Alan Wood wrote in his Bertrand Russell: ‘One point is worth mentioning: the kind of life led by Russell obviously depended on a small but sufficient independent income. In fact almost all the great philosophical advances of this epoch came from men who did not have to work for a living: this applied to Moore and Wittgenstein as well. How philosophical advances are to continue in Britain, under changed economic circumstances, is a question which nobody can answer. It is certainly no answer to point to scholarships and research grants from wealthy foundations: for it is often the mark of new work in philosophy, and much creative work in science, that established orthodoxy regards it at first as rather foolish. It is hard, for example, to imagine Russell going to a local education authority, explaining that “I feel uneasy about the foundation of mathematics”, and getting enough money to live on for fifteen years while he investigated them’. (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1958, p. 44).
At Oxford, in the autumn of 1981 I asked Justin Gosling for a permission to present Plato’s Phaedrus at the Sub-faculty of Philosophy. I remember telling him: ‘I do not maintain that the Phaedrus was Plato’s first dialogue, but according to an ancient tradition it was the first dialogue, and I think it is the duty of philosophers to ask what would Plato’s dialogues look like if they were read on the basis of that ancient tradition.’ Justin Gosling replied: ‘But Julius, nobody has time for such an undertaking.’
On the 2nd of December 2015 I wrote to Nicholas Deneyer:
“Seven years ago I put on my website The Lost Plato. On that occasion I wrote to you and to other classicists and classical philosophers: ‘The Lost Plato focuses on the Phaedo plus the nine dialogues that I view as written before Socrates died. What remains to be done from the perspective opened by The Lost Plato is a systematic study of the dialogues written after the death of Socrates. In your view, should this work be undertaken? If so, what can be done that it is undertaken in conditions worthy of the work it requires? If you think that such work should not be undertaken, could you tell me why?’
To the question ‘In your view, should this work be undertaken?’ you replied ‘No’; to the question ‘If you think that such work should not be undertaken, could you tell me why?’ you replied ‘You do not name the nine dialogues you view as written before Socrates’ death. But whichever nine dialogues you were to name, there is no reason to suppose that your view about their dating is correct. Amplifying a view which there is no reason to suppose correct is not a good use of your time and talents.’
I commented on your replies in my next letter to classicists and classical philosophers (it figures in the ‘Preface to The Lost Plato’ on my website as No. III): ‘Denyer “knows” that there is no reason to suppose that my view about the dating of the nine dialogues in question is correct without taking the pains of at least opening the short “Introduction” to The Lost Plato to find out of which nine dialogues I speak. And yet, Denyer is very well aware that our putative dating of the dialogues of Plato may profoundly influence our view of them. In the “Introduction” to his Cambridge edition of Plato’s Alcibiades he says that we do not know when the dialogue was written, but that there are reasons to believe that it was written in the early 350s (p. 11). This allows him to view the dialogue on two levels: In connection with the charge against Socrates that he “corrupts young men” and in connection with Plato’s unsuccessful attempt to turn to philosophy the Syracusan tyrant Dionysius.’
I have devoted the last year to Plato’s Parmenides, which I view, as you view his Alcibiades, in connection with Plato’s unsuccessful attempt to turn to philosophy the Syracusan tyrant Dionysius. I date the dialogue between Plato’s second and the third journey to Sicily. May I tempt you to read four items on my blogPlato’s staging of the greatest difficulty concerning the Forms in the Parmenides’ (Nov. 7), ‘Allen’s misrepresentation of Plato’s Parmenides’ (Nov. 12), ‘1 A year on my blog with Plato’s Parmenides’ (Nov. 24), and ‘2 A year on my blog with Plato’s Parmenides’ (Nov. 28).
As you will see, my dating of Plato’s Parmenides is linked to my dating of Aristotle’s 1st and 3rd book of Metaphysics. I date Met. A as written during Plato’s third journey to Sicily (Plato went to Sicily to stay there); Met. B as written after Plato’s return from Sicily.
This dating of these three works makes it imperative – for me, at any rate – to read Plato’s post-Parmenides works (Timaeus, Sophist, Politicus, Philebus, Laws) hand in hand with Aristotle’s 4th – 12th book of Metaphysics. For I am tempted to view these 8 books as written during the remaining twelve years of Plato’s life, viewing Plato’s Forms, in so far as he reflects on them, in the light of the 3rd book, as a problem deserving serious consideration, as an aporia that deserves to be thought through. In the 13th book, written after the death of Plato, he demolishes the Forms as he did in the 1st book, in identical terms, with one important difference. In the 1st book he speaks of himself as one of the Platonists, in the 13th book he distances himself from them. (A 990b2-991b9 is almost identical with M 1078b34-1079b3, 1079b12-1080a8; deiknumen, oiometha, phamen, boulometha in Met. A is replaced by deiknutai, oiontai, phasin, boulontai in Met. M).
My immediate task is to accomplish the review of ‘A year on my blog with Plato’s Parmenides’, and to write a paper on ‘Plato’s defence of the Forms in the Parmenides in the light of Aristotle’s criticism of the Forms’. When I finish it, then I will devote myself to the task I have specified as imperative: to read Plato’s post-Parmenides works hand in hand with Aristotle’s 4th – 12th book of Metaphysics.
In your view, should this work be undertaken? If so, what can be done that it is undertaken in conditions worthy of the work it requires? If you think that such work should not be undertaken, could you tell me why?
What conditions I consider as worthy of the work this task requires? To have a regular contact with students and academics involved in classics and classical philosophy (a two hours slot a week, allowing for a talk, paper, or lecture and discussion in one of the leading universities, Cambridge or Oxford would be great), a decent accommodation, and a salary worthy of that work.”
Concerning my proposal ‘to read Plato’s post-Parmenides works (Timaeus, Sophist, Politicus, Philebus, Laws) hand in hand with Aristotle’s 4th – 12th book of Metaphysics’ Denyer replied:
“I am sure there will be interesting comparisons and contrasts to be made.”
Concerning my specifications of the conditions which I would ‘consider as worthy of the work this task requires’ he replied:
“It sounds as if the conditions that you consider as worthy would be provided by a research grant or a research fellowship or something of the sort. To get such things you would need to apply for them in the same way as anyone else.”
Did ‘anyone else’ spend almost fifty years studying Plato, I wondered. But I made a try so far as the Philosophy Faculty at Charles’ University and the Institute of Philosophy in Prague were concerned; concerning the results see ‘1-3 My recent Prague venture’ on my blog.
In the mean-time I wrote and put on my website ‘Plato’s defence of the Forms in the Parmenides’. I hoped someone would invite me to present it at their University. No invitation has come so far, and so again, with a heavy heart, I shall have to offer the paper to the Master of Balliol. What reply can I hope for?