In my thesis, I take up the popular question of the status of writing in Plato’s dialogues, but from a fresh perspective. Instead of approaching the question of writing head-on, I attend to the philosophical message about reading presented by two dialogues, the Phaedrus and the Theaetetus. My thesis offers interpretations of two individual dialogues whose emphasis on writing and reading as both literary themes and philosophical problems ensure that the overall meanings of these dialogues cannot be reached without attention to this subject.
Although I examine the dialogues in isolation, believing that the setting and characters unique to each dialogue hold the key to understanding the discursive arguments presented therein, some features nevertheless emerge as common to both the Phaedrus and the Theaetetus. Specifically, each dialogue explores the virtues of a radically generous, and perhaps even reverent, style of reading. In the Phaedrus, this style of reading serves Socrates’ interpretations of traditional myth. I argue that this is an ironic gesture on the part of Plato, who strives to show that Socrates’ own method of interpretation, if it is applied to written texts, would be an adequate response to the criticisms of writing espoused by Socrates. The Theaetetus shows this method of interpretation in its application to a philosophical text — the Truth of Protagoras. I argue that as Socrates and Theaetetus attempt to interpret this book, Socrates educates Theaetetus in his characteristic method of generous interpretation, and that Socrates’ discursive arguments against Protagoras’ relativism are buttressed by his display of this hermeneutic method.
Plato, Theaetetus, Phaedrus, reading, writing, interpretation
Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies
Level of Degree
Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures
First Committee Member (Chair)
Lorenzo F. Garcia Jr.
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
Lea, Luke. "Learning to Read in the Theaetetus: The Recuperation of Writing in Plato's Philosophy." (2018). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/fll_etds/125