The best Plato books

2 authors have picked their favorite books about Plato and why they recommend each book.

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Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible

By Russell E. Gmirkin,

Book cover of Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible

Along with his other book, Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus: Hellenistic Histories and the Date of the Pentateuch, Russell Gmirkin puts forward compelling evidence to show that many of the most revered works of Jewish scripture were produced after the conquests of Alexander the Great, hundreds of years later than widely believed. Relationships between the Jewish Torah and the works of Plato have long been acknowledged by scholars, dating back to antiquity. Jews had long claimed that it was Plato who had derived his concepts from their writings, but here Gmirkin shows convincingly that the relationship goes the other way around. This realization has profound implications for our understanding of the origins of Judaism and Christianity.


Who am I?

I have been fascinated by the Bible since my earliest days in Sunday school, coloring pictures of Noah’s Ark. Yet, even as a young child I was very skeptical of the Christian interpretation of biblical stories, seeing that they couldn’t possibly be true. But I’ve always respected the Bible as a literary work and sought to understand its details. In my years of researching the Bible and Christian origins, several works stand out as being particularly important in shaping my understanding of Judaism and Christianity. These are those books.


I wrote...

Deciphering the Gospels: Proves Jesus Never Existed

By R.G. Price,

Book cover of Deciphering the Gospels: Proves Jesus Never Existed

What is my book about?

The Christian Bible is one of the most fascinating and important literary creations ever produced. Like many ancient works, the Bible is filled with literary puzzles, secret codes, hidden references, and masked allegory. Deciphering the Gospels examines many aspects of the Gospel of Mark to show that the story is a fictional allegory, based not on the life of Jesus, but rather on the life of Paul. It goes on to show how understanding the fictional scenes in the Gospel of Mark changes our understanding of everything we think we know about Jesus.

Lethe

By Harold Weinrich, Steven Rendall (translator),

Book cover of Lethe: The Art and Critique of Forgetting

An inspirational exploration of profound contemplations on forgetting, which takes the reader on a guided tour through neglected passages in the writings of illustrious writers from antiquity to present times, including Homer, Ovid, Plato, Augustine, Dante, Rabelais, Montaigne, Cervantes, Locke, Voltaire, Kant, Goethe, Nietzsche, Sartre, Elie Wiesel, Primo Levi, Böll, Borges, and many others.


Who am I?

Guy Beiner specializes in the history of social remembering in the late modern era. An interest in Irish folklore and oral traditions as historical sources led him to explore folk memory, which in turn aroused an interest in forgetting. He examines the many ways in which communities recall their past, as well as how they struggle with the urge to supress troublesome memories of discomfiting episodes.


I wrote...

Forgetful Remembrance: Social Forgetting and Vernacular Historiography of a Rebellion in Ulster

By Guy Beiner,

Book cover of Forgetful Remembrance: Social Forgetting and Vernacular Historiography of a Rebellion in Ulster

What is my book about?

Forgetful Remembrance examines the paradoxes of what actually happens when communities persistently endeavour to forget inconvenient events. The question of how a society attempts to obscure problematic historical episodes is addressed through a detailed case study grounded in the north-eastern counties of the Irish province of Ulster, where loyalist and unionist Protestants--and in particular Presbyterians--repeatedly tried to repress over two centuries discomfiting recollections of participation, alongside Catholics, in a republican rebellion in 1798.

Plato's Symposium

By Plato, Seth Benardete, Allan Bloom

Book cover of Plato's Symposium

Plato’s scintillating dialogue on the meaning of Love (as purveyed by a group of fifth-century Athenians including Socrates) is one of the key biographical texts about the philosopher. Allan Bloom provides an insightful essay on the central notion of the dialogue attributed to the ‘clever woman’ Diotima: the Ladder of Love.


Who am I?

I have studied the ancient world for over 50 years and have found that there are always new things to discover. Everyone thought that all that was known about Socrates had already been said, so I was excited to discover new evidence for his relationship with Aspasia - a woman of extraordinary influence and intellect - hiding in plain sight. I am a Professor of Classics at Oxford University and Fellow and Tutor in Classics at Jesus College, Oxford


I wrote...

Socrates in Love

By Armand D’Angour,

Book cover of Socrates in Love

What is my book about?

Socrates: the philosopher whose questioning gave birth to the ideas of Western thought, and whose execution marked the end of the Athenian "Golden Age". But what was he like as a younger man, and what impelled him to take the path of philosophy? My book investigates these questions, and unravels the evidence for a surprising and overlooked influence on Socrates' life and thought - the brilliant and unfairly defamed Aspasia of Miletus.

