Schur, David. 2015. Plato's Wayward Path: Literary Form and the Republic. Hellenic Studies Series 66. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_SchurD.Platos_Wayward_Path.2015.
1. The Problem of Literary Form
Schleiermacher’s Model of Unified Form and Content
Schleiermacher does not deny that the dialogue form goes all over the place, but neither does he view this waywardness as a regrettable distraction. Instead, he tells us that the written composition (the whole as a specific ordering of its specific parts) is entirely motivated by a firm “purpose” (Absicht), which is to “compel” (nötigen) readers to think for themselves.  The successful reader of Plato knows how to discern “the great purposefulness in the composition of his writings” (die große Absichtlichkeit in der Zusammensetzung seiner Schriften, 5). Although Schleiermacher clearly holds that form and content in the dialogues are “inseparable” (unzertrennlich, 14), his account resembles Tennemann’s in the way it must separate irrelevant appearance from purposeful reality. This separation is especially strong in Schleiermacher’s description of the “concealment” (Verbergen) whereby a meaningful but inapparent current of activity is located “under” the surface.  Indeed, elsewhere in the “General Introduction,” Schleiermacher tries to convince those readers who turn toward extratextual sources for the philosophy they are unable to find in the writings that Plato’s philosophy is a kind of “product” (Ausbeute) that can demonstrably be “taken from” (entnommen) the writings (13). This metaphor, redolent of mining for valuable ore, would seem more suited to the traditional extraction of doctrines than a holistic attentiveness to local contexts.
Looking for Content Beyond Form
The Status of the Dialogues: Did Plato Write Platonic Dialogues?