Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Plato’s Statesman, the date of its composition with references to his Parmenides, Phaedo, Symposium, Second and Seventh Letter, and to Plutarch’s Dion

Our reading and perception of the Statesman will be influenced by its dating; for if it was written after Plato’s second journey to Sicily, he must have written it with Dionysius the younger in mind. Stylometrically, the Statesman is one of the six late dialogues (Sophist, Statesman, Philebus, Timaeus, Critias, Laws), but this does not solve the problem, for Plato went for his second journey to Sicily in 367 B.C., in his early sixties, and he may have changed his style of writing before he went on his journey.

But there is another factor which we must consider. The Statesman follows the Sophist and the Sophist follows the Theaetetus. The Theaetetus ends with Socrates’ words: ‘Well, now I must go (nun men oun apantêteon moi) to the King’s Porch (eis tên tou basileôs stoan) to face the charge Meletus (epi tên Melêtou graphên) has brought against me (hên me gegraptai). But let’s meet here again, Theodorus, in the morning (heôthen de, ô Theodôre, deûro palin apantômen).’ (210d1-4, tr. John McDowell) The Sophist opens with the words of Theodorus: ‘Here we are, Socrates, true to our agreement of yesterday (Kata tên chthes homologian, ô Sôkrates, hêkomen te kosmiôs); and we bring with us a stranger (kai tonde tina xenon agomen) from Elea (to men genos ex Eleas), who is a disciple of Parmenides and Zeno (hetairon de tôn amphi Parmenidên kai Zênôna), and a true Philosopher (mala de andra philosophon).’ (216a1-4, tr. B. Jowett) At Socrates’ bidding, the stranger from Elea provides the definition of the Sophist, which he accomplishes in a discussion with Theaetetus in the Sophist, then the definition of the Statesman elaborated in a discussion with the younger Socrates in the Statesman. Until recently, the battle in which Theaetetus was wounded – of which we learn in the preface to the dialogue – was the one that took place in 369. On this dating, Plato would have had time to write the Theaetetus, but hardly the Sophist and Statesman, before leaving Athens for Sicily. But there are serious doubts concerning the implied dating of the Theaetetus. Debra Nails writes: ‘Athens was almost certainly not mustering forty-six-years-old academics for hoplite combat by 369; Theaetetus’ skilful soldiering (Tht. 142b-c) was far more likely to have been exhibited when he was of military age, twenty-four. Second, Euclides’ 30-km. walk, from which he has just returned as the dialogue’s frame begins, is more likely for a man of fifty-nine than a man of eighty-one … Those who insist that Theaetetus was involved in the mathematics of the early decades of the Academy are invited to imagine that Theaetetus recovered from his wounds and dysentery and lived on for as long as they like (the year 369 becomes irrelevant when no battle is required to kill him off). If, however, Theaetetus died of his wounds, then the battle in which he was engaged was probably fought in the spring of 391.’ (Debra Nails, The People of Plato, Hackett Publishing Company 2002, p. 276)

As can be seen, Theaetetus is best dated after 391, and its link to the Sophist and the Statesman cannot serve as an argument for dating the two later dialogues as written after Plato’s second journey to Sicily. The possibility of Plato’s writing the Statesman in the wake of the Republic should not be dismissed without argument, for although in the latter the rulers-philosophers are considered to be more than one, the few fitted for the task, for whom the whole system of education is designed, Plato toyed there with the idea of just one supreme ruler: 'What has been said about the State and the government is not a mere dream (peri tês poleôs te kai politeias mê pantapasin hêmas euchas eirêkenai), and although difficult not impossible (alla chalepa men, dunata de pê̢), but only possible in the way which has been supposed (kai ouk allê̢ ê eirêtai); that is to say when true philosophers are born in the reigning family in a State, one or more of them (hotan hoi hôs alêthôs philosophoi dunastai, ê pleious ê heis en polei genomenoi).’ (Rep. 540d1-5, tr. B. Jowett) But when in the Republic Plato speaks of the one ruler as a possibility, he has in mind a philosopher-ruler, whereas in the Statesman the Statesman is portrayed as distinct from the Philosopher. The gap between these dialogues is not only stylometric, as between the Theaetetus and the Sophist - Statesman, but doctrinal.

