Plato’s Ion: Difficulties and Contradictions
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This article treats Plato’s Ion as a test-case. It is widely accepted in literature about Plato that he was a consistent and systematic thinker, whose dialogues express his views and complement each other, and that each dialogue has a main purport which the reader should discover or be told about by the commentator even before reading the dialogue. In the first section of this article, specimen passages from the literature on Plato are cited and discussed. In the second part I point out some serious contradictions, sometimes bordering on dishonesty, in Socrates’ treatment of Ion, in the sequence of his arguments, and in his use of words in different senses without warning his interlocutor. The offshoot of it is that one cannot simply accept the consistent, dogmatic image of Plato the dogmatic preacher, and only reading the dialogue as drama may help us have a guess at what Plato is playing at.