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Plato As Public Intellectual: E.R. Dodds’ Edition of the Gorgias and its ‘Primary Purpose’

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image of Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought

E.R. Dodds’ 1959 edition of Plato’s Gorgias is a conventional treatment of this dialogue, aimed at audiences interested in close study of the text. Dodds himself regretted this outcome. He felt he had lost sight of an earlier goal, formulated at a time of political turmoil on the eve of WorldWar II, of using the Gorgias to bring out ‘both the resemblance and the difference between Plato’s situation and that of the intellectual today’. The present paper attempts to reconstruct that goal, as it survives residually in his edition, surfaces in his The Greeks and the Irrational, and appears in some writings from the 1930s, particularly in unpublished lectures. Dodds did frequently juxtapose ancient and modern conceptions of the intellectual, and in a way that cast Plato in a positive light, as someone politically engaged and self-critical, and acutely sensitive, as Dodds himself was, to the political implications of social psychology.


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