In fact, this doctrinal discrepancy between the Republic and the Statesman provides the strongest argument against the dating of the latter prior to his second journey to Sicily. Plato tells us in the Seventh Letter that he gave up on his attempts to pursue a politic career in Athens after he had conceived the idea of philosopher-rulers. He went on his first journey to Sicily overwhelmed by this idea (326a-b), with this idea he in Sicily enthused Dion, a young Sicilian aristocrat, and it was this idea with which Dion in his turn enthused Dionysius: ‘Holding these right views, Dion (Tauta Diôn orthôs dianoêtheis) persuaded Dionysius to summon me (epeise metapempesthai Dionusion eme); and he himself also sent a request (kai autos edeito pempôn) that I should by all means come with all speed (hêkein ho ti tachista ek pantos tropou), before that any others (prin tinas allous) should encounter Dionysius (entuchontas Dionusiô̢) and turn him aside to some way of life other than best (ep’ allon bion auton tou beltistou paratrepsai). And these were the terms – long though they are to repeat – in which his request was couched (legôn de tade edeito, ei kai makrotera eipein): “What opportunities (tinas gar kairous), he asked (ephê), are we to wait for that could be better (meizous paramenoumen) than those that have now been presented (tôn nun paragenomenôn) by a stroke of divine good fortune (theia̢ tini tuchê̢;)?” And he dwelt in detail (katalegôn de) on the extent of the empire in Italy and Sicily (tên te archên Italias kai Sikelias) and his own power therein (kai tên hautou dunamin en autê̢), and the youth of Dionysius, mentioning also how great a desire he had for philosophy and education (kai tên neotêta kai tên epithumian tên Dionusiou, philosophias te kai paideias hôs echoi sphodra), and he spoke of his own nephews and connexions (legôn, tous te hautou adelphidous kai tous oikeious) and how they would be not only easily converted themselves to the doctrines and life I always taught (hôs euparaklêtoi eien pros ton hup’ emou legomenon aei logon kai bion), but also most useful in helping to influence Dionysius (hikanôtatoi te Dionusion sumparakalein); so that now, if ever (hôste, eiper pote, kai nun), all our hopes will be fulfilled (elpis pasa apotelesthêsetai) in seeing the same persons at once philosophers and rulers of mighty States (tou tous autous philosophous te kai poleôn archontas megalôn xumbênai genomenous).’ (SL 327d7-328b1, tr. R. G. Bury) – Note that Dion spoke in plural, having presumably in mind himself and Plato as philosopher-rulers, and Dionysius when properly educated by Plato.

A. E. Taylor dates the Statesman after Plato’s return from his third, that is his last journey from Sicily. In the chapter on ‘Sophistes-Politicus’ he writes: ‘The dialogues which we have still to consider all reveal themselves, by steady approximation to the style characteristic of the Laws, as belonging to the latest period of Plato’s activity as a writer … From 367 down to at least 361-360, the year of Plato’s second and longer sojourn with Dionysius II and his final resolution to take no further direct part in the affairs of Syracuse, he must have been too fully occupied in other ways to have much time for composition. We must probably, therefore, think of this whole group of latest dialogues as written in the thirteen last years of Plato’s life, 360-348/7. Since the Sophistes and Politicus attach themselves outwardly to the Theaetetus, and the former [i.e. the Sophist], in fact, contains the critical examination of Eleatic principles which that dialogue [i.e. the Theaetetus] had half promised, it is reasonable to hold, as most recent critics do, that the Sophistes opens the series.’ (A. E. Taylor, Plato, the man and his work, University Paperbacks, Methuen: London, first published in 1926, the 8th reprint in 1966, p.  371)
What pressing activities could Taylor mean? The period between Plato’s return to Athens after his first stay at the court of Dionysius and his departure from Athens to his second stay there was predetermined by their parting in 366. Plato says in the Seventh Letter: ‘we both made a compact (sunômologêsamen amphoteroi) … Dionysius said that he would invite Dion and me back again (Dionusios men ephê metapempsasthai Diôna kai eme palin) … and he asked Dion to regard his situation not as an exile (Diôna de êxiou dianoeisthai mê phugên hautô̢ gegonenai tote) but a change of abode (metastasin de); and upon these conditions I promised to return (egô d’ hêxein hômologêsa epi toutois tois logois).’ (338a5-b2 )

Plutarch says in the Life of Dion that Dionysius ‘kept sending to Dion the revenues from his property (tas de prosodous tôn ktêmatôn apepempen autô̢)’, ‘asking him to keep quiet (axioun auton hêsuchian agein), and to attempt no revolution (kai mêden neôterizein), and ̂to say no evil of him to the Greeks (mêde blasphêmein kat’ autou pros tous Hellenas) (Ch. XVI, 5-6)’. He adds that ‘this Plato tried to effect (tauta epeirato poiein Platôn)’. But Plutarch specifies that ‘having turned Dion to philosophy (kai Diôna trepsas epi philosophian), Plato kept him in the Academy (en Akadêmeia̢ kateichen, Ch. VII, 1)’. There is no reason to think that teaching in the Academy prevented Plato from composing his dialogues.

