| More

From Writing to Philosophizing: A Lesson from Platonic Hermeneutics for the Methodology of the History of Philosophy

Views: 830 Downloads: 231
Dimitrios Vasilakis (http://orcid.org/0000-0003-1888-9832)
Dimitrios Vasilakis


In this paper, I try to exploit some lessons drawn from reading Plato in order to comment on the methodological ‘meta-level’ regarding the relation between philosophizing and writing. After all, it is due to the medium of written word that we come to know past philosophers. I do this on the occasion of the ostensible conclusion in Plato’s Meno. This example illuminates the ‘double-dialogue’ hermeneutics of Plato and helps to differentiate Plato’s dialogues from dialogical works written by other philosophers, such as Berkeley. As a result, it becomes clear that, like with Plato’s case, a historian of philosophy must not only have a philosophical training, but also a subtle philological background, when attempting to come into dialogue with dead philosophers.


author; (double-)dialogue; interpretation; history (of philosophy); literature; self-consciousness; writing

Full Text:



Ahbel-Rappe, Sara. Socratic Ignorance and Platonic Knowledge in the Dialogues of Plato. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2018.

Arieti, James A. Interpreting Plato: The Dialogues as Drama. Savage, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1991.

Burnyeat, Myles. Review of Interpreting Plato, by Eugène N. Tigerstedt. The Classical Review 29 (1979): 161‑162.

Charalabopoulos, Nikos G. Platonic Drama and its Ancient Reception. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Cornford, Francis Macdonald. Plato and Parmenides: Parmenides’ Way of Truth and Plato’s Parmenides translated with an Introduction and Running Commentary. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul LTD, 1964.

Curley, Edwin. “Dialogues with the Dead.” Synthese 67, no. 1 (1986): 33-49.

Dixsaut, Monique. Plato-Nietzsche: Philosophy the Other Way. Translated by Kenneth Quandt. London, Washington, DC: Academica Press, 2018.

Erler, Michael. “Plato’s religious voice: Socrates as godsent, in Plato and the Platonists.” In The Author’s Voice in Classical and Late Antiquity, edited by Anna Marmodoro, and Jonathan Hill, 313‑340. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Gerson, Lloyd P. “Plato, Platonism and the History of Philosophy.” In What Makes a Philosopher Great? Thirteen Arguments for Twelve Philosophers, edited by Stephen Hetherington, 12‑29. New York, London: Routledge, 2018.

Gill, Christopher. “Platonic Dialectic and the Truth-status of the Unwritten Doctrines.” Méthexis 6 (1993): 55-72.

Gill, Christopher, and François Renaud, eds. Hermeneutic philosophy and Plato: Gadamer’s response to the Philebus. Sankt Augustin: Academia Verlag, 2010.

Greig, Jonathan. “Plato’s Open Philosophy”. Moses Atticizing. Accesed September, 25, 020. https://mosesatticizing.com/blog/platos-open-philosophy.

Kahn, Charles H. “Did Plato write Socratic Dialogues?” Classical Quarterly 31, no. 2 (1981): 305-320.

Kahn, Charles H. Plato and the Socratic Dialogue: The Philosophical Use of a Literary Form. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Kaklamanou, Eleni, Maria Pavlou, and Antonis Tsakmakis, eds. Framing the Dialogues: How to Read Openings and Closures in Plato. Leiden, and Boston: Brill, 2020.

Manoussakis, John Panteleimon. A Polygraph on Plato. Forthcoming.

McCabe, Mary Margaret. Plato’s Individuals. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1994.

McCabe, Mary Margaret. “Form and the Platonic Dialogues.” In A Companion to Plato, edited by Hugh H. Benson, 39-54. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2006.

McCabe, Mary Margaret. “Plato’s Ways of Writing.” In The Oxford Handbook of Plato, edited by Gail Fine, 88-113. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Mitralexis, Sotiris. Methodology and Theory of the History of Philosophy. Athens: Kardamitsa, 2017.

Nails, Debra. “Platonic Interpretive Strategies, and the History of Philosophy, with a Comment on Renaud.” Plato Journal 16 (2017): 109‑122.

Nightingale, Andrea. “The Orphaned Word: The Pharmakon of Forgetfulness in Plato’s Laws.” In Performance and Culture in Plato’s Laws, edited by Anastasia-Erasmia Peponi, 243‑264. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

O’Meara, Dominic J. Cosmology and Politics in Plato’s Later Works. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2017.

Pirtea, Adrian. Review of Brill’s Companion to the Reception of Plato in Antiquity, by Harold Tarrant, Danielle A. Layne, Dirk Baltzly, and François Renaud. Bryn Mawr Classical Review, June 31, 2019.

Plato. Phaedrus. Translated and commented by Christopher J. Rowe, Oxford: Aris & Phillips Classical Texts, 1988.

Press, Gerald A. ed. Plato’s Dialogues: New Studies and Interpretations. Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 1993.

Press, Gerald A. “The State of the Question in the Study of Plato: 20-year Update.” Southern Journal of Philosophy 56, no. 1 (2018): 9‑35.

Rasmussen, Will. The Enigma of Socratic Wisdom: Resolving Inconsistencies in Plato. Saarbrücken: VDM Verlag Dr. Müller Aktiengesellschaft & Co, 2008.

Rowe, Christopher. Plato and the Art of Philosophical Writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Sorabji, Richard. “Ideas Leap Barriers: The Value of Historical Studies to Philosophy.” In Maieusis: Essays on Ancient Philosophy in Honour of Myles Burnyeat, edited by Dominic Scott, 374‑390. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Stavru, Alessandro, and Christopher Moore, eds. Socrates and the Socratic Dialogue. Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2017.

Szlezák, Thomas A. Platon Lesen. Stuttgart: Frommann-Holzbog, 1993.

Tigerstedt, Eugène Napoleon. Interpreting Plato. Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1977.

Tzouma, Anna. Hermeneutics: From Certainty to Suspicion. Athens: Metechmio, 2006.

Vasilakis, Dimitrios A. "On the Relation between Philosophy and History of Philosophy with Special Reference to B. Williams' Approach." Dia-Logos 3 (2013): 9‑24.

Vasilakis, Dimitrios A. “Platonic Hermeneutics from the Socratic View-point in Plato’s Meno.” Πλάτων. Περιοδικό τῆς Ἑταιρείας Ἑλλήνων Φιλολόγων 59 (2013-2014): 156‑166.

Whitehead, Alfred North. Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology. Gifford Lectures delivered in the University of Edinburgh during the Session 1927-28. Corrected ed. David Ray Griffin, and Donald W. Sherburne. New York: The Free Press (A Division of Macmillan Publishing Co. Inc.), 1978.

Williams, Bernard. Philosophy as a Humanistic Discipline. edited by Adrian W. Moore. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006.

Yunis, Harvey, “Writing for Reading: Thucydides, Plato, and the Emergence of the Critical Reader.” In Written Texts and the Rise of Literate Culture in Ancient Greece, ed. Harvey Yunis, 189‑212. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Zadorojnyi, Alexei V. “Transcribing Plato’s Voice: The Platonic Intertext between Writtenness and Orality.” In Gods, Daimones, Rituals, Myths and History of Religions in Plutarch’s Works: Studies Devoted to Professor Frederick E. Brenk by the International Plutarch Society, edited by Luc van der Stockt, Frances Titchener, Heinz Gerd Ingenkamp, and Aurelio Pérez Jiménez, 467‑492. Malaga & Logan, UT: Logan, International Plutarch Society, 2010.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Comments on this article

View all comments
 |  Add comment

Copyright (c) 2020 Dimitrios Vasilakis

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.