• J. Angelo Corlett


In my book, Interpreting Plato’s Dialogues, I provide a critical assessment of numerous arguments proffered by Julia Annas, Terence Irwin, Richard Kraut and some others in favor of the philosophically prominent Mouthpiece Interpretation of Plato’s dialogues (also referred to by some as the “dogmatic” approach to Plato’s dialogues) according to which it is justified to ascribe to Plato some or all of the informational contents of what this or that character in Plato’s dialogues states beyond mere elements of philosophical method such as argumentation and analysis. The name for this approach to Plato’s dialogues can be found in some of the writings of Gregory Vlastos, among others. According to one of its recent proponents, “The idea is not that Plato held views dogmatically, but that he held views (δόγματα) which he advanced in the dialogues.” (Bevershluis 2008: 85) After exposing the fallacies in the reasoning in support of the Mouthpiece Interpretation and thereby rendering dubious that approach to the dialogues (Corlett 2005: Chapter 2), I articulate and defend what I call the “Socratic Anti-Mouthpiece Interpretation” according to which Plato’s employment of the dialogue form itself either intentionally or unintentionally prohibits readers’ abilities to discern the substantive philosophical mind of Plato himself. Instead, the informational contents of Plato’s dialogues ought to be studied as the philosophically profound works that they are in encouraging us to think analytically about the nature of justice, art, knowledge and education as we read the Republic, of knowledge and reality as we read the Theaetetus, of compensatory justice as we read the Gorgias, of law and punishment as we read the Laws, etc.. For even if one were to assume the controversial authorship of the Seventh Letter as do many proponents of the Mouthpiece Interpretation, there is inadequate direct textual evidence from the Corpus Platonicum that Plato purports to somehow expound his positive substantive philosophical beliefs, doctrines or theories in his dialogues, and secondary evidence from one or more of his students in the Academy (most notably, Aristotle) is problematic. My Socratic Interpretation of Plato’s dialogues is a species of the Anti-Mouthpiece Interpretation, also called the “non-dogmatic” approach by some, and the Anti-Mouthpiece Interpretation is misleadingly referred to as the “dramatic” approach by others. While the full name I have given my approach to Plato’s dialogues is the “Socratic Anti-Mouthpiece Interpretation,” I shall hereafter refer to it by its abbreviated name: the “Socratic Interpretation.”


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Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Angelo Corlett
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophySan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA

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