The Unknown Socrates

By Marc Mastrangelo, R. Scott Smith, Stephen M. Trzaskoma, William M. Calder, Bernhard Huss

Book cover of The Unknown Socrates

This book provides a series of translations of ancient texts relating to the life of Socrates, raising questions about his earlier trajectory among other things. The scattered sources gathered in this volume tell a very different story about the philosopher from that normally obtained by concentrating almost exclusively on his trial and death.


Who am I?

I have studied the ancient world for over 50 years and have found that there are always new things to discover. Everyone thought that all that was known about Socrates had already been said, so I was excited to discover new evidence for his relationship with Aspasia - a woman of extraordinary influence and intellect - hiding in plain sight. I am a Professor of Classics at Oxford University and Fellow and Tutor in Classics at Jesus College, Oxford


I wrote...

Socrates in Love

By Armand D’Angour,

Book cover of Socrates in Love

What is my book about?

Socrates: the philosopher whose questioning gave birth to the ideas of Western thought, and whose execution marked the end of the Athenian "Golden Age". But what was he like as a younger man, and what impelled him to take the path of philosophy? My book investigates these questions, and unravels the evidence for a surprising and overlooked influence on Socrates' life and thought - the brilliant and unfairly defamed Aspasia of Miletus.

Plato

By John M. Cooper, G.M.A. Grube, Plato

Book cover of Plato: Five Dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo

These dialogues introduce the ideas that gave birth to western philosophy and its contributions to civilization. Providing the foundations of rational thought and theoretical knowledge in multiple domains, Greek philosophers, especially Socrates and Plato, imbued the search for truth with the urgency of both a personal, and a communal, quest for meaning. Just as the advances of Greek mathematics required concepts that are precisely defined or rigorously governed by axioms, so, the dialogues teach, advances in our knowledge of the world, and of ourselves, require well-regulated concepts like truth, knowledge, justice, virtue, and happiness. In these dialogues, we see the birth of philosophy's two great projects--providing concepts needed to advance theoretical knowledge in every domain and charting the path to wisdom in leading a good and meaningful life.


Who am I?

A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, I was educated at Stanford and MIT. I taught for four years at Yale and 24 years at Princeton before moving to USC, where I am Chair of the Philosophy Department. I specialize in the Philosophy of Language, History of Philosophy, and the Philosophy of Law. I have published many articles, authored fifteen books, co-authored two, and co-edited two. I am fascinated by philosophy's enduring role in our individual and collective lives, impressed by its ability to periodically reinvent itself, and challenged to bring what it has to offer to more students and to the broader culture.


I wrote...

The World Philosophy Made: From Plato to the Digital Age

By Scott Soames,

Book cover of The World Philosophy Made: From Plato to the Digital Age

What is my book about?

Western Philosophy, as it has been done for more than two millennia, is the partner of all advancing disciplines. My book is about the contributions philosophy has made, and continues to make, to our civilization. Our natural science, mathematics and technology, our social science, political institutions, and economic life, our culture, religion, morality, and our understanding of ourselves have been shaped by philosophy.

Philosophy never advances against a background or rank ignorance. It flourishes when enough is known about some domain to make great progress conceivable, despite being temporarily stymied because new methods are needed. Philosophers help by giving us new concepts, reinterpreting old truths, and reconceptualizing questions to expand their solution spaces.  Sometimes they do this when sciences are born, sometimes they do it as sciences mature.  As human knowledge advances there is more, not less, for philosophy to do. Our knowledge of the universe and ourselves grows like an expanding sphere of light emanating from a single point. As light travels in all directions away from its source, the volume of the sphere, representing our secure knowledge, grows exponentially.  But so does the surface area of the sphere, representing the border, where knowledge blurs into doubt bringing back methodological uncertainty. Philosophy monitors the border, ready to help plot our next move.

This Craft of Verse

By Jorge Luis Borges,

Book cover of This Craft of Verse

If you love Borges, and thought you’d read everything he wrote, this is the book for you—a collection of his “lost lectures,” delivered at Harvard in 1967-68 and finally published in 2000. And if you want to hear the actual voice of a creative genius, as if risen from the dead, the recordings are also available. Best known for his intricate short stories and essays, Borges was also—perhaps foremost—a poet. As he puts it in the book, “The central fact of my life has been the existence of words and the possibility of weaving those words into poetry.” Starting from the creation of poems, Borges explores the creation of metaphors, meaning, and life’s irreducible mystery.


