The following is a saying of C.S. Lewis. Lewis could understand the reason why students would be hesitant to read Plato though. They thought that the old sage himself might be beyond them so they needed to approach him through someone more easy to understand. However, Lewis pointed out that students who actually read Plato find that isn’t the case.
Indeed, I found this to be the case as well as I followed Lewis’s maxim. I decided just last year even that instead of simply reading about Plato, I would read Plato. I ordered his complete works and read right through them! Fascinating! So fascinating that in some spare time, I’m even reading through them again.
It has been a great joy also to hear that some people have taken my advice to read him as well and picked up some of his dialogues. My own roommate, a really awesome guy and friend of course who I’m blessed to have in my life, went and ordered the complete works as well. There is great joy in that.
I also went that same time and ordered the basic works of Aristotle. (Before some of you start wondering about basic works, I ask you to do an Amazon search and just find out how much is included in the basic works.) Now, I’m definitely more of a Platonist than an Aristotlean, but I did find it helpful and I can say that I have read them.
This same year, I took it upon myself to read the Qu’ran. That wasn’t necessarily an easy task, but I did it. While at the bookstore today, I found at a good price several other works that are major in the area of religion such as the Bhagavad-Gita, a copy without commentary unlike what I have, and the Analects. (I also picked up several Greek plays.)
After discussions on historical figures, I went as well and read historical works. Which ones? Authors like Plutarch and Tacitus. I have Josephus here who I have yet to go straight through yet. However, my stance has been the same. I would prefer to read the books instead of books about the books.
Don’t get me wrong entirely. I have nothing against reading books about Plato any more than I have reading books about Scripture. My contention is simply that you also need to go and read the main sources if possible. (Naturally, with some ancient works, that can’t be done.) Do you want to know what a church father said about a topic for instance? Read that church father. Wanna know what the Talmud says about Jesus? Read the Talmud!
Why am I putting this here? Because wise reading should be something for all of us and we Christians need to be wise in the literature and thought of the world. Not just in theology, but in every area.
Follow the maxim of Lewis then. Read Plato, Not books about Plato.