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Ascent to the Good


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements Preface: Ascent to the Good Table of Abbreviations Introduction: Aristotle and Plato Chapter 1: Lysis-Euthydemus: Mental Gymnastic and in Symposium's Wake 1. The Good and the Beautiful in Plato's Symposium 2. Systematic Socratism 3. Plato's Deliberate Use of Fallacy in Lysis-Euthydemus 4. The Play of Character and the Argument of the Action Chapter 2: Laches and Charmides: Fighting for Athens 5. Between Euthydemus and Meno 6. Socratism and the Knowledge of Good and Bad 7. The Return to Athens in Laches and Charmides Chapter 3: Plato and Gorgias: The Touchstone of Socrates 8. From Gorgias to Republic 9. Plato's Confession 10. Gorgias and the Shorter Way 11. Protagoras Revisited 12. Gorgias and the Longer Way Chapter 4. Theages and Meno: Socratic Paradoxes 13. Divine Inspiration and its Discontents 14. "Meno the Thessalian" and the Socratic Paradox Revisited 15. Hypotheses and Images in Meno: Introducing the Divided Line Chapter 5. Cleitophon and Republic 16. Looking Forward: Answering Cleitophon's Question (408e1-2) 17. Looking Back: Socrates as Obstacle to Socratism (410e7-8)

About the Author

William H. F. Altman, having been persuaded by Plato's Republic that Justice requires the philosopher to go back down into the Cave, has devoted his professional life to the cause of public education. Since retiring in 2013, he has been working as an independent scholar on the continuation of Plato the Teacher (2012).


William Altman's five-volume project is a breathtakingly ambitious attempt to fit all of Plato's thirty-five dialogues into the sequence in which Plato would have wanted them read. Putting Plato as teacher at the heart of the dialogues, Altman structures this "reading order" by the distinctions between preparatory, visionary, and testing texts and takes the allegory of the cave as its center. He offers nothing less than a fundamental alternative to the "developmentalism" that has dominated Platonic scholarship for the past century. In Ascent to the Good, the second of the five volumes, Altman offers detailed readings of Lysis, Euthydemus, Laches, Charmides, Gorgias, Theages, Meno, and Cleitophon, treating them as steps toward the vision of the Good in the Republic - hence the title. Its core insight, itself worth the price of the whole, is that by Socrates' cultivation of eudaimonism in these eight dialogues, Plato aims to prepare the best of his readers for the overcoming of it in the recognition, occasioned by Republic 6-7, that the Good and Justice require them to sacrifice their happiness to serve their fellow citizens. In its close reading, its interpretive depth, and its dialectical engagement with every major current of Platonic scholarship, Ascent to the Good is a thought-provoking tour de force. -- Mitchell Miller, Vassar College
William Altman's Ascent To The Good, together with its companion volumes, belongs itself, for sure, to the class of achievement for which Altman in these pages proposes the dialogues of Plato as the paradigmatic case. Altman's book is one installment in an extensive body of work that has in its own good time matured within the mind of an intellectual who is also a first-rate teacher, before finally being delivered to the public in writing in a series that, whatever the completeness of its separate items, is designed for eventual understanding as a whole. So too, according to Altman, with the dialogues of Plato. Our understanding of those dialogues was intended by Plato to be the result of our having read each item within the series in a specific order; this would be how Plato the writer succeeds also in being Plato the pedagogue. Altman's bold argument commands respect for its scholarly competence; but it invites outright admiration for its breathtaking reach and, not least, its depth of feeling. -- John Ferrari, University of California, Berkeley
Ascent to the Good lays the groundwork for Altman's monumental multivolume study of Plato's ethics. He reads a series of dialogues as aimed at implicitly showing the limits to Socratic eudaimonism, both as a philosophy to be thought and as a philosophy to be lived. He shows how they point to an ethics if reverence developed in the arguments of the Republic according to which our good is found not in our own good, but in the Beauty that transcends us. Altman balances his close attention to the details of the drama and argument of the dialogue with a passionate concern for the big picture. His interpretations of Lysis, Gorgias, Protagoras and related dialogues, are startlingly original, and are not easily dismissed. The patient reader, convinced or no, will have her approach to the Platonic dialogues transformed by Altman's new questions and insights. -- Owen Goldin, Marquette University

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