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Plato and Tradition: The Poetic and Cultural Context of Philosophy
by Patricia Fagan
Northwestern University Press, 2013
eISBN: 978-0-8101-6636-3 | Paper: 978-0-8101-2864-4
Library of Congress Classification B395.F255 2013
Dewey Decimal Classification 184


Plato’s dialogues are some of the most widely read texts in Western philosophy, and one would imagine them fully mined for elemental material. Yet, in Plato and Tradition, Patricia Fagan reveals the dialogues to be continuing sources of fresh insight. She recovers from them an underappreciated depth of cultural reference that is crucial to understanding their central philosophical concerns. Through careful readings of six dialogues, Fagan demonstrates that Plato’s presentation of Socrates highlights the centrality of tradition in political, erotic, and philosophic life. Plato embeds Socrates’s arguments and ideas in traditional references that would have been familiar to contemporaries of Socrates or Plato but that today’s reader typically passes over. Fagan’s book unpacks this cultural and literary context for the proper and full understanding of the philosophical argument of the Platonic dialogues. She concludes that, as Socrates demonstrates in word and deed, tradition is essential to successful living. But we must take up tradition with a critical openness to questioning its significance and future. Her original and compelling analyses may change the views of many readers who think themselves already well versed in the dialogues.

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