Plato’s Apology opens with a distinction. By opposing his accusers’ deceitfulness to his own blunt truthfulness, Socrates distinguishes a philosophical manner of speech from its politico-forensic counterpart. This can be said to culminate at 17d3, where Socrates claims to be a stranger (xenos) to the manner of speech—the lexis (17d3)—of the court. He asks to be allowed to talk with his own voice (phônh), in his own way (tropos, cf. 17d5–18a3) and without making fine speeches (“kekalliepêmenous ge logous,” 17b9). In (...) contrast to the accusers’ claim that he is a clever or dangerous speaker (17b1: “deinou ontos legein”) Socrates asks to be excused for talking at random (eikê, 17c2). But wouldn’t this be exactly what a clever speaker should say? The question is as urgent as it is old. In recent research, there are two tendencies. Either Socrates is taken to be just like the clever speakers whose strategies he renounces or he is taken to be honest and truthful. In this paper, I shall call the defenders of these two tendencies Liars and Fanatics, and argue that the Apology’s treatment of the ideals of human discursivity shows that both, to a certain extent, have it right. (shrink)
Plato’s attitude towards drunkenness (μέθη) is surprisingly positive in the Laws, especially as compared to his negative treatment of intoxication in the Republic. In the Republic, Plato maintains that intoxication causes cowardice and intemperance (3.398e-399e, 3.403e, and 9.571c-573b), while in the Laws, Plato holds that it can produce courage and temperance (1.635b, 1.645d-650a, and 2.665c-672d). This raises the question: Did Plato change his mind, and if he did, why? Ultimately, this paper answers affirmatively and argues that this marks a substantive (...) shift in Plato’s attitude towards anti-rational desires. More precisely, this paper argues that in the Republic, Plato holds that anti-rational desires are always detrimental to health and virtue, while in the Laws, Plato maintains that anti-rational desires can be instrumental to health and virtue. (shrink)
In this paper, I provide an account of what is frequently called Socrates’s “method,” and, more specifically, of what one is being asked by Socrates when he asks “what is x?” I argue that one is being asked to change one’s life, and to orient one’s life around the pursuit of wisdom. To answer Socrates’s question is to subject oneself to a process of extracting from oneself one’s accumulated prejudices; doing so requires one to abandon, not just ideas that have (...) been demonstrated to be false, but the aspects of one’s life that have been built around those previous un-reflected upon ideas. This means that the cumulative commitments of adulthood—predicated as many of them often are on un-reflected-upon presumptions—prevent initiation into philosophical life. The call to do philosophy is, for Socrates, the call to subject oneself to perpetual transformation, limiting who is capable of its pursuit. (shrink)
This essay proposes that Socrates practiced various spiritual exercises, including meditation, and that this Socratic practice of meditation was habitual, aimed at cultivating emotional self-control and existential preparedness. Contemporary research in neurobiology supports the view that intentional mental actions, including meditation, have a profound impact on brain activity, neuroplasticity, and help engender emotional self-control. This impact on brain activity is confirmed via technological developments, a prime example of how technology benefits humanity. Socrates attains the balanced emotional self-control that Alcibiades describes (...) in the Symposium because of the sustained mental effort he exerts that directly impacts his brain and his emotional and philosophical life. The essay concludes that Socratic meditative practices aimed at manifesting true dignity as human beings within the complexities of a technological world offer a promising model of self-care worthy of embracing today. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: Careful analysis of the details of the text allows us to refine Socrates objections to his definition of manliness as prudent perseverance. He does not appreciate that Socrates objections merely require that he make his definition more precise. Nicias refuses to consider objections to his understanding of manliness as avoiding actions that entail risk. The two sets of objections show that manliness entails first calculating that a risk is worth taking and then subsequently not rejecting that calculation without due (...) consideration. (shrink)
What is a good man, and how does he become good? My aim in this paper is to unravel and to assess Plato's and St. Paul's very different answers to these questions. The pivotal texts are the Republic and Paul's Epistles.