Plato’s work was unknown to Western Europe for most of its history. The full body of Plato’s writings first became available to Latin language readers in 1484 A.D. – 1,831 years after Plato’s death. From the time of Cicero until the 12th century only half of the Timaeus was available in Latin, then around 1160 A.D. the Phaedo and the Meno were translated.
Plato started becoming available in modern languages in 1804 A.D. – 2,151 years after his death, almost a quarter century after Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, and almost two centuries after Descartes’s Discourse on Method. Other than mystical Neo-Platonic interpretive claims and a bit of somewhat benign gossip from Aristotle, absolutely nothing of Plato’s own thought was known in the West until almost two millennia after his death.
Two millennia later! Let this sink in, then consider if you want to lend credence to Alfred Whitehead’s celebrated quip that “the European philosophical tradition … consists of a series of footnotes to Plato”. Continue reading