18 - In Dialogue: the Life and Works of Plato

Posted on 23 January 2011

In this episode, Peter Adamson of King’s College London discusses the life story and writings of Plato, focusing on the question of why he wrote dialogues.

Further Reading

• J.M.Cooper and D.S. Hutchinson (eds), Plato, Complete Works (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1997).

• G. Fine (ed.), Plato 1: Metaphysics and Epistemology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999)

• G. Fine (ed.), Plato 2: Ethics, Politics, Religion, and the Soul (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).

• R. Kraut (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Plato (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).

• A.S. Mason, Plato (Durham: Acumen, 2010).

Stanford Encyclopedia: Plato


Leo 1 June 2013

Hi Peter,

Do the works of Plato have a known chronology; what order should one read them in? And the big question, what do philosophers and historians say regarding the Socratic problem? How do we know anything we attribute to Socrates is genuinely true?

Thanks for the amazing work by the way!

Well, the Neoplatonists had a very firm idea of the right reading order of the dialogues but I don't think anyone would presume to prescribe one today. Generally speaking, there is the idea that the dialogues fall into early, middle and late, as I explain in the first Plato episode (the one on this page). I tend to think that any dialogue can be read on its own though, so it may be more a matter of what topic interests you most. 

As for the historical Socrates question, I think I probably said in the podcasts that I'm fairly dubious about the prospects of extracting an accurate picture of Socrates from Plato. Xenophon might be a more accurate source but he also has his own axes to grind. Perhaps one could say that the points on which Aristophanes, Xenophon and Plato agree are secure, but the overlap is not big!

Joan Kerr 31 July 2013

Hi Peter,

a friend is trying to track down the source of the quotation "Man: a being in search of meaning" said to be from Plato. Can you point him in the right direction?

Thanks for the whole series- I am still with you from beginning to Islam and it's the light of my life.

Alexander Johnson 11 October 2018

Just curious, which of the disputed dialogues (Hippias Major, Fist Alciblades, Clitophon, Spistles, Menexenus) do you think are authentic?  Of the ones that aren't, do any of the ones written by PseudoPlato worth reading?

I don't have settled views on all of those but wrote a paper on the Menexenus recently and am convinced it is genuine; I also tend to think First Alcibiades is authentic. Apart from that, not sure and particularly not sure about all the Epistles. But these are all worth reading, I would say, as being at the very least evidence for how Plato was being constructed as an author already in antquity.

Add new comment