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McInerny Center for Thomistic Studies
Program in philosophical studies
October 2006


Joshua Hochschild


Philosophy, the Beginning:

Third Class




Theory of Ideas, Second Navigation, and Knowledge as Remembering.

Myth, Faith and Reason


For our next two classes, we will be focusing on a single philosopher, the first from whom we possess a significant number of complete works.  The philosopher is Plato, and we call his works "dialogues" because they imaginatively envision philosophical conversations between two or more characters.

A favorite dialogue used to introduce Plato's philosophy, and one especially suited to our chosen themes, is the Phaedo.  In it, Plato pays homage to his teacher Socrates by depicting the final hours of Socrates' life, conversing with friends before his execution.  The central, explicit philosophical question is whether there is life after death, whether the soul is immortal but Plato uses the occasion to connect this question to some of his central theoretical innovations (the theory of recollection, the theory of the Forms) and practical concerns (the relationship between reason and myth; the connection between intellect and the emotions; the nature, causes, effects, and significance of virtue; and the purpose of philosophy).

Plato's Phaedo is the recommended reading for the next two courses.  It is not brief, but can be read in parts.  A classic discussion of the theory of the Forms, which will be a focus of the class on October 25, takes place over just a few pages, as part of Socrates' account of his own intellectual development (in most editions, numbered in the margins 95e-102a).

Any edition of the Phaedo can be used.  The text is widely available online, for instance here:




On the linked page, you can find the section treating the theory of the Forms about two-thirds of the way into the dialogue, by searching down to the words "Socrates paused awhile" and ending at the words "the wonderful clarity of Socrates' reasoning."



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