Plutarch indicates that to ‘keep Dion quiet’ required more than getting him engaged in philosophy, but this ‘extra’ Plato appears to have delegated to his nephew: ‘Plato desired that Dion’s disposition should be tempered and sweetened by association with men of charming presence who indulged seasonably in graceful pleasantries (boulomenou tou Platônos homilia̢ charin echousê̢ kai paidias emmelous kata kairon haptomenê̢ kerannumenon aphêdunesthai tou Diônos to êthos). And such a man was Speusippus (toioutos de tis Speusippos ên).’ (Ch. XVII, 3-4, tr. Bernadotte Perrin)

Teaching in the Academy was not the only Plato’s activity of which Plutarch informs us: ‘And when Plato himself was called upon to furnish a chorus of boys (autô̢ de Platôni chorêgounti paidôn chorô̢), Dion had the chorus trained (ton te choron êskêse ho Dion) and defrayed all the expense of its maintenance (kai to dapanêma pan etelese par’ heautou), and Plato encouraged in him such an ambition to please the Athenians (sunchôrountos tou Platônos tên toiautên philotimian pros tous Athênaious), on the ground that it would procure goodwill for Dion rather than fame for himself (hôs ekeinô̢ mallon eunoian ê doxan autô̢ pherousan).’ (Ch. XVII, 5, tr. Bernadotte Perrin) Plato himself in the Second Letter refers to another non-philosophical activity of his; he tells to Dionysius that Cratistolus and Polyxenus are not to be trusted ‘for it is said (hôn phasi) that one of these men declares that at Olympia [the Olympic Festival of 364 B.C.] he heard (legein ton heteron hoti akouoi Olumpiasi) quite a number of my companions maligning you (pollôn tinôn tôn met’ emou se kakêgorountôn). No doubt his hearing is more acute than mine (isôs gar oxuteron emou akouei); for I certainly heard no such thing (egô men gar ouk êkousa, 310c7-d3, tr. Bury.’ But neither Plato’s being called upon to furnish a chorus of boys – notice that it was Dion who had the chorus trained – nor his attendance at the Olympic games can be viewed as activities preventing him from writing.

In 367 Plato left Athens ‘with all speed’, urgently called by Dion, and so he had little possibility to prepare the Academy for his departure. In 367/366, the year he spent at the court of Dionysius, he badly deplored ‘having left my own occupations, which were anything but ignoble (katalipôn tas emautou diatribas, ousas ouk aschêmonas, Seventh Letter 329b1-2)’. When he urged Dionysius ‘by all means possible (hopê̢ dê pot’ edunamên) to let me go (apheinai me, 338a3-4)’ he was presumably thinking first and foremost about his disciples. The year when Plato went on his second journey to Sicily (367 B.C.) was the year when the 17 years old Aristotle entered the Academy, and there are reasons to believe that during Plato’s absence, which was intended to be permanent – Plato was to devote the rest of his life to his ideal of the State governed by philosophers – the theory of Forms came under attack in the Academy itself. If Plato was to have any hope of returning to Dionysius as the foremost philosopher – ‘I came to Sicily with the reputation of being by far the most eminent of those engaged in philosophy (êlthon egô eis Sikelian doxan echôn polu tôn en philosophia̢ diapherein, Second Letter 311e5-6, tr. Bury)’ – he had to make his theory of Forms unassailable by any criticism. This he did in the Parmenides, as I have argued on my blog (see ‘A year on my blog with Plato’s Parmenides’ posted on November 24, 2015) and on my website in ‘Plato’s defence of the Forms in the Parmenides’.

I believe that Plato wrote one more dialogue in 366/365, the Phaedo. Diogenes Laertius says that ‘according to Favorinus, when Plato read the dialogue On the Soul, Aristotle alone stayed to the end; the rest of the audience got up and went away’ (touton monon parameinai Platôni Phabôrinos pou phêsin anagignôskonti ton Peri psuchês, tous d’ allous anastênai pantas, III, 37, tr. R. D. Hicks). This story suggests that on that occasion Plato read the Phaedo for the first time; the audience had to leave, or else they all would have ended howling: Socrates’ leaving his disciples for good was heart-rendering; add to it Plato’s having composed the Phaedo as his farewell.

