18 - In Dialogue: the Life and Works of Plato

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.

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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's picture

Order of Dialogues

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!

Peter Adamson's picture


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's picture

can you help with this reference?

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.