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Book Reviews E. N. Tigerstedt. Interpreting Plato. Stockholm Studies in History of Literature, vol. 17. Stockholm : Almqvist & Wiksell, 1977. Pp. 157. Onefull interpretation of Plato is perhaps too much to expect from any slender volume; detailed exposition of several is an impossibility. This author has wisely chosen to survey the interpretive assumptions and governing solutions found in dominant interpretative modes of the last century and a half. (The book is a kind of sequel. Equivalent precision and many of the same heuristic tools are found in the same author's Decline and Fall of the Neoplatonic Interpretation of Plato [Helsinki-Helsingfors: Societas Scientiarum Fennica, 1974]. These volumes merit conjoint reading . In application to the full history represented by them, the author's methods are succinct and schematically exhaustive.) The interpretive problem emphasized here is the tension between demands for systematic meaning and the unresolved variety of Plato's thought. This opposition is invited by hints of unity on the one hand and by diverse manifestations of the phdosophy--apparent contradictions and seeming gaps---on the other. The latter are aggravated by the indirections of the dialogue form, by exposition through differing speakers, and by electing variously mythic, dramatic, logistic, and poetic modes of presentation. The devices and conclusions of prevailing modes of interpretation, roughly since Hegel, are here summarized in turn. The first is the "Resort to the Scalpel," whereby disfavored dialogues are excised from the canon. Another, still current, is presumption of the sufficiency and applicability of modern logical methods--with consequent citation of Plato's naivetr. Much more extensively discussed is "The Genetic Approach," which stresses biographical phases or characterological drives, thence charting stages in Plato's thought. (Under this heading, there seems some overemphasis on Germanic and historical types, with some neglect of stylometric modes of dating.) The next type of interpretation is the "Search for Unity"--in moral urgency and humane ideas, if not in systematic exposition. This approach seems prone to rather vague humanism or to a sort of neo-Neoplatonism. The latter trend is advanced by proponents of "hidden" or "esoteric" systems, interpretations based alternatively on Aristotle's pronouncements , on speculations about oral teaching, on traditions attributed to the Old Academy, and on the original Neoplatonisms. To these theorists, the dialogues (and epistles) offer occasional support, though more often their direct testimony seems, ironically, an irrelevance or an intrusion. The range and documentation of this survey are admirable, and both of Tigerstedt's works are extremely useful compendia. His judgments on these various modes of interpretation are terse and mostly adept and suitable. Each such interpreter or school, according to his wew, explains away "the problem" in one way or another. The author offers his own solution, in a form equally brief and apt. Essentially--like the child asking for both, in the Sophist--he wishes to preserve Plato's aporetic ways of advancing and presenting his phdosophic inquiry together with the wealth of exacting implications and requisite preconditions to be found in the dialogues. Platitudinous as such a solution may seem, it doubtless formulates the hermeneutic device which is at once most cautious and most worthy. The others, all of them, are degradations or evasions or both. WILLIAM SACKSTEDER University of Colorado, Boulder [335] ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
p. 335
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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