Read Plato's Theory of Knowledge by Francis Macdonald Cornford Free Online
Book Title: Plato's Theory of Knowledge|
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Reader ratings: 6.2
The author of the book: Francis Macdonald Cornford
Date of issue: December 13th 2013
ISBN 13: 9781317830214
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 18.61 MB
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Francis Cornford does a decent job of presenting these dialogues; and, as the name indicates, these dialogues are dedicated to Plato's philosophy regarding knowledge, and elucidates his theory of forms. I have read Cornford's translation and commentary on Plato's Timaeus and thought Cornford had a very good understanding of the text; although, I didn't always agree with his conclusions. Like that commentary, I don't necessarily agree with all of Cornford's conclusions here either; but, over all, I think he has a pretty good grasp of the text.
There are some other dialogues that round out the information Plato presents here. Along with the Theaetetus and the Sophist, the dialogues: Philebus, Timaeus, Parmenides, Meno, the Republic and to a degree, Phaedrus, Phaedo and the Symposium can be included and do present further important aspects of Plato's philosophy of forms and/or knowledge. I do like the fact that Cornford regularly supplies the Greek text in footnotes and in the commentary; so one knows when Plato is using terms like ousias, eidolas, ontos, genos etc. That is a complaint I have with many translations where the subject matter can often be ambiguous. It is great to have the underlying text so one can gain a little bit better comprehension.
In the Theaetetus, Plato refutes Protagoras' relativistic philosophy (i.e. that man is the measure); and in the Sophist he largely refutes Parmenides' ideas regarding absolute unity and non-being equaling non-existence. I did find Plato's insistence that non-being equates simply to difference, not to non-existence, to be incredibly interesting. You find similar notions later on in idealists like Schelling. Plato also breaks down existence into distinct categories -not in the Aristotelian sense, however. Categories have regard to "kind", "sameness", "difference" etc. Plato is seeking to find the underlying form as a means of determining the source of division in these categories. His main objective seems to be to deduce what forms are basic and can either be joined to, or are absolutely distinct from and opposed to, other forms. He also investigates perception in these dialogues and refutes it's reliability as a source of knowledge.
As it stands, these are essential dialogues in the Platonic canon, and as such, well worth reading.
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Read information about the author1874-1943. Classicist
Cornford was educated at St Paul's School and was admitted to Trinity in 1893, being elected a Scholar the following year. Cornford obtained firsts in both parts of the classical tripos in 1905 and 1907; he was awarded the Chancellor's Classical Medal in the latter year. In 1897 he applied for the Chair of Greek at Cardiff, but was unsuccessful. However, in 1899 he was elected a Fellow of Trinity. He was appointed Assistant Lecturer in Classics in 1902 and Lecturer in 1904. In 1909 he married Frances Darwin, daughter of Ellen Crofts of Newnham College and the botanist Francis Darwin.
During the First World War Cornford was a musketry instructor at Grantham and rose to the rank of Captain before transferring to the Ministry of Munitions.
In 1921 and 1928 Cornford was unsuccessfully a candidate for the Regius Chair of Greek. In 1927 he was appointed Brereton Reader in Classics and four years later became the first to hold the Laurence Chair in Ancient Philosophy, a post which he held until retirement in 1939. He was elected FBA in 1937.
Early in his academic career, Cornford became disenchanted with "Cambridge classics" with its emphasis on philology, and published The Cambridge Classical Course: an essay in anticipation of further reform in 1903. He soon allied with like-minded persons such as Jane Ellen Harrison, Gilbert Murray and A.B. Cook in a group that became known as the "Cambridge Ritualists" who looked for the underlying thoughts and myths that underpinned classical Greece. A string of publications ensued: Thucydides Mythistoricus (1907), From Religion to Philosophy: a study in the origins of Western speculation (1912), The Origins of Attic Comedy (1914), Greek Religious thought from Homer to Alexander (1923), The Laws of Motion in Ancient Thought (1931), Before and After Socrates (1931), Plato's Theory of Knowledge: the Theaetetus and Sophist of Plato (1935), Plato's Cosmology: the Timaeus of Plato (1937), Plato and Parmenides (1939). Unwritten Philosophy and Other essays was published posthumously.
Cornford was also active politically on the Cambridge scene. In 1897 he organised a student petition in favour of degrees for women and in 1904 published an anonymous flysheet on the subject of compulsory chapel. To support rationalist moves in the University he joined with C.K. Ogden in founding the Heretics. His most famous excursion into University politics was Microcosmographia Academica, first published anonymously in 1908 and reissued many times since. In it he satirises the Cambridge system and the types of administrator that it produced. During WWI, when Bertrand Russell was deprived of his College lectureship, Cornford was one of the body of Fellows that attempted to get him reinstated.
Cornford died at his home, Conduit Head on 3 January 1943.
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