In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

556 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 2~: 4 OCT 1983 penology easily passed over even in careful reading of the dialogues. It challenges us to dig to the roots of this doctrine in Plato's philosophical psychology and ethics. It deserves a wide audience and careful scrutiny. R. J. McLaughlin St. John Fisher College, New York Henry G. Wolz. Plato and Heidegger: In Search of Selfhood. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1981. Pp. 3 xi. $~4.5o. This book has one overriding virtue: candor. For while other works on Plato are so heavily slanted in the direction of some contemporary philosopher that the title ought to read "Plato and X" this one actually does so. The justification for bringing together two thinkers aeons apart is succinctly stated in the introduction: "Plato frequently drops hints which suggest that he is aware of the deeper level on which Heidegger moves and which constitute the natural development of his thought." But how, one is inclined to ask, can the natural development of Plato's thought be the work of a twentieth century existentialist? The answer is that many of the doctrines we normally associate with Plato are not really his: "Socrates may express and even defend views which are meant to challenge the reader and which cannot even remotely be called his own." The views which Wolz has in mind include: the moral authority of the law, the search for timelessly true definitions, the claim that no one willingly or wittingly does evil, the immortality of the soul, the unity of the virtues, the theory of forms, and Diotima's account of eros. In short, they include practically everything we mean by "Platonism." This is a pretty bold claim. Wolz defends it by arguing that Plato intended us to read the dialogues critically, from which it follows that: "it is not primarily for the discovery of the views of either Socrates or Plato that we should go to the dialogues, but to be helped to formulate our own." When we read the dialogues with this principle in mind, we see that the above-mentioned doctrines are really not doctrines at all: they are challenges which point the reader in a particular direction, the direction of Martin Heidegger. Take the Crito. Though Socrates offers an argument defending a moral obligation to obey the law, this argument, in Wolz's opinion, advocates complete surrender to the state and is therefore "an unacceptable extreme." Wolz concludes that Socrates ' argument is only a dialectical moment in a drama whose point is to inform us about individuals in concrete situations. Not surprisingly, this dialectic finds its truest expression in the words of Heidegger: "the difference of men and actions, and the endless irregular movements of human things, do not admit of any universal and simple rule, and no art whatever can lay down a rule which will last for all time." Many would object that Heidegger's view flies in the face of the entire Socratic project, which was to find universal rules or standards and so raise men from the level of moral guesswork (empeiria) to that of a moral art (techne). But I think Wolz BOOK REVIEWS 557 would reply that this is still another case of confusing a sign with a goal post. We know that moral art is impossible, and it is our opinion which counts. Much the same is true of Socrates' search for a definition in the Euthyphro. Heidegger has shown that such a procedure will not work because unless we know what we are looking for, we cannot learn anything by examining individual cases. The traditional reader will object that Socrates answered this question, or tried to, in the Meno. But Wolz does not discuss the Meno at any length and is unimpressed with the doctrine of recollection as it appears in the Phaedo. Conclusion: Socrates' request for a definition is ironical. The world in which we live does not allow such things, and even if it did, "a definition based on the characteristic common to pious acts... would by itself alone not be a reliable guide for moral action." As for the doctrine that no one willingly or wittingly...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 556-557
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.