“On Halevi’s Kuzari as a Platonic Dialogue” by Aryeh Motzkin

Aryeh L. Motzkin, “On Halevi's Kuzari as a Platonic Dialogue,” Interpretation 9, 1 (1980), pp. 111–124.  

The late Aryeh Motzkin discusses how and why Halevi’s work should be interpreted.


Since the Kuzari is a dialogue, the first question that needs to be resolved is the mutual relations of the views of the Haver, the Jewish rabbi who is the main interlocutor, and those of the author of the dialogue. Any assertion about Halevi’s philosophic— or anti philosophic— positions necessarily presupposes at least a tentative resolution of this problem. This quandary is analogous to the problem of the relationship of the Socrates who appears in Plato’s dialogues and the author of those dialogues. As for Plato and Socrates, one may say that hardly anyone asserts today the identity of Plato’s teaching and that of the central character of his dialogues. This is the case even if we believe that Plato was more or less “Socratic” only in his “early” dialogues; and it is certainly so if we believe Plato’s second epistle, addressed to Dionysius. After attempting to explain to Dionysius why he, Plato, never wrote (that is, why one should not write) philosophical treatises, for the more rarefied the discussion, the more ludicrous would the vulgar find it— Plato declares that there does not exist (nor will there ever exist) anything written by Plato himself, and that all writings that bear his name were born or generated of a young— or new— and beautiful Socrates. In other words, Socrates of the Platonic dialogues is not, nor is he meant to be, the historical Socrates, but rather the philosophical Socrates, Socrates as he should have been, the ideal Socrates, the “idea” of Socrates, which is of course always “young and beautiful,” and does not “become old,” that is to say, does not become corrupted, nor withers away forever.

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