In the inaugural lecture of the “Philosophy Hour” at Literary Tales, we begin with the very source of systematic philosophy: Plato. In this half hour lecture we provide the tools for understanding Plato as a political thinker, ethicist, satirist, and architect of foreshadowing. This lecture introduces the reader/listener to how to extract the richness from Plato primarily by drawing these themes out of the Republic and Symposium. I also have a book on Plato’s politics: The Politics of Plato: A Beginner’s Guide.

Battle_of_Salamis_Painting_-_Wilhelm_von_Kaulbach
“The Battle of Salamis” by Wilhelm von Kaulbach. The Battle of Salamis was the decisive battle of the Persian Wars and ended in a miraculous Greek victory over the invading Persians. It is widely considered by historians the turning point of Western civilization and began the ascendancy of Athens among the Greek city-states. It is the aftermath of the Persian Wars, the Greek (and especially Athenian) victory, and exuberant growth and expansion of Athens in which Plato was born.
Funeral Oration
“Pericles’ Funeral Oration” by Philipp Foltz. The Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta shattered the illusion of Greek unity in the aftermath of the Persian Wars. Many believed Sparta would achieve an easy victory and were surprised by the tenacity of Athens and her early success. Romanticized excessively, one of the most celebrated passages of Thucydides is the “Funeral Oration” by Pericles, depicted above. However, the war ended in a costly Athenian defeat and the radical democracy of the imperialistic city-state was replaced by a tyranny. The descent of Athens into tyranny is also something to remember when reading Plato’s dialogues.
Death of Socrates
“The Death of Socrates” by Jacques-Louis David. As tradition has it, Socrates was Plato’s teacher and idol. His death at the hands of an increasingly tyrannical Athens was likely the event which turned Plato into a philosopher instead of following his original goal of being a playwright. Plato never forgave the Athenian state for what he perceived to be the unjust death of Socrates. The death of Socrates is the principal concern of the dialogue Crito.
E0702 KLENZE 9463
Leo von Klenze’s famous painting of the Acropolis of Athens. While we tend to think of Plato as belonging to the “Athenian Golden Age,” it must never be forgotten that Plato actually lived in the aftermath of the Athenian Golden Age. In fact, Plato grew up in the throes and aftermath of the tyranny of the despots installed after the Athenian defeat in the Peloponnesian War. The political environment in which Plato wrote was one of tyranny. This is essential to remember when reading Plato’s politics.

I’ve written on Plato professionally, both for the public and academically. You can read some of my writings on Plato here:

Plato’s Crito and the Crisis of Sovereignty (7 January 2020)*

Better Understanding Plato’s Republic (9 September 2019)

Plato’s Symposium: Drama and Trial of Eros (21 July 2019)

Savagery, Irony, and Satire in Plato’s Republic (17 January 2018)*

 

*Designates an academic article

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