Plato the Teacher: The Crisis of the Republic

Overview

In this unique and important book, William Altman shines a light on the pedagogical technique of the playful Plato, especially his ability to create living discourses that directly address the student. Reviving an ancient concern with reconstructing the order in which Plato intended his dialogues to be taught as opposed to determining the order in which he wrote them, Altman breaks with traditional methods by reading Plato’s dialogues as a multiplex but coherent curriculum in which the Allegory of the Cave ...

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Overview

In this unique and important book, William Altman shines a light on the pedagogical technique of the playful Plato, especially his ability to create living discourses that directly address the student. Reviving an ancient concern with reconstructing the order in which Plato intended his dialogues to be taught as opposed to determining the order in which he wrote them, Altman breaks with traditional methods by reading Plato’s dialogues as a multiplex but coherent curriculum in which the Allegory of the Cave occupies the central place. His reading of Plato's Republic challenges the true philosopher to choose the life of justice exemplified by Socrates and Cicero by going back down into the Cave of political life for the sake of the greater Good.

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Editorial Reviews

Roslyn Weiss
Plato the Teacher constitutes a major contribution to Plato studies and is striking in its profundity and originality. For Altman, Plato is first and foremost an educator, constructing his corpus as a whole and the Republic in particular so as to maximize their pedagogic punch. An educator can only be an altruist, and, for Altman, Plato’s altruism forms the very core of the Republic, whose essential ethical teaching for us all is found in Socrates’ directive to the philosopher-kings: 'You must go down.' Plato the Teacher abounds in startlingly fresh readings of passages that have grown stale, and is infused with clarity, erudition, and passion.
John Ferrari
I have never read anyone who has attempted to identify Plato quite so fully and so audaciously with the modern democratic spirit as does Altman. His book is impassioned and deeply personal. Flashes of brilliance and insight abound in it, and its vivid, folksy, self-consciously American eloquence is wonderfully engaging.
Jill Frank
Guided by Cicero, as Plato’s 'best student,' Plato the Teacher reads the Republic and specifically its allegory of the cave as an exemplar of Plato’s student-centered pedagogy about justice, addressed to those both inside and outside the text. Sensitive to the dialogue’s language and context, provocative in its freshness, originality, and depth of engagement with the text and its many interpreters, and thoroughly Platonist in its insistence on a transcendent Idea of the Good beyond Being, Plato the Teacher makes a signal philosophical, ethical, and political contribution to the study of Plato.
Francisco Gonzalez
We have here the seemingly impossible: a reading of the Republic that is highly original, because not easily classifiable under any of the interpretative approaches current today, while also representing a return to classic two-world Platonism. This old/new Plato will doubtless provoke needed reexamination and debate among all readers of this inexhaustible dialogue.
CHOICE
How Plato's dialogues ought to be arranged and, accordingly, how they are to be read, has provoked much debate. Some scholars believe that identifying their chronology of composition (the order in which they were written) is crucial to understanding Plato's philosophical development; others believe their dramatic order is of paramount importance. High school teacher Altman opts for a different yet altogether refreshing approach, advocating a paideutic scheme that focuses on the order in which Plato intended his dialogues to be taught. As its title would suggest, Altman's book is, most immediately, an exegesis of Republic; however, its broader purpose is to show that Republic, or more specifically the allegory of the cave, occupies a central position in a complex philosophical curriculum. In his effort to defend this provocative thesis, Altman is impressively successful. His scholarship is impeccable, his familiarity with the Platonic corpus thorough, and his reading of individual passages meticulous. Given its high level of erudition and frequent reference to the original Greek, this book will appeal mainly to scholars; nevertheless, it is a book with which all students of Plato will want to become familiar. Summing Up: Highly recommended.
Choice
How Plato's dialogues ought to be arranged and, accordingly, how they are to be read, has provoked much debate. Some scholars believe that identifying their chronology of composition (the order in which they were written) is crucial to understanding Plato's philosophical development; others believe their dramatic order is of paramount importance. High school teacher Altman opts for a different yet altogether refreshing approach, advocating a paideutic scheme that focuses on the order in which Plato intended his dialogues to be taught. As its title would suggest, Altman's book is, most immediately, an exegesis of Republic; however, its broader purpose is to show that Republic, or more specifically the allegory of the cave, occupies a central position in a complex philosophical curriculum. In his effort to defend this provocative thesis, Altman is impressively successful. His scholarship is impeccable, his familiarity with the Platonic corpus thorough, and his reading of individual passages meticulous. Given its high level of erudition and frequent reference to the original Greek, this book will appeal mainly to scholars; nevertheless, it is a book with which all students of Plato will want to become familiar. Summing Up: Highly recommended.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739171387
  • Publisher: Lexington Books
  • Publication date: 2/9/2012
  • Pages: 512
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

William H. F. Altman teaches Latin and World History at E. C. Glass, a public high school in Lynchburg, Virginia.

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Table of Contents

An Introduction to Plato’s Republic: Inside and Outside the Text 1
Part 1 The First Words of Plato’s Πολι τει/α
Chapter 1: κατεβην
Chapter 2: Χθυς
Chapter 3: μετΓλκωνoς
Chapter 4: μετΓλκωνoς
Chapter 5: τορστωνoς
Part 2 Challenges
Chapter 6: Cephalus and the Meaning of Life
Chapter 7: Polemarchus Meets Appearance and Reality
Chapter 8: Thrasymachus and the City of Good Men Only
Chapter 9: Glaucon’s Challenge to Socrates
Chapter 10: The Challenge of Adeimantus to Plato
Part 3 The Shorter Way
Chapter 11: Introduction to Methodology
Chapter 12: Methodology II: Hypotheses
Chapter 13: Methodology III: Images
Chapter 14: Looking Out for Number One
Chapter 15: Making Friends with Thrasymachus
Part 4 The Longer Way
Chapter 16: The Speech to the Guardians
Chapter 17: Justice and the Good on the Divided Line
Chapter 18: The Idea of the Good and Plato’s Theory of Forms
Chapter 19: An Intellectual History of the Return
Chapter 20: Whistling a Tune on the Way Down
Part 5 The Firesticks
Chapter 21: 432d1-435a4
Chapter 22: Two Jobs for One Man: Beyond the Tripartite Soul
Chapter 23: The Third Wave of Paradox
Chapter 24: Plato’s Letters
Chapter 25: Untimely Meditations on the Idea of Justice
Part 6 Democracy and Education
Chapter 26: Genetic Fictions
Chapter 27: The Equality of the Sexes
Chapter 28: Higher Education: Why the Good is not the One
Chapter 29: Reading Order Revisited
Chapter 30: The Age of Heroes
Part 7 Choices
Chapter 31: The Sewer of Romulus
Chapter 32: The Perfectly Bearable Lightness of Being
Chapter 33: Coming Up and Going Down
Chapter 34: Plato the Imitator
Chapter 35: Odysseus or Achilles?
Bibliography
Index locorum
Index
About the Author

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