Commentaries on Plato: Phaedrus and Ion

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Harvard University Press, 2008 - History - 269 pages

Marsilio Ficino (1433–1499), the Florentine scholar-philosopher-magus, was largely responsible for the Renaissance revival of Plato. The publication of his Latin translations of the dialogues in 1484 was an intellectual event of the first magnitude, making the Platonic canon accessible to western Europe after the passing of a millennium and establishing Plato as an authority for Renaissance thought. This volume contains Ficino’s extended analysis and commentary on the Phaedrus, which he explicates as a meditation on “beauty in all its forms” and a sublime work of theology. In the commentary on the Ion, Ficino explores a poetics of divine inspiration that leads to the Neoplatonist portrayal of the soul as a rhapsode whose song is an ascent into the mind of God. Both works bear witness to Ficino’s attempt to revive a Christian Platonism and what might be called an Orphic Christianity.

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Contents

Prefatory Note
vii
The Mythical Hymn of the Phaedrus
2
Commentary on the Phaedrus
39
Copyright

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About the author (2008)

Marsilio Ficino (1433-99) was a leading thinker in Florence, a magnet for the most brilliant scholars of fifteenth-century Europe, where the Italian Renaissance derived its impulse and direction, and where the West was awakened to a new realization about itself. In devoting most of his life to the study and translation of the great dialogues of Plato and the Neoplatonists, Ficino and his colleagues were midwives to the birth of the modern world.

Michael J. B. Allen is Distinguished Professor of English, University of California, Los Angeles .

Plato was born c. 427 B.C. in Athens, Greece, to an aristocratic family very much involved in political government. Pericles, famous ruler of Athens during its golden age, was Plato's step-father. Plato was well educated and studied under Socrates, with whom he developed a close friendship. When Socrates was publically executed in 399 B.C., Plato finally distanced himself from a career in Athenian politics, instead becoming one of the greatest philosophers of Western civilization. Plato extended Socrates's inquiries to his students, one of the most famous being Aristotle. Plato's The Republic is an enduring work, discussing justice, the importance of education, and the qualities needed for rulers to succeed. Plato felt governors must be philosophers so they may govern wisely and effectively. Plato founded the Academy, an educational institution dedicated to pursuing philosophic truth. The Academy lasted well into the 6th century A.D., and is the model for all western universities. Its formation is along the lines Plato laid out in The Republic. Many of Plato's essays and writings survive to this day. Plato died in 347 B.C. at the age of 80.

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