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238Re: Order of Platonic Dialogues

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  • vaeringjar
    May 1, 2003
      Sorry but I hit the wrong button and lost all my reply - here is what
      I meant to post:

      Here is a quick and dirty translation of the posting on the order of
      Plato's dialogues. I hope I have not mangled it too badly! I would
      also add a reference to L.G. Westerink, <The Anonymous Prolegomena to
      Platonic Philosophy> (Amsterdam, 1962), pp.XXXVI ff, for the
      Neoplatonic cycles and ordering of the dialogues discussed below, and
      of course much more, including of course the text and English
      translation of the Prolegomena.


      Good day,

      I am sorry to respond to you in French, but it is more convenient for
      me to express myself in my mother tongue.

      Before answering the question which you have put to us, I would like
      to clarify that the reading of Aristotle was conceived as a necessary
      propaideutic to the study of Plato's philosophy. The reading of
      Aristotle was also carried out in a precise order: one began with the
      writings on Logic, one followed with Ethics, the political writings,
      Physics, and one concluded with theology. I won't say any more about
      this, except to refer you to the following article by Ilsetraut Hadot:
      "Aristote dans l'enseignement philosophique néoplatonicien", Revue de
      théologie et de philosophie 124 (1992): 407-425. Perhaps this work
      will also be accessible to you: Ilsetraut Hadot, Le problème du
      néoplatonisme alexandrin: Hiéroclès et Simplicius, Paris, Etudes
      augustiniennes, 1978.

      As far as the order of the reading of Plato's dialogues is concerned,
      it appears that it was established by Iamblichus. We owe [thanks] to
      André-Jean Festugière for a very fine article on this question, which
      is: A.-J. Festugière, "L'ordre de lecture des dialogues de Platon aux
      Ve/VIe siècles", in: Etudes de philosophie grecque, Paris, Vrin,
      1971, p. 535-550. It should be remarked that the ordered reading of
      Plato not only had an intellectual goal, but also a spiritual one:
      while reading through Plato's work, one would acquire a series of
      virtues, which would be ordered hierarchically on several levels:
      political virtue, cathartic, theoretical, paradigmatic (since
      Porphyry), theurgic (since Iamblichus). The reading of each of
      Plato's dialogues actualized in the soul of the apprentice
      philosopher a class of particular virtue. The reading order is as

      Alcibiades (goal: to make the pupil aware that philosophy should be
      the knowledge of one's self)
      Gorgias (acquisition of political virtues)
      Phaedo (cathartic virtues)
      Cratylus, Theatetus, Sophist, Statesman, Phaedrus, Symposium
      (theoretical virtues)
      Philebus (teaching concerning the Good)

      This first series of dialogues constitutes the "first cycle" of
      philosophical training. Then a "second cycle" is added: the reading
      of the Timaeus and the Parmenides. These two dialogues, in the spirit
      of the Neoplatonists, summarize the whole of Plato's philosophy.
      The Timaeus expresses the entirety of Platonic theology and is
      dedicated to the Intelligibles (the Forms).

      I would ask you to excuse the length of this message. I hope I have
      responded in part to your question.


      Dennis Clark
      San Francisco
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