Who am I?

I’m a professor of cognitive psychology at UCLA, and also a poet. Growing up on a dairy farm in British Columbia, I immersed myself in the world of books. My mother showed me her well-worn copy of a poetry book written by her Scottish great-great-aunt, and I longed to create my own arrangements of words. Later, as a student at the University of British Columbia and then Stanford, my interest in creativity was channeled into research on how people think. I’ve studied how people use analogies and metaphors to create new ideas. In addition to books on the psychology of thinking and reasoning, I’ve written several volumes of poetry.


I wrote...

The Spider's Thread: Metaphor in Mind, Brain, and Poetry

By Keith J. Holyoak,

Book cover of The Spider's Thread: Metaphor in Mind, Brain, and Poetry

What is my book about?

I’ve approached creativity as both psychologist and poet, but I always kept a mental curtain drawn between the two points of view—until I wrote The Spider’s Thread. Taking poetry as a microcosm for human creativity, I explore it simultaneously from the “outside” view of a scientist and the “inside” view of a poet. I draw on the ideas of scientists— psychologists, neuroscientists, linguists, and computer scientists— as well as thinkers from the humanities—poets, philosophers, and critics. Each chapter begins with a poem (by the likes of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sylvia Plath, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Theodore Roethke, Du Fu, William Butler Yeats, and Pablo Neruda), and then steps back to explore wider connections to metaphor, mind, and the human brain. 

Plato and the Nerd

By Edward Ashford Lee,

Book cover of Plato and the Nerd: The Creative Partnership of Humans and Technology

Lee covers and connects two of my favorite topics, creativity, and technology. From the facts and truths of technology to the role models play in creativity (looking at how early philosophers suggested modeling thought), he argues that computers are not universal machines and that their power comes from their partnership with humans.


Who am I?

During my life, I’ve been told that I was not a true engineer, not a true banker, not a true CEO, not a true entrepreneur, not a true teacher… But one day an executive told me: “I want to work with you because you’re not a true consultant.” I then realized it is was a privilege not to be a true something! I like to call myself a corporate philosopher. Fellow of the BCG Henderson Institute, and co-founder of Cartoonbase, I split my time between the worlds of academia and business. I have published several other books on various subjects such as language, mathematics, humor, or fallacies.


I wrote...

Be Logical, Be Creative, Be Critical: the Art of Thinking in a Digital World

By Luc de Brabandere,

Book cover of Be Logical, Be Creative, Be Critical: the Art of Thinking in a Digital World

What is my book about?

AI and human intelligence. Fine, but who is programming who? The power of the computer should not come as a surprise since it was designed with the purpose of enabling humans to amplify their reasoning skills. But we should be aware that, if it allows us to think ahead, the computer influences our way of thinking as well. Thinking is clearly no longer what it used to be and, in my new book coauthored with Lina Benmehrez, I invite you to rediscover the art of thinking in a digital world through logic, creativity and sound argumentation!

This essay takes us back to ancient Greece where logical and critical thinking were first formalized. It also reminds us of more recent developments in cognitive sciences that include creative thinking. 

Phaedrus

By Plato,

Book cover of Phaedrus

I frequently return to Plato and his portrayal of Socrates. The Phaedrus intrigues me. It is a difficult work for piecing together, yet with fascinating thoughts, taking us from rhetoric to erotic love to the search for Beauty, Truth, the Good.  What it is to be human continues to baffle me — not least because we often do have a sense of 'going beyond' the mystical. Yes — I do write as an atheist.  


Who am I?

Who knows why, but I have always been enticed by absurdities, paradoxes, incongruities — I use them in my talks, articles, and books — of everyday lives, our humanity, and mysteries of our ‘going on.’ Reflections on being human can be triggered by humour such as Cambridge’s Beyond the Fringe and New York’s sitcom Seinfeld — within which I wallow — as well as by lengthy philosophical works and novels. My work draws on bafflements: for example, shampoo instructions “Lather, rinse, repeat” (making shampoo-ing infinite?); Barmaid to Peter Cook, “Bitter?”, reply being “Just tired”— and Samuel Beckett’s “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” Yes, I go on.


I wrote...

Humanism: A Beginner's Guide

By Peter Cave,

Book cover of Humanism: A Beginner's Guide

What is my book about?

