In general those scholars who accept the Ion as genuine agree in placing it among the first of Plato’s writings. But together with itsyouthful imperfectionsthe Ion shares with more mature works a surprising number of Platonic themes or thought-patterns. Some of these coincidences result no doubt from the fact that Ion is devoted to a recurrent Platonic subject, i.e. poetry, or the interpretation and use of poetry. Even so, Plato’s method of discussion and his choice of topics and devices seem both wide-ranging and sophisticated for a dialogue placed first in the corpus and generally considered a rather poor beginner’s effort at that.
The principal subjective reasons, I suspect, for placing the Ion as early as possible are these: (1) it is thought to be poorly constructed, and hence unworthy of Plato’s mature achievements; (2) its extravagant caricature and farcical argument are not characteristic of Plato’s mature work; (3) it is a small work, and small works tend to precede larger ones; (4) it is a nasty attack on poetry which can best be ignored by attributing it to Plato’s youth. The last assumption is the crucial one, although it involves a view of the dialogue’s purpose which I, with many scholars, do not share; in any case, where on this basis would we place Republic 2 and 10? The remaining assumptions are either doubtful, false, or beg the question .
— John D. Moore, The Dating of Plato’s Ion
Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 15 (June 1974)
- [By those critics who place it very early in Plato’s writing; not necessarily by Moore. –R.G.]↩