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Plato and the Invention of Life (eBook)

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Though the question of life (whether bios or zōē) is not the explicit focus of any Platonic dialogue, it is, this book argues, an absolutely central and structuring question for all of Plato’s thought, and perhaps especially for his ontology. This is nowhere more evident than in the Statesman, where the central myth of the two ages sketches out not only two models of time and governance but two very different kinds and valences of life and being. Life Forms: Plato’s Statesman and the Invention of True Itself begins by offering a reading of Plato’s Statesman in order then to ask about the question of life and being in Plato’s thought more generally. By characterizing being (whether in the form of the Forms or the immortal soul) in terms of life, Plato in many of his later dialogues, including the Statesman, begins to discover—or, better, to invent—a notion of true or real life that would be opposed to all merely biological or animal life, a form of life that would be more valuable than everything we call life and every life that can actually be lived. This emphasis on life in the Platonic dialogues will, this work shows, at once illuminate the structural relationship between so many of Plato’s most time-honored distinctions (e.g., being and becoming, soul and body, etc.) and help explain the enormous power and authority that Plato’s thought has exercised, for good or ill, over our entire philosophical and religious tradition.

Though the question of life (whether bios or zōē) is not the explicit focus of any Platonic dialogue, it is, this book argues, an absolutely central and structuring question for all of Plato’s thought, and perhaps especially for his ontology. This is nowhere more evident than in the Statesman, where the central myth of the two ages sketches out not only two models of time and governance but two very different kinds and valences of life and being. Life Forms: Plato’s Statesman and the Invention of True Itself begins by offering a reading of Plato’s Statesman in order then to ask about the question of life and being in Plato’s thought more generally. By characterizing being (whether in the form of the Forms or the immortal soul) in terms of life, Plato in many of his later dialogues, including the Statesman, begins to discover—or, better, to invent—a notion of true or real life that would be opposed to all merely biological or animal life, a form of life that would be more valuable than everything we call life and every life that can actually be lived. This emphasis on life in the Platonic dialogues will, this work shows, at once illuminate the structural relationship between so many of Plato’s most time-honored distinctions (e.g., being and becoming, soul and body, etc.) and help explain the enormous power and authority that Plato’s thought has exercised, for good or ill, over our entire philosophical and religious tradition.


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