In the Parmenides, the young Socrates presents his theory of Forms as a criticism of Parmenides’ and Zeno’s theory of the oneness of Being – there are as many true Beings as there are Forms. Parmenides subjects Socrates’ theory to severe criticism, but avers that if one discards the Forms, ‘one will completely destroy the power of discussion’ (tên tou dialegesthai dunamin pantapasi diaphtherei, Parm. 135c1-2). He thus left the young Socrates in the state of philosophic ignorance: he could neither profess the theory of Forms as true, for he could not defend it against Parmenides’ arguments, nor could he reject it. In this state of philosophic ignorance he went throughout his life, from discussion to discussion, searching for Forms as moral concepts, leaving their being, their ontological status, undecided, suspended in his not-knowing. In this state of philosophic ignorance we find him in the Phaedo, where in his autobiographic digression he intimates that he had given up on looking for true causes of things and adopted ‘the second best course in quest for the cause (ton deuteron ploun epi tên tês aitias zêtêsin [99c9-d1] … I thought that I had better find refuge in discussions (edoxe dê moi eis tous logous kataphugonta) and in them seek the truth of things (en ekeinois skopein tôn ontôn tên alêtheian, 99e4-6)’. On his last day, pressed by Cebes, he transcends ‘that safe answer’ (apokrisin tên asphalê ekeinên, 105b7), ‘that ignorant one’ (apokrisin ekeinên tên amathê, 105c1), finding ‘a subtler answer on the basis of the present considerations’ (apokrisin kompsoteran ek tôn nun, 105c2). He now views the Forms as true causal agents, finds the Form of Life indelibly attached to human souls and thus guaranteeing human immortality (105c-107b). Socrates thus on his last day transcends his ignorance, admonishing his disciples: ‘follow up the argument (akolouthêsete tô̢ logô̢) as far as is humanly possible (kath’ hoson dunaton malist’ anthrôpô̢ epakolouthêsai); and if you make sure you have done so (k’an touto auto saphes genêtai), there will be no need for any further enquiry (ouden zêtêsete peraiterô, 107b7-9, tr. B. Jowett)’. Socrates ends by exhorting his friends and disciples ‘to live taking care of themselves (humôn autôn epimeloumenoi, 115b6), following as if in footsteps what was said now, and in previous discussions (hôsper kat ichnê kata ta nun eirêmena kai ta en tô̢ emprosthen chronô̢ zên, 115b9-10). Plato could not leave his friends and disciples with a more pertinent goodbye.

The sailing season of 365 B.C. passed without any invitation from Dionysius. The Second Letter, which Plato wrote to Dionysius in 364 (Plato’s visit at the Olympic Festival of 364 is referred to as a recent event, SL 310c-d), indicates a rift between the two: ‘If you altogether despise philosophy (ei men holôs philosophias katapephronêkas), leave it alone (ean chairein). If, again, you have been taught by someone else (ei de par’ heterou akêkoas) or have yourself invented better doctrines than mine (ê autos beltiona hêurêkas tôn par’ emoi), hold them in honour (ekeina tima). But if you are contented with my doctrines (ei d’ ara ta par’ hêmôn soi areskei), then you should hold me also in special honour (timêteon kai eme malista, 312b4-7) … For seeing that you are testing my doctrines (epei gar basanizeis auta) both by attending the lectures of other teachers (sungignomenos te allois) and by examining my teaching side by side with theirs (kai paratheômenos para ta tôn allôn), as well as by itself (kai auta kath’ hauta), then, if the test you make is a true one, not only will these doctrines implant themselves now in your mind (nun soi tauta te, ei alêthês hê basanos, prosphusetai), but you also will be devoted both to them and to us (kai oikeios toutois te kai hêmin esê̢, 313c7-d3).’

