Help from Classicists! Question about Plato

Yes, I’ll admit, this is a homework-help question, but I’m just looking for some suggestions/advice.

Does anyone know of any good sources on Plato, specifically anything having to do with his vision of the soul/immortality. See, I’m thinking of writing a paper on how Plato’s concept of the soul is analogous to the “Christian” concept of God, insofar as “this self-mover [the soul] is also the source and spring of motion in everything else that moves; and a source has no beginning” (Phaedrus).

See, so, if the soul is the thing that is in motion and has no source, but is the source of motion, then soul is the creator of the universe.

Kind of obtuse, and a very very poor explination here I know, I appologize.

The thing is, I’ve got to write this paper using as a primary source one of the dialogues we didn’t use in class, so the Phaedrus is out except as a supporting document.

So, the help I need consists of:

[li]Suggestions of other Platonic dialogues which might discuss this topic.[/li][li]Suggestions of secondary sources (authors) who may have discussed this topic.[/li][/ul]

Thanks for your help ahead of time, and again, sorry for the rather poor explination.

I’m not going to be much help, but I have Plato’s Republic that I’ve not read yet. However, my philosophy prof told me today that Plato’s ideas of a soul come into play in The Republic.

What you are describing is pretty close to what the theologians at Alexandria did in the third century in Greek, and what Augustine did in the late fourth century in Latin.

You probably don’t want to hear about secondary sources that are themselves almost two thousand years old: however, you can probably find secondary sources about their works that will help you. Look up Origen and Augustine. Your proff will be impressed. (And if you want to be fancy, Plotinus, who founded neoplatonism, which is the first step down the road you are traveling.)

Thanks Manda JO, I’ll definitely look them up. So you’re saying Origen and Augustine studied the Alexandrian theologians who themselves were interpreting Plato? I just want to be a little clear on this.

Nocturne, there is some good stuff in the Republic, but alas, we’ve read that for class, therefore, it can’t be my main focus. The problem is, we’ve read a heck of a lot of Plato, all of which is nominally off limits. Oh well.

No, I haven’t been clear. Origen was the leader of the theologians at Alexandria–there were several of them, but Origien is the most well known, and the one you are most likely to find a quick and dirty summary of. He also tied off his own balls so that they would rot and fall off, only to discover that doing so did not, as he’d hoped. remove the temptation to sin, only the ability. That dosen’t have anything to do with neo-platonism, but it’s a great story.

Augustine is the third biggest name in Christianity, with Jesus and Paul coming in ahead of him, and some people would argue about Paul. The stuff you are talking about, integrating platonic philosophy into Christian theology, is a big deal, and Augutine is a big deal because of it He began with the works of Origien and friends and carried them further. Even more importantly, he worte in Latin: after the fifth Century or so there was virtually no one in the West who could read Augustine, and consequntly, no one could read Origen, so it was through Augustine, not Origen, that neo-platonism entered Western Christian thought., even though Origin was first.

The man to read about Augustine is Peter Brown, but frankly, for your purposes I suspect that any good biography will do: I get the impression that you are not going to go into great nuanced depth here.


Should be:

I apparently have no brain.

For secondary sources try: Plato and the Republic, from the useful Routledge Guidebook series (link), or the classic Plato’s Republic by R.C.Cross and A.D.Woozley (link). (Probably hard to get hold of, but a library with a good classics section should have it.)

A good discussion of the development of Platonic thought from Plato himself all the way to Thomas Aquinas, and the contribution of Greek philosophy to Christian theology, can be found in A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell (link).

Lemme see if I can help.

Manda Jo is dead on about the Neoplatonists, but for the purposes of this paper, I would suggest that you avoid them. Their metaphysics goes rather far afield from Plato’s. If you have not mastered Plato, reading Proclus, Plotinus, Porphyry, or any of the others will be complicated.

If you have already tapped the Republic and the Phaedrus, here are some other possibilities.

The Phaedo discusses the soul at some length. 80b:

Socrates argues in the Sophistes at 24d:

And in the Cratylus at 400b:

Read the Phaedo first. It is absolutely crucial to understanding the Platonic idea of the soul.

As for a secondary source, try Plato on Immortality by Robert Leet Patterson.

A further note about Origen. His most important works are considered heretical. If you are going to use them, do not mistake them for general orthodoxy.

Good luck!