The Pseudo-Platonic Seventh Letter by Myles Burnyeat, Michael Frede, Dominic Scott

By Myles Burnyeat, Michael Frede, Dominic Scott

The 7th Platonic Letter describes Plato's makes an attempt to show the ruler of Sicily, Dionysius II, right into a thinker ruler alongside the traces of the Republic. It explains why Plato grew to become from politics to philosophy in his formative years and the way he then attempted to use his principles to real politics in a while. It additionally units out his perspectives approximately language, writing and philosophy. As such, it represents a very likely an important resource of data approximately Plato, who tells us virtually not anything approximately himself in his dialogues. yet is it actual? students have debated the problem for hundreds of years, even though fresh opinion has moved in its favour. The starting place of this booklet used to be a seminar given in Oxford in 2001 by way of Myles Burnyeat and Michael Frede, of the main eminent students of old philosophy in contemporary a long time. Michael Frede starts through casting doubt at the Letter via it from the final standpoint of letter writing in antiquity, while it used to be particularly basic to manufacture letters via recognized figures from the prior. either then assault the authenticity of the letter head-on through displaying how its philosophical content material conflicts with what we discover within the Platonic dialogues. additionally they give some thought to the query of why the Letter used to be written, no matter if as an try and exculpate Plato from the cost of meddling in politics (Frede), or as an try and painting, via literary potential, the ways that human weak point and feelings may end up in failures in political lifestyles (Burnyeat).

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Sample text

So if it has a collection of letters to Dion, Dionysius, and Philip, there is no reason not to think that the letter or letters to Philip in this collection are identical with or include the letter mentioned by Carystius and the letter in our collection,46 whether or not they are in fact identical. L. must have contained a genuine letter by Speusippus to Philip. In fact it presumably just is our letter. But what, then, about the letters to Dion and Dionysius? Let us begin with Dion. 8. Given the stories told about Dion and Speusippus in antiquity, we would expect there to be a correspondence between them—and this in the sense that, if the stories are true, then surely Speusippus did write letters to Dion, but also in the sense that, if these stories were believed to be true, people would invent these letters, if they did not already exist.

This is why the letter spells out in some detail what Dion’s aims were and advises Dion’s followers to pursue these aims. But the letter to a large extent is given over to an explanation of why Plato came to have the view that this should be Dion’s aim; hence why he supported Dion in the pursuit of this aim; hence why he got involved in Sicilian politics, and twice came to Sicily, and why in all this Plato behaved in the way he did. Thus the letter, though formally a letter or speech of advice, in substance really turns into an apology.

Note incidentally that according to our letter it was under Perdiccas (}12) that Plato laid the foundations for Philip’s rule. According to Carystius in the rest of the testimony, Plato sent Euphraeus of Oreus to Perdiccas, and Euphraeus persuaded Perdiccas to give part of the territory to Philip, which allowed Philip to build up a military force, which allowed him to take over upon the death of Perdiccas III in 359. 5. Now the first part of this story, Plato’s sending Euphraeus to Perdiccas as a counsellor, corresponds to Plato Ep.

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