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    Large, Duncan 2014. Literary Translation. p. 182.

  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: August 2006

5 - The art of interpreting Plato

from Part I - Schleiermacher as Philosopher


The art of interpreting Plato, according to F. D. E. Schleiermacher, consists in two things: that Plato be viewed as an artist, and that the interpreter be an artist as well as a scholar. This twofold guiding principle is easily recognizable as “romantic,” and indeed many commentators have referred to Schleiermacher's view of Plato as “romantic.” Yet the term “romantic,” however accurate, is not in itself adequate in describing Schleiermacher's interpretation of Plato. The problem, of course, is that “romantic interpretation” carries many different meanings. Often it is taken to refer to a divinatory method of interpretation that imposes an ideal type irrespective of historical evidence; yet Schleiermacher was quite critical of such an approach. Moreover, a simple appeal to the term “romantic” overlooks the fact that there are many different “romantic” interpretations of Plato, among which Schleiermacher's was one, albeit arguably the most distinctive and influential. Finally, the modifier “romantic” eclipses the very important fact that Schleiermacher's interpretation of Plato is thoroughly “modern” - if not exactly the first modern interpretation, surely the most authoritative. It is its modern quality, inseparable from its romantic elements, that marked it as a watershed in the history of Plato interpretation. In short, nomenclature can never be an adequate substitute for a more substantive explanation, especially when we are speaking of two thinkers of the magnitude of Plato and Schleiermacher. I propose, therefore, that we examine what effect Schleiermacher's view of Plato as artist (and of himself as artist) actually had on his translation and interpretation of Plato. One important thing to keep in mind is that, for Schleiermacher, art and scholarship are inseparable.

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The Cambridge Companion to Friedrich Schleiermacher
  • Online ISBN: 9781139000796
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