Enticing frames : the drama of authorial evasion in Plato's introductory scenes

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2005-08

Authors

Pop, Constantin, M.A.

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Abstract

The introductory scenes of Phaedo, Symposium, Parmenides, and Theaetetus each present a story within a story narrative. The present paper explains Plato's choice for this complex design, which does not seem coordinated formally or semantically with the dialogue proper. This report argues that the missing link is based on the dramatic effects of the opening scene on Plato's contemporary audience. Starting from the fundamental assumption that Socrates was still a controversial public figure even after his death, I argue that Plato had to disguise his project of making the Socratic philosophy known, by making it obscure to his critics, but suggestive to his students. He achieves this by concealing his authorial presence in some of his most sensitive dialogues, and he selects his audience by ingeniously exploiting the ambiguities of language. The introductory scenes are the passages in the Platonic corpus where these narrative techniques can be best scrutinized. The leading thesis is that Plato used the introductory scene to manipulate his contemporary audience in order to select it and prepare it for Socratic philosophical inquiry.

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