the ancient biographies, Plato is reported to have studied and written poetry
before meeting Socrates, which caused him to burn his literary compositions.
This anecdote, be it true or not, points to Plato’s critical attitude to
poetry, which finds its utmost expression in the expulsion of poets from his
ideal state in the Republic. However,
it is baffling that Plato, who launches a thorough critique of poetry, is one
of the most ‘literary’ philosophers. In addition, he chooses for his
philosophical writing the dialogue form which is close to drama, a literary
genre most contested in the Republic.
My talk addresses this baffling aspect of Plato’s attitude to literature and
aims to show that Plato, far from abandoning literature for philosophy, seeks
the possibility of a philosophical literature. For this purpose, I first try to
construe a possible concept of the philosopher-writer as the ideal writer who
is immune to Plato’s critique of poets in the Republic. I then look at Plato’s own practices of philosophical
writing in the light of the ideal of the philosopher-writer and show how Plato,
as a real philosopher-writer - who, unlike the ideal one, does not know, but
aspires to know - represents philosophical inquiry, while discussing which
literary techniques he employs to remedy the defects of the dramatic form of
his dialogues, by means of the examples of Republic,
Phaedo and Symposium.