Dionysius appears to have surrounded himself with sophists inimical to Plato and his philosophy. Plato had no fear of Dionysius’ comparing his teaching with that of the others, meaning his oral teaching, for the whole point of their relationship was to be his teaching and advising Dionysius. But it appears that they had only one discussion about the very crux of Plato’s philosophy, the Good, ‘the King of all to whom all things are related (peri ton pantôn basilea pant’ esti), for whose sake they all are (kai ekeinou heneka pantaekeinou is masculine, referring to the King), and which is the cause of all beautiful things (kai ekeino aition hapantôn tôn kalôn, 312e13 – notice Plato’s switch from the ‘King’, which is masculine, to the Good, which is neuter), and so his only real representative at the court of Dionysius during his absence were his writings. The Parmenides could not stand alone as a defence of Plato’s theory of Forms, for it only indicated that Plato knew of the arguments against the theory of Forms from his youth; no arguments against the Forms had any relevance for those who could see the Forms. For any arguments against the Forms were of necessity framed within the realm ‘that lies in between pure being and absolute not-being’ (metaxu keisthai tou eilikrinôs ontos te kai tou pantôs mê ontos, Republic 478d6-7) and so they had no relevance concerning the Forms, the true being. But this could be only gestured at by Parmenides as the goal to be reached by an exceptional man in future (Parm. 133b4-c1); the place in which this goal was reached was the Republic. (The Parmenides and the Republic are dramatically interconnected; Plato’s brothers Adeimantus and Glaucon are Socrates’ main interlocutors in the Republic, in the Parmenides they introduce Cephalus, the narrator, to their half-brother Antiphon, who tells Cephalus from memory the discussion that once upon a time the young Socrates held with Zeno and the aging Parmenides. Plato’s elder brother Adeimantus vouches for the truth of Antiphon’s having diligently learnt it by heart in his teens, and that he had heard it many times from Pythodorus who was present at that discussion.) But the Republic is two long, Plato introduces the Forms in it in the fifth book. He needed to present Dionysius with the theory of Forms in a more compact and attractive manner. This, in my view, he did in writing the Symposium, which no sophist in Dionysius’ entourage could match with anything they could produce. The Symposium is dramatically linked both to the Parmenides and to the Republic by Plato’s brother Glaucon who figures in the preamble to the dialogue (Symp. 172a-173b). In my view, Plato composed it after the Parmenides and the Phaedo, with Dionysius in mind.

Another sailing season passed by without an invitation from Dionysius. What went wrong? To understand the situation in which Plato thus found himself, we must go back to Syracuse, and back in time.

Plutarch writes in the Dion: ‘This tyrant’s son [i.e. Dionysius II, the son of Dionysius I] (Ton d’ huion autou) Dion saw to be dwarfed and deformed in character from his lack of education (dialelôbêmenon apaideusia̢ kai suntetrimmenon to êthos ho Diôn horôn), and therefore exhorted him to apply himself to study (parekalei pros paideian trapesthai), and to use every entreaty with the first of philosophers to come to Sicily (kai deêthênai tou prôtou tôn philosophôn pasan deêsin elthein eis Sikelian), and, when he came, to become his disciple (elthonti de paraschein hauton, X 1) … Since Dion frequently gave him such advice (Tauta pollakis tou Diônos parainountos), and artfully mingled with it some of Plato’s doctrines (kai tôn logôn tou Platônos estin houstinas hupospeirontos), Dionysius was seized with a keen and even frenzied passion (eschen erôs ton Dionusion oxus kai perimanês) for the teachings and companionship of Plato (tôn te logôn kai tês ousias tou Platônos, XI 1).

There was only one dialog of Plato that was full of ‘doctrines’ – as Bernadotte Perrin translates Plutarch’s logôn – that could have this effect on Dionysius: the Phaedrus. I have little doubt that Plato took the Phaedrus to Sicily on his first journey to Sicily and that he left a copy as a present to Dion, this aristocratic youth with whom he became enamoured (Plato was 40 when he left Athens for Sicily, Dion was about 20 when they first met). In his relationship to Dionysius Dion tried to imitate the Phaedran Philosopher-lover; ill-suited for that role, he prompted him to invite the genuine one.

