These words are as true today as when they were written by A. E. Taylor over fifty years ago. Despite some very important contributions to our understanding of the dialogue, it is precisely because the dramatic aspects have either been misinterpreted or, even worse, failed to draw attention that the misunderstandings have continued until today. And, of course, Taylor himself was one of the worst in this respect. Not only did he believe that the hiccough incident was intended merely to be amusing (a view shared by many); he even attributed no purpose to Aristophanes' speech other than to be entertaining.
These remarks are occasioned by the virtual neglect allotted to the dramatic action which is most important to our understanding of the dialogue, the scene which occurs at the beginning before any of the speeches are made. It is true that a few critics have sensed the significance of these episodes, and certainly the methodology of how to interpret dramatic action in Plato has been well understood; but the episode itself has never received a complete or proper interpretation.
Gregory Vlastos (Greek: Γρηγόριος Βλαστός; July 27, 1907 – October 12, 1991) was a scholar of ancient philosophy, and author of several works on Plato and Socrates. A Christian, Vlastos also wrote about Christian faith. He is considered to be "a preeminent scholar on Socrates who transformed the analysis of classical philosophy."
Life and works
Vlastos was born in Istanbul, to a Scottish mother and a Greek father, where he received a Bachelor of Arts from Robert College before moving to Harvard University where he received a PhD in 1931. After teaching for several years at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, he moved to Cornell University in 1948. He was Stuart Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University between 1955 and 1976, and then Mills Professor of Philosophy at University of California, Berkeley until 1987. He received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1990. He was twice awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a corresponding fellow of the British Academy, and a member of the American Philosophical Society. Vlastos died in 1991, before finishing a new compilation of essays on Socratic philosophy.
He is credited with bringing about a renaissance of interest in Plato among philosophers throughout the world. Many of Vlastos' students have become important scholars of ancient philosophy, including Terence Irwin, Richard Kraut, Paul Woodruff, and Alexander Nehamas.
Theory of Socratic philosophy
In his work The Philosophy of Socrates: a Collection of Critical Essays (UNDP 1971), Vlastos advanced the idea "that one can identify in certain Platonic dialogues a philosophical method and a collection of philosophical theses which may properly be attributed to Socrates." He maintained that this can be described as "Socratic philosophy, as distinct from what is commonly known as Platonism". The idea remains controversial and those who agree with his position are referred to as Vlastosians.
- Christian Faith and Democracy, Association Press, 1939
- Platonic Studies, Princeton University Press, 1973, ISBN 978-0-691-07162-6ISBN 0691071624
- Socrates, Ironist and Moral Philosopher, Cornell University Press, 1991, ISBN 978-0-8014-9787-2ISBN 0801497876
- Socratic Studies, Cambridge University Press, 1994, ISBN 978-0-521-44735-5ISBN 0521447356
- Studies in Greek Philosophy Volume I: the Presocratics, Princeton University Press, 1995, ISBN 978-0-691-03310-5ISBN 0691033102
- Studies in Greek Philosophy; Volume II: Socrates, Plato, and Their Tradition, Princeton University Press, 1995, ISBN 978-0-691-03311-2ISBN 0691033110
- Plato's Universe, Parmenides Publishing, 2005, ISBN 978-1-930972-13-1ISBN 193097213X
- Towards the Christian Revolution - with R.B.Y. Scott, Willett, Clark & Company, 1936.
- Plato, a Collection of Critical Essays: I, Metaphysics and Epistemology; II, Ethics, Politics, and Philosophy of Art and Religion Anchor Books / Doubleday and Company, 1971
- Philosophy of Socrates: a Collection of Critical Essays (Modern Studies in Philosophy), University of Notre Dame Press, 1980, ISBN 978-0-268-01537-4ISBN 0268015376