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On the purported incompatibility of philosophy and the city: reputation in Plato’s Gorgias and Theaetetus

Andreas Avgousti (Visiting Scholar in UW Department of Political Science)
Thursday, April 12, 2018 - 12:30pm
Denny 257, Meg Greenfield Room

A view associated with Plato is that philosophy is incompatible with the swirl of opinions which make up the city. In this paper I attend to key moments in Plato’s dialogues to challenge this view. I argue that both philosophy’s appearance (doxa) to the many and its place in their imagination (phantasia) leave the question of philosophy’s compatibility with the city open. In the Gorgias Callicles gives a full-throated argument for Socratic philosophy’s bad reputation and goes wrong when he discounts its resonance among the many. Yet, in the myth of the dialogue Socrates rejects a reputation among men for the sake of a reputation among the gods, positing a disjunction between the two. Arguably, the high point of this disjunction is found in the Digression of Plato’s Theaetetus, which juxtaposes the figure of the Philosopher with that of the orator-politician. Unlike Socrates’ understanding of reputation, the Philosopher posits an interdependent relationship between a reputation among men and a reputation among the gods, pursuing both.

A Classics Department lunchtime colloquium, in the traditional 12:30-1:20 pm timeslot.