After 10 years of work, University of Mary Washington philosophy professor David Ambuel has published his translation and commentary on one of Plato’s most well-known works of philosophy and rhetoric. Ambuel’s book is entitled “Image and Paradigm in Plato’s ‘Sophist.’”
Ambuel recalls when he was working on the first draft of the piece to serve as his dissertation. He says he was anxious to complete the work before his pregnant wife gave birth to their son. Soon, a full-fledged competition emerged to see which would be born first: Ambuel’s dissertation or his son.
“I didn’t quite make it,” Ambuel said. “My son beat me by a few months.”
Though he was upset that his dissertation was not completed before his son’s birth, Ambuel persevered and finally published his thoughts on Plato this past summer.
Ambuel, who began teaching at UMW in 1992, developed an immediate interest in Plato’s theories after his very first philosophy class. He quickly became frustrated with the predominant interpretations of Plato’s “Sophist,” however. Many of these interpretations claimed that Plato neglected and abandoned several of his theories. They also asserted that the “Sophist” is merely a dialogue, which demonstrates Plato’s loss of interest in attempting to find answers to his original questions concerning the metaphysical.
Ambuel saw serious flaw in these narrow interpretations. He viewed these theories as a projection of current philosophical theories onto an ancient philosophy. Inspired to present an alternative viewpoint, Ambuel began working on his own unique interpretation of the dialogue.
In his book, Ambuel focuses on defining the character of the sophist in ancient Greece, which is a prominent topic in most of Plato’s works. Plato believed that a sophist was one who had been trained in persuasion and had no regard for the truth, an idea that he explored through his philosophy.
Ambuel admitted that writing
his commentary was both demanding and time-consuming. Fortunately, however, his teaching schedule allowed him the free time he needed to conduct his research.
In addition to publishing his book on Plato, Ambuel co-wrote a book entitled “Philosophy, Religion and the Question of Intolerance” with Professor Aminrazavi, a fellow member of the philosophy department. Ambuel has also written numerous published articles on the topics of philosophy and religion.
Though Ambuel remains busy with his writings and professorship, he plans to continue writing.
Among his current projects is an analysis of Plato’s “Theaetetus.” “Theaetetus,” which was written as a discussion that takes place the day before the “Sophist,” is a later dialogue regarding Plato’s questions concerning knowledge.
“I’m always writing,” Ambuel said. “I’m not stopping anytime soon.”