The digression of Plato’s Theaetetus (172c2–177c2) is as celebrated as it is controversial. A particularly knotty question has been what status we should ascribe to the ideal of philosophy it presents, an ideal centered on the conception that true virtue consists in assimilating oneself as much as possible to god. For the ideal may seem difficult to reconcile with a Socratic conception of philosophy, and several scholars have accordingly suggested that it should be read as ironic and directed only at the dramatic character Theodorus. When interpreted with due attention to its dramatic context, however, the digression reveals that the ideal of godlikeness, while being directed at Theodorus, is essentially Socratic. The function of the passage is to introduce a contemplative aspect of the life of philosophy into the dialogue that contrasts radically with the political-practical orientation characteristic of Protagoras, an aspect Socrates is able to isolate as such precisely because he is conversing with the mathematician Theodorus.
Keywords Platonic Ethics  Socrates  Platonic Political philosophy  Contemplation  Plato' Theaetetus  Platonism
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DOI 10.1515/agph-2019-1001
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