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Therefore, we might expect Plato to be introduced to the reader not purely as a source of philosophy, but with depth of character in himself. In my opinion, a gold standard has been established by the fictional works of Robert Harris, centring on the life of Cicero.

An example:. In the above example, a description of a daily routine merely serves as an excuse to introduce more philosophical musings.

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But does this rather pompous pronouncement come from Plato the character, or Plato the mouthpiece for philosophy? And, indeed, that may be what the majority of prospective readers are looking for in a novel about Plato. But does it bring the man to life? You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account.

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Notify me of new comments via email. Scholarly discussion of Plato's Seventh Letter has usually focused on three questions: the doctrinal content of the letter and its relationship to the doctrinal content of the dialogues; the character of the letter as an apologia for Plato's Syracusan activities; and the general authenticity of the letter.

While the second of these questions focuses correctly [End Page 23] on the rhetorical character of the letter, it ignores the most obvious aspect, namely, the letter's explicit addressees: the friends and comrades of Dion, and their request for political advice. If we take this rhetorical element with sufficient seriousness, we will see that the content of the letter is fully consistent with the teachings of the political dialogues, a point that tells in favor of the authenticity of the letter.

Specifically, a focus on the rhetorical character of the letter reveals that its content is determined mostly by what emerges as an effort by Plato to influence his correspondents by moderating their understandable desire for vengeance and thus to forestall further bloodshed and disorder in Syracuse. What is most important about the letter, then, is not so much its account of Plato's actions in Syracuse, but its unveiling of his intentions with respect to Dion's followers.

It is not the philosophical-political blueprint, sketched vaguely in the Seventh Letter , that is most important, 3 but the concrete effort to mitigate the passions of his correspondents.

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Read in this light, the letter becomes even more important, since it contradicts the popular image of Plato as a proponent of dangerous political utopianism and portrays a more subtle relationship between philosophy and politics. To the extent that the rhetoric of the letter has been treated, commentators have usually focused on Plato's or whoever the author defense of his own actions in Sicily. Access options available:.

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