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on 29 August 2017
Julia Annas writes really well. This work aims to get you to try understand what Plato is doing with his philosophical method rather than what Plato thinks about everything and anything. I came to the book specifically wanting to learn more about Plato's theory of forms, a difficult concept for a casual reader to grasp. Annas discusses the origin of the forms, how Plato contradicts himself when discussing them, how other writers have developed the idea, compares the idea to modern thinking on epistemology and metaphysics. She questions why we put such an elusive idea, that it's not clear Plato cares too much about at the centre of Platonic philosophy. Annas (like Plato himself) doesn't always give straight answers to empirical questions. Instead, I feel her aim was to equip the reader with tools one would need for reading and engaging with Plato, and indeed all ancient philosophy. For this reason, it is definitely worth reading.
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Top Contributor: Doctor WhoTOP 50 REVIEWERon 13 April 2012
This is another in the great Very Short Introduction series, books that live up to their name by offering an accessible introduction to their specialist subject in little more than 100 pages. These books offer a great way to an interested reader to ease their way into new or complex subjects, or to introduce themselves to something they feel they might be interested in. The author has also written another Very Short Introduction book, to Ancient Philosophy, another very readable and interesting brief book.

This book introduces Plato; the man, his life, his ideas and his legacy to us, notably in the form of the dialogues, many of them `Socratic'. What Plato was attempting to teach us is the overarching theme of the book, and in the author's view, the overarching theme of Plato's life was not to teach us about Forms or what virtue was, but the importance of engaging in an attempt to understand these things. Highly recommended as an introduction to Plato and his theories.
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on 30 September 2016
Good delivery. Excellent information, concise and exactly what I required.
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on 18 October 2013
An admirably concise and imaginative introduction, well-illustrated with extracts, which gets you thinking in ways which Socrates would approve, Now read on...
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on 7 July 2015
Is this relevant in the 21st C. Good read though.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 26 May 2008
This is a really accessible book. The writing style is clear and concise. The ideas are neatly compartmentalised and explained thoroughly, given the limited amount of space available, and the work is interesting and engaging.

Of necessity this skims the surface but it does what it says on the tin and provides a sense of Platonic ideas and the works available as well as the way that ideas about Plato have changed over the centuries.

Highly recommended for those who have never come across Plato before or who are struggling to get to grips with his work and want an 'in'.
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VINE VOICEon 23 June 2013
Plato covers such a wide area - not only the different philosophical topics that Plato addresses, but issues such as his style, the Socrates/Plato issue, the fact these are works of art as well as philosophical arguments, questions of influences and sources of issues addressed and the life of Plato makes fitting something useful into a short book a huge challenge, which is very well met in this book.

The key issue for Plato is virtue and objective knowledge. Plato really makes sense as a response to the arguments of the pre-Socratics - they were dealing with issues of being/Being, the good life, change, science, knowledge, mathematics and although we only have fragments of their works Plato write what is really a response to the issues they raise.

Plato is remarkable as we apparently have all his works - we don't even seem to have all the works of Shakespeare so having all these really shows how valuable they have been regarded through history.

A key issue Plato deals with is objective knowledge. He was concerned from Heraclitus that the observable world is full of change - water can appear as ice, liquid or gas; the morals of one culture can be very different to those of another; a man appears as child, adult and corpse - and so on. Against this he was aware from Pythagoras that mathematics and number are areas of true and certain knowledge, of which the physical world is a sort of poor copy - the mathematical circle is never really made real in the physical world. Hence Plato attempts to make sense of the world by contrasting the "shadows" of the real world with the "light" of the True world - what he called the "world of Forms".

As with many attempts to identify a "key" to explaining reality, Plato gives us many insights into the world around us, but attempts to make total sense of the real world through the metaphor of mathematical knowledge are not totally compelling.

I was however struck at how much of Platonism appears in Christianity, and in the gospel writings. Exactly how this came about I guess we may never know, but time and again the gospels appear to be written by someone steeped in the world of Plato. Here are a few parallels:

- Plato uses a huge number of parables - as does Jesus - and parables were not know in Judaism until Jesus;
- Love of enemies
- the eye as a source of light
- virtue as knowledge
- truth as dialogue
- questioning and conversation
- gathering a following
- the importance of the theme/motif of father and son
- the death of the hero (Socrates/Jesus) and the revelation of truth
- Lover of men ("the disciple Jesus loved")
- Equality of women
- Immortality of the soul
- Judgement after death
- Importance of stars (in the Nativity story)
- The triangle/trinity
- Paul writes of Jesus being "in the form of God" and the "form of a slave"
- The birth of Jesus in a cave
- the metaphor of light
- Greek/Platonic views on avoiding procreation and the importance of devoting oneself to knowledge, against the Jewish view of the importance of marriage and having a family.
- etc etc

I haven't been able to find any books that go into this topic in more detail, but as a Christian reading this book on Plato I was getting a lot of deja vu.
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on 26 November 2013
This was purchased to use in attendance of an introductory course on Philosophy and it was perfect for that purpose
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Top Contributor: Doctor WhoTOP 50 REVIEWERon 11 November 2015
This is another in the great Very Short Introduction series, books that live up to their name by offering an accessible introduction to their specialist subject in little more than 100 pages. These books offer a great way to an interested reader to ease their way into new or complex subjects, or to introduce themselves to something they feel they might be interested in. The author has also written another Very Short Introduction book, to Ancient Philosophy, another very readable and interesting brief book.

This book introduces Plato; the man, his life, his ideas and his legacy to us, notably in the form of the dialogues, many of them `Socratic'. What Plato was attempting to teach us is the overarching theme of the book, and in the author's view, the overarching theme of Plato's life was not to teach us about Forms or what virtue was, but the importance of engaging in an attempt to understand these things. Highly recommended as an introduction to Plato and his theories.
One person found this helpful
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Top Contributor: Doctor WhoTOP 50 REVIEWERon 11 November 2015
This is another in the great Very Short Introduction series, books that live up to their name by offering an accessible introduction to their specialist subject in little more than 100 pages. These books offer a great way to an interested reader to ease their way into new or complex subjects, or to introduce themselves to something they feel they might be interested in. The author has also written another Very Short Introduction book, to Ancient Philosophy, another very readable and interesting brief book.

This book introduces Plato; the man, his life, his ideas and his legacy to us, notably in the form of the dialogues, many of them `Socratic'. What Plato was attempting to teach us is the overarching theme of the book, and in the author's view, the overarching theme of Plato's life was not to teach us about Forms or what virtue was, but the importance of engaging in an attempt to understand these things. Highly recommended as an introduction to Plato and his theories.
One person found this helpful
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