Kenneth Dorter | College of Arts

Kenneth Dorter


Born in New York City in 1940, I was a member of the University of Guelph Philosophy Department from 1966 to 2022.


 B.A., Philosophy, Queens College (City University of New York), 1962.

M.A., Philosophy, Pennsylvania State University, 1964.

Ph.D., Philosophy, Pennsylvania State University, 1967.


My current research involves cross-cultural comparisons between Eastern and Western philosophy. Many philosophers speak of the impossibility of giving adequate verbal descriptions of certain kinds of understanding. Inquiry into the foundations of our world and experience often leads beyond what Kant calls the bounds of any possible sensory experience, and our usual language, which is based on that experience, can be employed only metaphorically. Kant rightly criticizes those who fail to recognize the limitations of this use of language, and who put forward metaphysical theories as dogmas instead of as metaphorical approximations. He also recognized, however, that although we can't have knowledge of these foundational areas, we can have a pre-conceptual awareness of them - in art, beauty, and moral consciousness, for example. A similar kind of pre-conceptual awareness can arise out of comparisons among philosophers. The comparison gives us the opportunity to recognize the experience common to both formulations, independent of either of the sets of concepts through which it was expressed. By comparing not only different philosophers, but philosophers from different cultures and traditions, even the shared presuppositions of philosophers within the same tradition can be minimized. The goal isn't to generate a new set of concepts (and certainly not to eliminate concepts) but to try to let the underlying meaning emerge apart from any particular formulation. My previous books, commentaries on Platonic dialogues, attempted something analogous insofar as they sought to treat Plato's conceptualizations not as doctrines but as instrumental devices to get us to see something for ourselves. The books were attempts to discover the living experience underlying the words.




Substack: "An Overview of Plato's Philosophy"

YouTube: "Plato's Cave of Unreality: How We're Imprisoned, How We Escape" (Zoom lecture 2023).

YouTube: "What is Free Will Free From?" (TED Talk 2015).


Can Different Cultures Think the Same Thoughts? A Comparative Study of Metaphysics and Ethics. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press. 2018.

The Transformation of Plato’s Republic. Lanham MD: Lexington Books (Rowman & Littlefield), 2006.

Form and Good in Plato’s Eleatic Dialogues: the Parmenides, Theaetetus, Sophist, and Statesman.  Berkeley: University of California Press.  1994.

Plato’s Phaedo: An Interpretation.  Toronto: University of Toronto Press.  1982.


