Ancient Philosophy


What were Plato’s dialogues?

Plato’s surviving written works span a period of about 50 years. He wrote in the form of elegant, dramatic, and poetic dialogues, which scholars usually divide into different periods. The Apology, Charmides, Crito, Eupyphro, Hippias Minor, Ion, Laches, and Protagoras (taken alphabetically) are considered his “early” works. The middle works are the Phaedo, Symposium, Republic, and Phaedrus (believed to have been written in that order), and these were followed by later works of the Sophist, Statesman, and Philebus. Plato’s Timaeus may fall somewhere either in the middle or late writings. His Letters, numbered I through XIII, were written toward the end of his life. Only Letters III, VII, VIII, and XIII are unquestionably genuine, as is his will.

There were no printing presses in Plato’s day and no book stores or libraries in Athens at the time he wrote. His dialogues probably reached their audiences through oral performances, and it is likely that Plato himself enacted the role of Socrates.


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