Plato on the communication of philosophy

Thus much at least, I can say about all writers, past or future, who say they know the things to which I devote myself, whether by hearing the teaching of me or of others, or by their own discoveries-that according to my view it is not possible for them to have any real skill in the matter. There neither is nor ever will be a treatise of mine on the subject. For it does not admit of exposition like other branches of knowledge; but after much converse about the matter itself and a life lived together, suddenly a light, as it were, is kindled in one soul by a flame that leaps to it from another, and thereafter sustains itself. 

             — Plato, Seventh Letter, J. Harward translation.

3 thoughts on “Plato on the communication of philosophy

  1. Do you think moral character is imparted in the communication of philosophy? I can’t imagine an unethical philosopher. Is morality just a part of wisdom, or are they related in some other way? I suppose they are both modes of being.

  2. I think a soul must already have a substantial moral foundation to even be receptive to philosophy; and philosophy serves to nurture it and aid its development.

    • Agreed. And yet I have no doubt that there are better and worse ways to develop our current capacities. What kind of “teaching” turns an ethical capacity into an actuality? Aristotle would say that such a transformation from dynamis/capacity to energeia/activity requires the prior work of something/someone already active. Is that what Plato is hinting at in the last sentence?

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