Referential Opacity and Hermeneutics in Plato’s Dialogue Form


The paper argues that Plato’s dialogue form creates a Quinean “opaque context” that segregates the assertions by Plato’s characters in the dialogues from both Plato and the real world with the result that the dialogues require a hermeneutical interpretation. Sec. I argues that since the assertions in the dialogues are located inside an opaque context, the forms of life of the characters in the dialogues acquires primary philosophical importance for Plato. The second section argues that the thesis of Sec. I coheres with the claim in Plato’s Seventh Letter that since philosophical truth is incommunicable by means of language it is of primary importance for philosophers to develop proper “schemes of living” (forms of life). Sec. III argues since the forms of life of the characters portrayed in the dialogues is of primary philosophical importance for Plato, and since hermeneutical methods are required to interpret emerging forms of life, Plato’s dialogues are positively crafted to be read hermeneutically. Sec IV argues that Heidegger, who is famous for seeing Plato’s views as antithetical to his own hermeneutical approach, is mistaken, and that Plato’s real views are, in principle, more akin to Heidegger’s views than he thinks.

Keywords: Plato, opaque contexts, hermeneutics, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Dilthey, Lessing, Seventh Letter, life-world, limits of thought

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