Why should we believe in God without any evidence? How can there be meaning in life when death is final? With historical adherents including such thinkers as Einstein, Freud, Philip Pullman, and Frank Zappa, the central quest of "Humanism" is to make sense of such questions, explaining the ethical and metaphysical by appealing to shared human values, rationality, and tolerance. Essential reading for atheists, agnostics, ignostics, freethinkers, rationalists, skeptics, and believers too, this Beginner's Guide will explain all aspects of the Humanist philosophy whilst providing an alternative and valuable conception of life without religion.

The book also has a personal flavour, it is as challenging to the reductionism of the sciences as it is to the claims of religions. It is as thoughtful on our existence as on our extinction. 

Stoicism

By Brad Inwood,

Book cover of Stoicism: A Very Short Introduction

If you read the three books mentioned above, you will get a very good idea about Stoicism and how it can help you to lead a better life. But these books do not give a comprehensive overall picture of Stoic philosophy. They tend to ignore many aspects of Stoicism. If you want to have a good overall understanding of Stoic philosophy without having to spend a lot of time or money, get this book. In just 152 pages, Brad Inwood, a distinguished Stoic scholar, gives a clear account of what Stoicism is all about. If you are serious about Stoicism, at some point you need to have a reasonable understanding of what Stoicism actually was and is. You can find no better introduction to Stoicism than this.

This book is so concise, comprehensive, and clear, there’s no other book that directly competes with this one.


Who am I?

I am the Editor of the free online magazine The Stoic and the author of some twenty books on Stoicism. My day job is President, Leger Analytics, and I am also a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ryerson University. I am not a professional philosopher. I study and write about Stoicism because it helps us to live better, free of fear, anxiety, worry, or anger.


I wrote...

Unshakable Freedom: Ancient Stoic Secrets Applied to Modern Life

By Chuck Chakrapani,

Book cover of Unshakable Freedom: Ancient Stoic Secrets Applied to Modern Life

What is my book about?

Most of us are outwardly free but not inwardly so. Anger, fear, worry, and anxiety entrap us. Is it possible to be completely and utterly free no matter what is happening to us now and what may happen in the future? Yes, said the ancient Stoics and gave us a blueprint for a happy life. Two thousand years later their blueprint still works the way they said it would.

Unshakable Freedom brings Stoicism to the digital age. Using contemporary, as well as historical, examples of people who used Stoicism to achieve personal freedom, this book offers a path to the good life, including 12 specific mental exercises you can do to achieve personal freedom.

On Photography

By Susan Sontag,

Book cover of On Photography

Sontag, like Boorstin, was prescient. She was the first to make the claim, for example, that photography is misleading and seductive because it looks like unaltered reality, but never is. Sontag had in mind the photographer’s choice of what to aim her camera at. But clearly, her insight is even truer today as advertisers – and even ordinary people creating family albums, or posting their bodies for perusal on Instagram – have at their disposal digital technology that can make significant alterations that present bodies as firmer, younger, less blemished than they actually are. She also viewed the mere act of taking a picture as predatory: when we see something shocking or beautiful, our first impulse is to get out of the camera and “capture” it. She died, however, before the smartphone enabled observers to capture injustice and abuse, and I often wonder what she would have to say about…


Who am I?

I was born in 1947, in the first wave of the baby boom, and was part of the first generation to grow up immersed in television, movies, and popular music. I have always felt the force of pop culture in my life.  But it was only at a certain point that it became something that I felt I could write about and be taken seriously. Writers like Pauline Kael made it possible for me because they obviously adored popular culture but they neither puffed it up nor dumbed it down. They wrote about it with intelligence, honesty, and curiosity and also as a barometer of where people were at and where society was going. That’s what I’ve aimed at in my own writing, from my books on the male and female body to those on politics and the media to my most recent exploration of the impact of television on our lives.


I wrote...

TV

By Susan Bordo,

Book cover of TV

What is my book about?

Once upon a time, the news was only 15 minutes long and middle-class families huddled around a tiny black-and-white screen, TV dinners on their laps, awaiting weekly sitcoms that depicted an all-white world in which mom wore pearls and heels as she baked endless pies. If this seems a distant past, that's a measure of just how much TV has changed-and changed us.

Weaving together personal memoir, social and political history, and reflecting on key moments in the history of news broadcasting and prime time entertainment, Susan Bordo opens up the 75-year-old time-capsule that is TV and illustrates what a constant companion and dominant cultural force television has been, for good and for bad, in carrying us from the McCarthy hearings and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet to Mad MenKilling Eve, and the emergence of our first reality TV president.

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