Rational Spirituality and Divine Virtue in Plato

A Modern Interpretation and Philosophical Defense of Platonism

By Michael LaFargue

Subjects: Philosophy, Religion, Plato, Ancient Greek Philosophy, Classics
Paperback : 9781438460246, 284 pages, January 2017
Hardcover : 9781438460253, 284 pages, May 2016

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Table of contents


1. Overview

2. The Objectivity of the Good

3. Limits

4. Elaborations

5. Rules of Socratic Method

6. Text and Commentary (1): Concrete Reality and Abstract Forms in the Republic

7. Text and Commentary (2): Plato’s Ideal Philosopher

8. Implications and Examples

9. (Mis-)Categorizing Plato

Appendix Sample Paper Assignment for a College Course

Works Cited

Describes a Platonic personal spirituality based on reason that is readily accessible to people today.


Michael LaFargue presents an important and accessible aspect of Plato's legacy largely overlooked today: a variety of personal spirituality based on reason and centered on virtue. Plato's Virtue-Forms are transcendent in their goodness, ideals that Platonists can use to improve character and become like God so far as is humanly possible. LaFargue constructs a model of inductive Socratic reasoning capable of acquiring knowledge of these perfect Virtue-Forms, then scales back claims about these Forms to what can be supported by this kind of reasoning. This is a critical theory, but also a pluralistic one that accommodates modern cultural diversity. A how-to chapter provides detailed descriptions of the rules of Socratic reasoning basic to this spirituality, which any interested individual can practice today. LaFargue supports his interpretation by a close reading of the Greek text of key passages in Plato's dialogues. The work also undertakes a broader philosophical consideration, discussing the philosophical foundations proposed for this Platonism in relation to the thought of G. E. Moore, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Martin Heidegger, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Richard Rorty.

Michael LaFargue is former Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, Religious Studies, and Asian Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston. His books include The Tao of the Tao Te Ching: A Translation and Commentary; Tao and Method: A Reasoned Approach to the Tao Te Ching; and Lao-tzu and the Tao-te-ching, all published by SUNY Press.


"Readers will find in LaFargue's book both a critical reconstruction of Platonic ethical inquiry, suitable for use today, and a thought-provoking essay into the interpretation of Plato. " — International Journal of the Platonic Tradition