written by Plato excluding The Republic which, as a text that has moved me profoundly, will get its own entry.

Plato was a Greek philosopher and friend to the dialectical genius, Socrates. While the exact history of the man Socrates may never be fully known, we do know that Plato chose Socrates to exhibit the ideas presented in his writing.

The dialogue approach to writing that was common in those days is very appealing to me even in the 21st century. The process of question and response discovery draws a sort of parrallel to the thoughts that run through my own head. It is quite gratifying to see your own thoughts explored, or "uncovered" as a friend of mine wrote, making the dialogues an especially enjoyable read.

In Apology we learn that Socrates is on trial for his life. He has the conviction of a man who believes what he preaches, and makes the best case possible given the short amount of time allotted.

In Crito, Socrates is in jail awaiting death when his friend pleads with him to escape. Socrates explains that he must accept the sentence his government has awarded him. He believes that although his indictment might have been avoided given more time for a proper defence, the system of government trumps any selfish bias or desire for "a little more life."

Phaedo was probably the best of these 3 dialogues describing the death of Socrates in my opinion. Here, Socrates explores the human soul and offers proof that it not only exists, but has always existed and forever will. He examins the effect of good and evil on the soul and assures his friends that although he is to die, his soul will endure and that death has always been the pursuit of philosophy.

Finally, in Symposium, Plato explores the meaning of Love, what he is, and how he is encountered. I was hoping for a more revealing account of love in this text than was provided. The majority of the dialogue is thoughtless banter regarding the party and attributing every uplifting word known to man to love. "Love is majestic, love is pure, love is moving, etc..." While love is certainly a thing to be praised, I feel that its praise should be left to poets, not philosophers. In Plato's defense, according to Symposium, even poets had not yet written a single hymn of praise to love at that time--something Plato's character, Eryximachus, sought to remedy.

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