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The Great Philosophers: Plato: Plato [Kindle Edition]

Bernard Williams
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Plato c428 – c348BC

Without the work of Plato, western thought is, quite literally, unthinkable. No single influence has been greater, in every age and in every philosophic field. Even those thinkers who have rejected Plato’s views have found themselves working to an agenda he set.

Yet between the neo-platonist interpretations and the anti-platonist reactions, the stuff of ‘Platonism’ proper has often been obscured. The philosopher himself has not necessarily helped in the matter: at times disconcertingly difficult, at other disarmingly simple, Plato can be an elusive thinker, his meanings hard to pin down. His dialogues complex and often ironically constructed and do not simply expand his views, which in any case changed and developed over a long life.

In this lucid and exciting new introductory guide, Bernard Williams takes his reader back to first principles, re-reading the key texts to reveal what the philosopher actually said. The result is a rediscovered Plato: often unexpected, always fascinating and rewarding.

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About the Author

Bernard Williams is one of the world's most eminent philosophers. He is a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford and is currently Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. A Fellow of the British Academy and an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he is the author of many books, including Morality (1993) and Making Sense of Humanity (1995). From the reviews of Making Sense of Humanity: 'A treat: civilised, sharp discussions of serious issues, spiked with asides which are deep, funny and sometimes both' Onora O'Neill, Times Higher Education Supplement 'In Making Sense of Humanity, Williams takes his scalpel and sets about slicing morality's jugular: free will, blame, moral responsibility, the ability of everyone to do the right thing, and the possibility of a theoretical justification for being good. His attack seems to me to be alarmingly convincing.' Spectator

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Despite this book's abbreviated appearance, I will not call it a quick bed time read. Yet Williams is able to bring to life a part of the ancient world and thought which a contemporary reader will appreciate. Indeed to me the impact of the book was in the familiarity with which Williams rendered Plato's world, it was easy to relate to the ancients presented. Very cunningly Williams animated this little introduction to Plato on two levels. The first is the concise presentation of Plato's style and contribution to philosophy; Plato's mastering of writing in lively dialogue as genre for developing philosophy, his development of though on ethics, his 'discovery' of a priori knowledge, the influences of others in his work, the context that brought about the classic Cave Image and many other contributions of Plato. All of which makes the cerebral side of your head flex its muscle. The second is the interwoven human colouring to the work. One learns that though the revered trios - Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle - were influenced by each other, they were not all of the same mind. That Plato's thought went through a long history of change and at times seems to contradict some of his earliest statements. The ancients knew what boredom was and what it is like to be painfully disappointed (Socrates relationship with Alcibiades), they had ideas on love and sexuality and many other states of the human heart. It is this two fold strategy that makes it able for the reader to reach into a deep past, and reaffirm its significance in a contemporary world. In short, William's piece can aptly be summarised by a statement Plato makes in the closing part of the Republic:" what we are talking about is how one should live."
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