Thomas A. Szlezák

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Thomas A. Szlezák

Thomas Alexander Szlezák (born July 12, 1940 in Budapest ) is a German classical philologist . He was professor of Greek philology and director of the Plato archive at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen . As a co-opted professor, he was also a member of the Philosophical Faculty. He became known beyond specialist circles for his introduction to the Platonic philosophy of reading Plato , which has been translated into numerous languages.


Thomas A. Szlezák studied Classical Philology, Philosophy and History at the Universities of Erlangen , Munich and Tübingen from 1959 to 1967 . He received his doctorate from the Technical University of Berlin . His dissertation dealt with an area of ​​late antique Aristotle commentary . From 1975 to 1976 he was a fellow at the Center for Hellenic Studies at Harvard University . He completed his habilitation in 1976 at the University of Zurich with the work Plato and Aristotle in the theory of Plotinus . In it, Plotin's method of philosophical exegesis of the works of Plato and Aristotle was subjected to a systematic philological analysis for the first time. This was followed by several years of research and teaching as a private lecturer in Zurich .

In 1983 Szlezák was appointed to the chair of Classical Philology at the Julius Maximilians University of Würzburg . His work Plato and the written form of philosophy appeared in 1985. His most successful book is the first in Italy published leggere Platone Come (dt. Plato read ), which is now present in 17 languages. Szlezák was a founding member of the International Plato Society in 1989, then on its executive committee for six years until the regular resignation and from 1991 to 2007 on the editorial board of International Plato Studies. From 1990 he taught at the University of Tübingen in the Faculty of Cultural Studies . There he held the chair for Greek Philology II . As a Graecist he was co-opted by the Philosophical Faculty. In 2003 he was able to celebrate his 40th anniversary with the company, and Szlezák retired in 2006.

Research and Teaching

One of Szlezák's main research areas is Plato's unwritten teaching . Plato had called his published dialogues a game. His pupil Aristotle had expressly stated that there was an unwritten teaching alongside the published writings of Plato. In the second half of the 20th century, this question was the central topic of research on the older history of philosophy. With Wolfgang Schadewaldt , classical philology in Tübingen had one of its most prominent representatives of this century. Significant impulses for philosophy also emanated from among his students, which led to the so-called Tübingen Plato School . Thomas A. Szlezák continued this direction of interpretation as the successor of Konrad Gaiser .

In Plato and the written form of philosophy he shows that the Platonic writings are not self-sufficient works, but rather need to be supplemented by Plato's oral teaching. It proves that Plato's dialogues themselves refer to the unwritten doctrine of principles:

  • Cut-outs : The structure of the dialogues includes the clearly marked cut-out of the complex of principle theory.
  • Figure conception : As a dialectician, the person conducting the conversation is always way ahead of the conversation, so he could bring in more and more principles.

In Szlezák's view, this ends the earlier popular attempt to play off the existence of dialogues against unwritten doctrine.

Szlezák was asked by the Milanese philosopher Giovanni Reale to write an introductory book for the one-volume Italian edition of Plato. It should not only be aimed at experts, but should be readable for everyone interested in Plato and his philosophy. Szlezák was initially not impressed by this, but it is thanks to the persistence of Reales that Come Leggere Platone was finally written. The book has become a completely unexpected success. Szlezák defends the interpretation approach of the Tübingen school and develops it further. The book has been translated into many European and Far Eastern languages ​​Korean, Japanese and Chinese.

Other research interests of Szlezák were the Greek tragedy of the 5th century BC. As well as the metaphysics of Aristotle . He published a number of essays and reviews on this, too, and submitted his own translation on Aristotelian Metaphysics.

Szlezák sees the success of ancient Greek culture in its tendency to cross its own borders. This enabled them to assert themselves without the direction of state, economic or church organizational power. In Athens in the fifth century that form of the political emerged which made the development of our critical, secular and liberal view of the state possible in the first place. Modern Europe owes its ideas of literature, philosophy, historiography, political analysis and freedom ultimately to the ancient Greeks.

“In philosophy, then, intellectual Europe will never get away from the Greeks any more than in literature, the view of history and politics and in its belief in the individual - fortunately for Europe, because without the claim that comes with it given basic attitudes, evaluations and postulates, it would lose the political and moral justification to play a decisive role in shaping the world culture of tomorrow. "

- Thomas A. Szlezák

Honors and memberships


  • Pseudo-Archytas on the categories. Texts on the Greek exegesis of Aristotle. De Gruyter, Berlin, New York 1972.
  • Plato and Aristotle in the Nus teaching of Plotinus . Schwabe, Basel-Stuttgart 1979.
  • Plato and the written form of philosophy. Interpretations of the early and middle dialogues. De Gruyter, Berlin-New York 1985.
  • Read Plato . frommann-holzboog, Stuttgart 1993.
  • The idea of ​​the good in Plato's Politeia. Observations on the middle books (= Lecturae Platonis 3). Academia-Verlag, Sankt Augustin 2003.
  • Aristotle, metaphysics . Translation and introduction. Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 2003.
  • The image of the dialectician in Plato's late dialogues. Plato and the written form of philosophy. Part II. De Gruyter, Berlin-New York 2004.
  • What Europe owes to the Greeks. From the basics of our culture in ancient Greece. Mohr Siebeck / UTB, Tübingen 2010.
  • Homer or The Birth of Occidental Poetry . CH Beck, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-406-63729-2 .

Web links


  1. Pseudo-Archytas on the categories . Texts on the Greek exegesis of Aristotle, published in 1972.
  2. The work was published in 1979, an Italian translation followed in 1997.
  3. ^ It was also published in Italian translation, 1st edition. Milan 1989, 3rd edition. Milan 1993; in Portuguese language Sao Paulo 2009.
  4. Th. A. Szlezák: "What will be important in forty years ..." Review of an early work by Klaus Oehler. In: Kai-Michael Hingst, Maria Liatsi (Ed.): Pragmata. Festschrift for Klaus Oehler on his 80th birthday. Tübingen 2008, pp. 95-107, here p. 99.
  5. See the elaboration of his lecture in the context of the Tübingen Studium generale: Thomas A. Szlezák, Was Europa der Greeks , 2010, p. 262 f.
  6. Thomas A. Szlezák: What Europe owes to the Greeks. 2010, p. 261 f.