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Plato (429–347 B.C.E.)

In his 1929 book, Process and Reality, Alfred North Whitehead remarked: ‘The safest general characterisation of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato’. Indeed, Plato, along with his teacher Socrates and his student Aristotle, was a foundational figure for Western thought and culture. Born in Athens to a noble family, Plato was one of Socrates’ most diligent disciples, his own thinking shaped as much by his teacher’s lessons as his unjust death. At the heart of the Platonist view of the universe is the notion that material reality is derivative of a truer, and more real world consisting of universal forms. Truth as such, then, is irreducible to any of its material supports or instantiations, a view that would surface in the Platonist school of modern mathematics, which insists upon the transhistorical reality, and validity, of mathematics itself beyond a series of symbolic gestures and inscriptions. In addition to his major work, The Republic, a series of Socratic dialogues constitutes the bulk of Plato’s surviving writings, two of which were extensively addressed in the Cahiers pour l’Analyse: the Sophist and the Parmenides. Xavier Audouard and Jean-Claude Milner each devote articles to the Sophist in volume three, wherein they explore the relations between being and semblance, or being and non-being. François Regnault takes the Parmenides as his ‘authority’ in his contribution to volume nine, a ‘dialectic of epistemologies’ exploring the relation of the one to the multiple and its implications for a doctrine of science. Plato’s importance for the Cercle d’Épistémologie is far from exhausted in the Cahiers themselves. Plato would come to be a signal resource in the later work of Alain Badiou, ultimately serving as the subject of the latter’s final seminars at the École Normale Supérieure between 2007 and 2010.

In the Cahiers pour l’Analyse

Xavier Audouard, ‘Le Simulacre’, CpA 3.4 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]
Jean-Claude Milner, ‘Le Point du signifiant’, CpA 3.5 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]
François Regnault, ‘Dialectique d’épistémologies’, CpA 9.4 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]

Select bibliography

  • Plato and Parmenides, ed. and with commentary by Francis Cornford. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1950.
  • Sophist, trans. Nicholas B. White. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1993.
  • Plato: Complete Works, ed. John M. Cooper and D.S. Hutchinson. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1997.
  • Republic, trans. C.D.C. Reeve. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2004.