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Nikulin, Dmitri, ed. The Other Plato: The Tubingen Interpretation of Plato's Inner-Academic Teachings.

NIKULIN, Dmitri, ed. The Other Plato: The Tubingen Interpretation of Plato's Inner-Academic Teachings. SUNY Series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy. SUNY Series in Ancient Greek Philosophy. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2012. vii + 223 pp. Cloth, $80.00; Paper, $29.95--The Tubingen School believes that Plato's philosophy cannot be adequately understood by only studying his written work (a "sola scriptura" approach). Since Plato states that his doctrines are not fully expressed in his writings, one must synthesize the dialogues with the extant reports of the Academy's teachings (Plato's unwritten doctrines) in order to accurately reconstruct Plato's positions. Similar to Neoplatonism, the Tubingen School maintains that there is an underlying doctrinal harmony among the dialogues and the testimonies, and that the goal of Plato's philosophy is to reduce all reality to one or two causal principles (the One and Indefinite Dyad).

Nikulin presents this essay collection as an introduction to Tubingen interpretations of Plato for scholars who cannot read German (but who can handle Greek phrases and French quotations!). The volume contains Nikulin's introduction, five articles translated from German by Mario Wenning, one originally in English, a bibliography of cited sources (not necessarily the most recent scholarship), an index locorum, and an index. Inexplicably for a 223-page volume, the final sections of two articles are omitted due to "limitations of space." All articles focus on metaphysical and mathematical issues, and Republic 6-7 features prominently, thereby creating the impression that the "Other Plato" is a diminished Plato. In reality, especially if one includes Giovanni Reale's work, the interests of the Tubingen School are much broader. Finally, no article squarely addresses two difficulties regarding Plato's unwritten doctrines that were raised back in 1945 by Harold Chemiss. First, whether and to what degree can Aristotle's reports of Platonism be trusted, since Aristotle often polemically distorts his opponent's positions? Second, Seventh Letter 344d claims "if Dionysius or anyone else ... has written concerning the first and highest principles of nature, he has not properly heard or understood anything of what he has written about." What are we to make of the fact that Plato himself warns us not to trust reports of his unwritten doctrines?

Nikulin's introduction contains much information about the Tubingen approach and the controversies against and within the school. His summary of the differences between Tubingen and Leo Strauss is very helpful, but some of his personal stands on interpretative issues are less so. For instance, Nikulin says that the Indefinite Dyad is the material principle of all reality, but is neither the receptacle of the Timaeus nor

the "that which is not" of Republic V. However, why should Aristotle's account of matter as substrate be favored over Plato's account of matter as receptacle in the interpretation of Plato's metaphysics?

Hans Joachim Kramer's 1969 "Epekiena tes Ousias [Beyond Being]" and 1996 "Plato's Unwritten Doctrines" are perhaps a better introduction to the Tubingen School. The first argues that Plato's account of the Good in the Republic defies interpretation unless it is contextualized within the reports of the unwritten doctrines and the metaphysical discussions of Plato's day. Kramer then argues that the Good of Republic is the One of the unwritten doctrines and explains the One/Good and the Ideas in reference to Eleatic philosophy. The second article discusses Plato's attitudes toward writings and teaching, summarizes the connection points between the unwritten teachings and the dialogues, and responds to some criticisms of Kramer's interpretative methods.

Konrad Gaiser's 1986 "Plato's Synopsis of the Mathematical Sciences" seeks to fill in Plato's sketch of mathematical studies as preparation for metaphysics. Gaiser closely examines the accounts of mathematics in Plato's works and in Epinomis and only brings in the unwritten doctrines as supporting evidence (though perhaps Gaiser's conclusions are already determined by them). Gaiser argues that mathematics discovers and analyzes the opposition between unity and multiplicity found in all levels of reality, an opposition ultimately unified in the One, which "transcends the possibilities of language and non-contradictory logic."

Thomas Szlezak's "The Idea of the Good as Arkhe in Plato's Republic" overlaps surprisingly little with Kramer's article. Szlezak argues that Socrates presents the Good as the final cause of all things and as the ultimate efficient cause of "all value, knowledge, and being." This interpretation of the Good is corroborated by the unwritten doctrine of the ultimate principles of the One/Good and the Dyad, as long as one realizes that in the Republic Socrates deliberately and openly conceals Plato's complete doctrine of principles (Szlezak points to "deliberate gaps" in Socrates' presentations), while also earnestly revealing the first principle in part.

Jens Halfwassen's 2002 "Monism and Dualism in Plato's Doctrine of the Principles," seeks to resolve the disagreement about whether Plato reduced reality to a single principle (Gaiser, Plotinus) or to two (Kramer, Aristotle, with qualification). Halfwassen argues that Plato reduces reality to a single transcendent cause, but the deduction of reality from that cause requires a principle of duality whose origination from the One cannot be rationally accounted for. Plato left a problematic combination of "reductive monism" with "deductive dualism" for his followers to wrestle with.

Lastly, Vittorio Hosle's 1982 "Plato's Foundation of the Euclidean Character of Geometry" develops Imre Toth's thesis that passages in Aristotle show that the Academy was aware of the possibility of non Euclidean geometry. Gaiser, in note forty-six of his article, judges that Hosle's speculation that Plato provided an ontological foundation for Euclidean geometry lacks textual support.

Insofar as the Tubingen scholars contextualize Plato's dialogues in the philosophical, mathematical, and scientific thinking of ancient Greece, all serious students of Plato should consider their work, lest we read into Plato our own concerns and conclusions. Evaluating when the connections and interpretations of the Tubingen School strike gold and when they overreach is a valuable task for all scholars seeking to discern Plato's true teachings and intentions.--Brandon Zimmerman, Good Shepherd Seminary
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Author:Zimmerman, Brandon
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2014
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