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The Cambridge Companion to Plato (Cambridge Companions to Philosophy) Paperback – 30 Oct 1992

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Product details

  • Paperback: 578 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (30 Oct. 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521436109
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521436106
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.3 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 398,291 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"This is an unusually well coordinated composite work, with a lengthy bibliography and good index. ... The volume can be commended to the use of graduate students and advanced undergraduates." Religious Studies Review

"...should prove quite useful....For its intended audience, and also their instructors, this Companion will live up to its name, and Kraut and his contributors are to be commended." R.E. Houser, International Philosophical Quarterly

"Richard Kraut has put together a rich collection of fifteen newly-commisioned articles on various aspects of Plato's thought, plus an extensive bibliography of secondary articles and books...". Ancient Philosophy

Book Description

Fourteen specially-commissioned essays discuss Plato's views about knowledge, reality, mathematics, politics, ethics, love, poetry, and religion. There are also analyses of the intellectual and social background of his thought, the development of his philosophy throughout his career, the range of alternative approaches to his work, and the stylometry of his writing.

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By Robert Carey on 4 Oct. 2014
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2 of 8 people found the following review helpful By R. Newton on 14 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My 3 star rating reflects how useful I found this book. Individually the essays are good, but not all of them were particularly relevant to me. The first three essays are really about history and interpretation of Plato - rather than philosophy and were less relevant for me. Several of the essays are no doubt great thinking, but were on some of the less common aspects of Plato's writing. There are several very good pieces in here and undoubtedly my understanding of Plato has improved significantly from reading this. If my interests were different, then I might have graded the book higher.
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9 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 15 Mar. 2004
Format: Paperback
This book has proved very useful for my degree course in Philosophy. However, it is a very dense read and can take a long time to piece it apart to make real sense of it. That said, once you have done that it really is a thorough tool and sheds some interesting ideas on Platos works.
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0 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Ashtar Command on 15 May 2011
Format: Paperback
I find it richly ironic that there is no Cambridge companion to the Cambridge Platonists.

How come? You never become prophet in your hometown, I suppose...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
(no title) 2 Aug. 2005
By Mr. S. Koller - Published on
Format: Paperback
I cannot recommend this volume highly enough. It's a collection of essays, all (bar one) especially written for this volume, each of them authored by a leading scholar on the respective dialogue or topic. Especially the pieces by Frede and Fine constitute path-breaking, durable contributions to Plato scholarship; each of them would merit the purchase by itself. Between them, Frede and Fine also introduce the reader to two rather different approaches to interpreting Plato, and at once present these approaches at their very best.

Some essays are naturally harder than others, ranging from the instantly accessible to the rather technical. This is as it should be: a reader's companion to Plato's dialogues which themselves vary from the easy to the 'forbidding'. And a book that won't become redundant as your own competence with the dialogues grows (who ever said it won't?).

To conclude: these pieces range from the good to the outstanding, none of them is harder than it should be, and they display considerable diversity in methodology.

