This book was more of a commentary on Plato’s works. All of them. It gives you an in-depth insight into the ancient Greek philosopher’s mind and his own way of thinking. I was surprised to find that despite that it was a commentary, there was a lot of useful things I picked up in it. Plato’s concept of the philosopher-king, Plato’s ideal state, who Socrates was, and how can we know what exactly Plato said and did. As a religious studies and history major, a lot of people wonder why so much is done on examining the historical Jesus and why no other ancient person is done. Well…the reality is that we do the same with everyone and A.E. Taylor’s work here is a perfect example of it.
A.E. Taylor was a world-renowned Plato scholar and so his commentary is an essential for any person wanting to understand Greek philosophy. It is tedious but as you start to get into it and to the more interesting concepts of the philosopher’s mind, the read goes quicker and cannot be said to be a complete dull. Taylor has gone through every single nook and cranny of the way Plato’s mind functions.
Is A.E. Taylor correct? I guess this is for the historian of philosophy to decide. I was surprised to find out that Plato objected to homosexuality. I had prior assumed that all ancient Greeks were devoutly engaged in homosexual activity. Taylor attacks Romanticism and its invention of a “Platonic love”. But Taylor also admits that things that which he does not hold to but his own opponents hold to may be of equal validity. There is no real way of knowing precisely what Plato taught and most of the stuff that we say he taught largely comes from Aristotle. Can Aristotle be trusted?
Because of that last piece, the reality is that the entire book becomes a commentary on Socrates, the great teacher of Plato. And Socrates’s mind and existence is also dissected. For instance, why did Socrates choose to die? How do we know that Socrates existed? Etc.
The most important thing about this book to gather from the teachings of Plato is what he thought philosophy as, not what he explicitly teaches in his dialogues. He perceived philosophy as an endless pursuit and striving toward complete moral perfection. This is why he never became the pontificator so to speak. This is also why he never wrote down any of his own dogmatics.