Book Reviews

  • Kevin Cherry, Plato, Aristotle, and the Purpose of Politics. Polis Vol 29 No. 2, Fall 2012.
  • Catalin Partenie, ed., Plato’s Myths. Polis. Vol. 27 No. 1, Spring 2010.
  • Martin Heidegger, Plato’s Sophist.  International Studies in Philosophy.  Vol. 34 No. 4, 2001, pp. 127-130.
  • G.M.A. Grube, and C.D.C. Reeve (translation).  Plato’s Republic.  Teaching Philosophy, Vol. 17 No. 1, March 1994, pp. 69‑71.
  • Seth Benardete.  The Tragedy and Comedy of Life: Plato’s Philebus.  Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 47 No. 4, June 1994, pp. 799‑801.
  • Daniel E. Anderson.  The Masks of Dionysos: A Commentary on Plato’s Symposium.  Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 48 No. 1, September 1994, pp. 122‑24.
  • Jay Farness.  Missing Socrates: Problems of Plato’s Writing.  Review of Metaphysics, Vol. XLV no. 4, June 1992, pp. 856‑7.
  • Iris Murdoch.  Acastos: Two Platonic Dialogues.  Teaching Philosophy, Vol. 12 no. 2, June 1989, pp. 207‑10. 
  • Stanley Rosen.  The Quarrel Between Philosophy and Poetry.  Review of Metaphysics, Vol. XLII no. 4, June 1989, pp. 848‑50.
  • Mitchell Miller, Plato’s Parmenides: the Conversion of the Soul.  Canadian Philosophical Reviews, Vol. VIII, No. 6, June, 1988, pp. 228‑231.
  • John Llewelyn.  Beyond Metaphysics.  Dialogue, Vol. XXVI, no. 3 (1987), pp. 603‑605.
  • Bruce Aune, Metaphysics: The Elements.  Review of Metaphysics, Vol. XL, 1986, pp. 367‑369.
  • Alan Blum and Peter McHugh, Self Reflection in the Arts and Sciences.  Canadian Philosophical Reviews Vol. 6, 1986, pp. 423‑5.
  • Stanley Rosen, The Limits of Analysis.  Dialogue, Vol. XXIII, 1984, pp. 556‑7.
  • Eric Voegelin, Anamnesis.  Independent Journal of Philosophy, Vol. IV, 1983, pp. 173‑6.
  • Henry Teloh, The Development of Plato’s Metaphysics.  Dialogue, Vol. XX1, 1982, pp. 775‑7.
  • Don Ihde, Technics and Praxis.  Dialogue, Vol. XX, 1981, pp. 606‑10.
  • Jacob Klein, Plato’s Trilogy.  Dialogue, Vol. XIX, 1980, pp. 77‑8.
  • W.K.C. Guthrie, History of Greek Philosophy, Vol. IV.  Dialogue, Vol. XVII, 1978, pp. 186‑90.
  • David Gallop, Plato Phaedo.  Journal of Value Inquiry, Vol. XI, 1977, pp. 151‑4.
  • John Sallis, Being and Logos, The Way of Platonic Dialogue.  Dialogue, Vol. XVI, 1977, pp. 538‑41.
  • Hiram Caton, The Origin of Subjectivity.  Dialogue, Vol. XIV, 1975, pp. 530‑2.
  • Stanley Rosen, NihilismDialogue, Vol. X, 1971, pp. 797‑9.


"What is Free Will Free From?" TEDx talk, Guelph, February 7, 2015.

“Non-Violent Warriors: The Bhagavad-Gita and Marcus Aurelius”. The Society for Philosophy and Culture conference, McMaster University, April 9, 2013.

“The Objections of Simmas and Cebes”. Conference on Plato’s Phaedo, Würzburg, Germany, July 16-18, 2010.

“Sense Perception and Reason in Parmenides.” Canadian Philosophical Association meetings at Concordia University, June 2010.

“Does Parmenides Deny His Own Existence?” Conference on Ancient Philosophy, Mt. Allison University, August 6-9, 2009.

“Plato’s Second Deuteros Plous”. International Seminar on Plato’s Sophist. Benasque, Spain. May 2009.

“The Relation of the Sophist and Statesman.” Arizona Colloquium on Ancient Philosophy. University of Arizona. February 2009.

“Platonic Hermeneutics: Plato Reading, Reading Plato.” Conference on The Ethics of Interpretation: From Ancient to Postmodern Times, Marquette University, May 13-14, 2009.

“The Problem of Evil in Heraclitus.” Canadian Philosophical Association. University of British Columbia. June 2008.

 “Metaphysics and Morality in Neoconfucianism and Greece: Chu Hsi, Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus.” Beijing Forum 2007, November 2-4 2007.

“Art and Education in Plato: The Praise Beneath the Criticisms in the Republic.” Interna¬tional Conference on the Arts in Society. University of Kassel, Germany, August 21-24, 2007.

“Spinoza and Shankara: Natura Naturata and Superimposition.” East-West Philosophy, University of Guelph, July 18, 2007.

“Art And Art Criticism In Republic 10”. Conference: Rethinking Plato's Republic, University of Guelph, September 15-17, 2005.

“The Fusion and Diffusion of Musical Traditions”.  International Society for the Study of European Ideas: “The Narrative of Modernity: Co-Existence of Differences”.  University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain, August 2004.

“Plato and the Dialogue Form”.  Canadian Philosophical Association.  University of Toronto.  May 28, 2002.