PS People interested in the 'non-doctrinal' approach to reading Plato may profitably consult Ferrari's piece at [...] and the "Introduction" (pt.III-IV) in John Cooper, "Plato: Complete Works" (Hackett 1997).
30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
A Very Good Introduction to Plato 6 Jan. 2001
By D. Peters - Published on
Format: Paperback
The Cambridge Companion to Plato is an extrememly good primer of Plato's philosophy. The book begins with a complete overview of Plato's philosophy and how it progressed through time. This overview is particularly helpful for those who have never studied Plato before and essential for those who use this book, as I did, as their first exposure to the study of philosophy.
Like all books in the Cambridge series, the Companion to Plato consists of a number of essays written by preminent scholars. These essays explain and evaluate various aspects of Plato's philosophy, from "the defense of justice in Plato's Republic" to "mathematical method and philosophical truth."
Like any philosophy textbook, The Cambridge Companion to Plato can, at times, be dense. I won't recommend it for everbody; a hearty interest in learning philosophy is definately required. However, I've found it to be one of the finest introductions to Plato in his philosophy. It provides a good foundation for actual reading of Plato's texts, which is the next logical step beyond this book. It is also perfect for those who wish to gain a working understanding of Plato's view of the world but, like me, simply do not have the patience to garner it from Plato's own work.
123 of 155 people found the following review helpful
Your time and money are better spent elsewhere 10 Aug. 2001
By Rachel Simmons - Published on
Format: Paperback
Plato is perhaps the most approachable of the major philosophers. His work is largely presented in short dialogues. Their brevity allow them to be read in a single sitting, and their characterizations, humor, and stories engage even the reader new to philosophy.
Given this, it may surprise those unfamiliar with Plato to learn that the interpretation of him has always been the subject of hot dispute - perhaps only Nietzsche among philosophers has inspired more controversy.
Why is this? Why is Plato so easy to read and yet so difficult?
Five problems are worth calling out:
(1) Dramatic presentation: All of Plato's published works are presented as dialogues between characters - Plato himself is never a character. Thus, any interpretation must have some mapping (implicit or explicit) between the characters' views and Plato's views, as well as how the dramatic structure (setting, characters, story) as a whole presents Plato's views.
(2) Irony: The main speaker in most of Plato's dialogues is Socrates, a character who often speaks ironically. Other characters can be read as sometimes being ironical as well (such as The Athenian in the dialogue "Laws"). Any interpretation must determine when a character is speaking ironically and when seriously.
(3) Stories/Myths: Characters in Plato's dialogues often tell stories whose subject matter is mythological - they concern Gods and Goddesses, the afterlife, and other subject matter beyond ordinary human experience. Any interpretation that deals with them must determine how they are to be read.
(4) The Platonic Lie: In "The Republic", Plato endorses (or seems to endorse) lying as a means of instilling beneficial beliefs in audiences that are unable to acquire philosophical knowledge. A beneficial belief is one that is not true in its substance, but which, if believed, will tend to the same end as would the corresponding knowledge. If we accept that this is Plato's view, then interpretations must consider whether views expressed in the dialogues are themselves Platonic Lies, and not real representations of Plato's thought.
(5) Historical Background: Plato lived in a time and place different from our own, whose language, customs, intellectual background, and attitudes are not ours. This is a much bigger problem than just unfamiliar names - it is the unconscious attitudes we absorb from our culture (and he from his) of which we are not necessarily even consciously aware. Different interpreters do not read these influences the same way (there is no book we can all go to called "How We Thought About Things", authored by "The Ancient Greeks").
With regard to these issues, the dominant view in "A Cambridge Companion to Plato" is something I would call Platonic Fundamentalism: "Socrates says what Plato means, and he means what he says" (this is after the Christian Fundamentalist credo: "The Bible says what it means and it means what it says").
A difficulty with this view is that it leaves Plato contradicting himself an awful lot. The general solution presented here is the evolving-Plato theory - that the dialogues were written over a long period of time and that the contradictions represent real changes in Plato's views. The collection thus abounds in references to Plato's "early dialogues" or "middle dialogues" or "late dialogues".
Now, there are certainly Plato scholars, past and present, who do not accept this particular interpretive framework, but their views, if raised at all, are raised only so that they may be dismissed (sometimes in the same sentence). Those looking for substantial engagement on the problems of Platonic interpretation must look elsewhere.
So, given that the book does not aim to present the scholarly debate on interpreting Plato, it is fair to ask: what does it aim to do? This is an excellent question, but I could not find the answer to it in the book itself.
If it were for the beginning reader, I would think it would focus on the order of reading, and on prepping the reader with background info for each dialogue so as to make reading it more rewarding. But it doesn't do anything like that.
If it were for the intermediate reader, I would think it would focus on illuminating doubtful passages or drawing connecting webs across disparate ones. But it doesn't do that either.
If it were for the advanced reader, I would think it would focus on the debates in the secondary literature, and that it would be used by peers to address peers on controversies. But it doesn't do that either.
So, when it comes to the ultimate question of whether I should recommend the book or not, I just can't think of anyone to whom I would recommend it.
Finally, to take another tack at how worthwhile a book is: the basic challenge any work of secondary literature must face is whether it is more profitable to read it, or to give the primary literature another reading instead.
The only work in the collection that I would say clearly passes that test is Constance Meinwald's essay on "Parmenides" (for those who don't know, "Parmenides" is by far the most formidable work in the Platonic corpus - the first half works to demolish the theory of Forms that we might otherwise hold to be Plato's view, and the second half defies the ability of most readers to make any sense of at all). Even here, however, if you want to read Meinwald's theories on "Parmenides" (and they are worth reading), you would do better to get her book "Plato's Parmenides" than to read the essay excerpted from that book included here.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A comprehensive introduction to Plato 18 July 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This collection of essays written by a host of outstanding scholars of ancient philosophy in this generation may well serve as a comprehensive and dense guideline to the philosophy of Plato and the contemporary viewpoints concerning the arguments presented by Plato. I am especially impressed by the excellent introduction written by the editor of this book, Richard Kraut. It is so well-organized, sharply presented and teemed with useful materials that I find it to be the best short introduction on Plato I ever read. And the structure of the whole book is also well balanced that the essays of which it is composed nearly touch every controverisal problems concerning Plato's philosophy and that those problems are all more or less treated in a appreciable way.
Worthy Read 8 July 2014
By David Ebbert - Published on
Format: Paperback
This text provides some of the most incisive commentary on the dialogues of Plato I have found.
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