Plato's dialogues are universally ackwledged as standing among the masterworks of the Western philosophic tradition. What most readers do t kw, however, is that Plato also authored a public letter in which he unequivocally denies ever having written a work of philosophy. If Plato did t view his written dialogues as works of philosophy, how did he conceive them, and how should readers view them? In Plato's Literary Garden, Kenneth M. Sayre brings over thirty years of Platonic scholarship to bear on these questions, arguing that Plato did t intend the dialogues to serve as repositories of philosophic doctrine, but instead composed them as teaching instruments. Focusing on the dramatic structure of the dialogues as well as their logical argumentation, Sayre's study is organized according to the progression of a horticultural metaphor adopted from the Phaedrus. Sayre illustrates each of these metaphorical stages with a sustained discussion of relevant dialogues, ranging from the very early Apology to the very late Philebus. In the culminating chapter, he applies the insights gained along the way to a new interpretation of Plato's elusive Form of the Good. In addition to a vel answer to the puzzling question: Why did Plato write the dialogues?, Plato's Literary Garden includes an extended discussion of the considerations that most likely led Plato to write in dialogue form, as well as new analyses of key dialogues such as the Me, the Symposium, and the Theaetetus. Providing readers with practical guidelines for the difficult pursuit of trying to read beneath the surface of a Platonic dialogue, this invative study is sure to open up new perspectives on the dialogues for both the vice and mature scholar.
Kenneth M. Sayre is professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and the author of many books and articles, including Parmenides' Lesson, also published by the University of Notre Dame Press.