‘But the enemies of Dion (Hoi de tô̢ Diôni polemountes), afraid of the alteration in Dionysius (phoboumenoi tên tou Dionusiou metabolên), persuaded him (epeisan auton) to recall from exile Philistus (apo tês phugês metapempesthai Philiston), a man versed in letters (andra kai pepaideumenon peri logous) and acquainted with the ways of tyrants (kai turannikôn êthôn empeirotaton), that they might have in him a counterpoise to Plato and philosophy (hôs antitagma pros Platôna kai philosophian ekeinon hexontes, XI 4) [Philistus was a first class historian. Plutarch says that it was during his exile that ‘in his leisure Philistus composed the greater part of his history’ (hopou kai dokei ta pleista suntheinai tês historias scholazôn, XI 6-7).] … Such was the condition of affairs (En toiautê̢ de katastasei tôn pragmatôn ontôn) when Plato came to Sicily (Platôn eis Sikelian aphikomenos), and in the first instances (peri men tas prôtas apantêseis) he met with astonishing friendliness (thaumastês etunchane philophrosunês) and honour (kai timês, XIII 1) … After a few days had passed (hêmerôn de oligôn diagenomenôn), there was one of the customary sacrifices of the country (thusia men ên patrios) in the palace grounds (en tois turanneiois); and the herald (tou de kêrukos), as was the custom (hôsper eiôthei), prayed (kateuxamenou) that the tyranny might abide (diamenein tên turannida) unshaken  (asaleuton) for many generations (pollous chronous), it is said that Dionysius, who was standing near (ho Dionusios legetai parestôs), cried: “Stop cursing us!” (“Ou pausê̢,” phanai, “katarômenos hêmin;”) This quite vexed Philistus and his company (touto komidê̢ tous peri ton Philiston elupêsen), who thought that time and familiarity would render Plato’s influence almost irresistible (amachon tina tou Platônos hêgoumenous esesthai chronô̢ kai sunêtheia̢ tên dunamin), if now (ei nun), after a brief intimacy (ek sunousias oligês), he had so altered (êlloiôken houtô) and transformed (kai metabeblêke) the sentiments of the youthful prince (tên gnômên to meirakion). (XIII 5-6) … And some pretended (enioi de prosepoiounto) to be indignant (duscherainein) that the Athenians, who in former times (ei proteron men Athênaioi) had sailed to Sicily with large land and sea forces (nautikais kai pezikais dunamesi megalais deuro pleusantes), but had perished utterly (apôlonto kai diephtharêsan) without taking Syracuse (proteron ê labein Surakousas), should now (nuni de), by means of one sophist (di’ henos sophistou), overthrow the tyranny of Dionysius (kataluousi tên Dionusiou turannida), by persuading him (sumpeisantes auton) to dismiss his ten thousand body-guards (ek tôn muriôn doruphorôn apodranta), and abandon his four hundred triremes (kai kataliponta tas triakosias triêreis) and his ten thousand horsemen (kai tous murious hippeis) and his many times that number of men-at-arms (kai tous pollakis tosoutous hoplitas), in order to seek in Academic philosophy for a mysterious good (en Akadêmeia̢ to siôpômenon agathon zêtein), and make geometry his guide to happiness (kai dia geômetrias eudaimona genesthai), surrendering the happiness that was based on dominion and wealth and luxury to Dion and Dion’s nephews and nieces (tên en archê̢ kai chrêmasi kai truphais eudaimonian Diôni kai tois Diônos adelphidois proemenon).’ (XIV 2-3, tr. Bernadotte Perrin)

If Plato was to have any chance of renewing his mission in Syracuse, he had to find a way of ostensibly distancing himself from his Republic. He prepared the way for it in his Second Letter. Having discussed the ‘King of All’, and admonishing Dionysius ‘lest these doctrines be ever divulged to uneducated people’ (eulabou mentoi mê pote ekpesê̢ tauta eis anthrôpous apaideutous, SL 314a1-2), he says: ‘I myself have never yet written anything on these subjects (ouden pôpot’ egô peri toutôn egrapsa), and no treatise by Plato exists (oud’ estin sungramma Platônos ouden) or will exist (oud’ estai), but those which now bear his name (ta de nun legomena) belong to a Socrates become fair and young (Sôkratous estin kalou kai neou gegonotos).’ (314c2-4, tr. Bury)

In the light of this passage, Plato does not express his own views in the Republic, but the views of ‘a Socrates become fair and young’. But this was not enough; Plato had to distance himself from the Republic manifestly. He did so in the Sophist and the Statesman, in the guise of the Stranger from Elea. I therefore date these two dialogues as written in the latter part of Plato’s stay in Athens between his second and third journey to Sicily.

Dionysius may have wondered, and the sophists around him may have asked him, whether there was any reason to believe that when Plato in the Sophist and the Statesman abandoned the doctrine of the Republic concerning the unity of philosophy and statesmanship in one person or persons, speaking through the mouth of the Stranger of Elea, he abandoned his resolve ‘that there never will exist a treatise by Plato’. Well, the only way he could find the answer to this question was by discussing it with Plato in person; he had to invite him back.

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