« On Philosophy and Literature with Eleonore Stump | Main | On the Culture of Sexual Harassment, Wisdom and Progress in Philosophy »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Mark Anderson

The character Socrates resorts to mythical or poetic language throughout the Phaedrus, and he even offers a prayer to Pan at then end. He often does such things while explicitly denying that he would do so--for example, his own words throughout the Phaedo undermine the distinction between the philosopher and the poet that he articulates at the beginning of that work. One option worth exploring, usually ignored, is that Plato is intentionally calling attention to himself as an example of the philosospher or the sage, an example that differs significantly from Socrates (the real man and the literary character both). Socrates was, as you say, an urban intellectual; he was constantly engaged in public dialectical conversations. Plato resided and taught outside the city walls, and spent a good deal of time alone in the quiet, writing, and doing much more with his writing than depicting Socrates' public dialectical conversations.

We regularly overlook this possibility because we move too hastily from "Plato's Socrates" to "the Socrates who appears in Plato's dialogues" and finally to just "Socrates." This way we wind up attributing ideas and attitudes to Socrates that the historical man likely never entertained--we overlook Plato by looking into his works. But what goes on in his works is not necessarily the same as what he means to do through them.

If we look beyond what any one character says in a dialogue, or what they all say, or what they do, or even what is implied by all these things in relation to the context of the setting (all of which is still confined to the inside of the work)--if we look outside of the frame to the creator of the work, to the crative-writer and philosophical-artist Plato, we might come to surprisingly un-Socratic conclusions about the nature and practice of philosophy.

We read Plato but are forever talking about Socrates. But given the substantive and methodological differences between the two, maybe we should make the effort to stop blurring the lines between them.

Eric Schliesser

In fairness to Brouwer, he is careful not to conflate Socrates with Plato. In particular, in his treatment the early Stoics disagree with Plato over Socrates.

Mark Anderson

I was making a general point about our standard conceptions of philosophy and wisdom, particularly as informed by our standard readings of Plato. But I take your point about the book, which I look forward to reading.


The main point here is not to distinguish between Plato and the historical Socrates, but distinguish between Plato and the character Socrates, as well as: between what the character Socrates says and what he does. Admitting or claiming that the Stoics "disagree with Plato" over Socrates does nothing to help with those distinctions.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.


Blog powered by Typepad