“Deathless is Indestructible, If Not We Need Another Argument”: An Implicit Argument in the Phaedo.”  Czech Plato Society, Prague, 1999.

“Free Will, Luck, and Happiness in The Myth of Er”, Conference on “Myth Making” at the University of Guelph, February 26-27, 1999.

“Writing and Reading God”.  Classics-Philosophy conference on “God in the Text”.  University of Guelph.  February 1998.

“Multiculturalism and Cultural Diversity in Music”.  25th Annual University of Dayton Philosophy Colloquium.  Dayton, Ohio, 1997.

“Freedom and Constraints in Prometheus Bound”, Classics conference, University of Guelph, 1996.

“The Two Measures and the Longer and Shorter Ways of the Statesman”.  International Plato Society, plenary session.  University of Bristol, August, 1992.

“Freedom and Constraints in Prometheus Bound”.  McMaster Conference on Religion and Politics.  McMaster University, March 1991.

“The Question of Being and the Language of Metaphysics”.  The Metaphysical Society of America.  Georgetown University, Washington D.C., March 1990.

“Nonstructuralism and Structure in the Theaetetus”.  Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy.  Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, October 1989.

“The Strauss Voegelin Correspondence”.  Polical Science Association.  Laval University, Quebec.  May 1989.

“The Paradox of Humanism”.  Conference on Humanism.  Brock University.  Fall, 1988.

“Ahrensdorf on Plato’s Phaedo”.  World Congress of the International Political Science Association.  Washington D.C.  August, 1988.

“Skepticism and the Future of Philosophy”.  Conference on `The Future of Philosophy’.  Brock University.  May, 1987.

“Justice and Method in Plato’s Statesman”.  Conference on `Ethics, Practical Reasoning, and Political Philosophy in Antiquity and in Christian, Jewish, and Islamic Philosophy’, at Baruch College of the City of New York, October, 1986.

“Justice and Method in Plato’s Statesman”.  Conference on ‘Justice, Law and Philosophy in Classical Athens’, McMaster University, November, 1985.

“Sparshott’s Theory of the Arts”.  Canadian Philosophical Society.  University of Guelph, June, 1984.

“Metaphysics, Metaphilosophy, and the Return of Protagoras”.  Conference on ‘Metaphysical Thinking: Foundational or Empty?’.  McMaster University, May 1984.

“The Theory of Forms and Parmenides I”.  Joint meeting of The Society for the Study of Islamic Philosophy and The Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy.  Baruch College of the City University of New York, October, 1983.

“Technology, Individuality, and Modern Culture”.  XVth World Congress of Philosophy.  Universite de Montreal, August, 1983.

“A Platonic Model of the Soul”.  Tenth Annual University of Dayton Philosophy Colloquium.  Dayton, Ohio, 1981.

“The Line, the Cave, and the Method of Hypothesis.  Ontario Society for the Study of Ancient Philosophy.  Hamilton, 1981.

“A Platonic Model of the Soul”.  Canadian Philosophical Society.  University of Quebec at Montreal, June, 1980.

“The Myth of Afterlife in Plato’s Phaedo”.  Canadian Philosophical Society.  University of Western Ontario, June, 1978.

“Plato and Music”.  Canadian Philosophical Society.  Laval University, June, 1976.

“Plato’s Method of Hypothesis in the Phaedo”.  Canadian Philosophical Society.  University of Alberta, June, 1975.

“The Phaedo’s Final Argument”.  McMaster University Society for the Study of Ancient Philosophy.  March 22, 1975, meetings.


2008. Doctor of Literature (honoris causa). University of Brandon.

2007. Broadview Press/Canadian Philosophical Association biennial award for The Transformation of Plato’s Republic, as the Best Canadian Book in 2006 on the History of Philosophy, Ethics, and Political Theory.

2006. “Outstanding Academic Title” designation for The Transformation of Plato’s Republic, by Choice: the Journal of the American Library Association.

2003. Distinguished University Teaching Award from the University of Guelph Faculty Association.