Socratic Ignorance and Platonic Knowledge in the Dialogues of Plato

SUNY Press
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Argues that Socrates’s fundamental role in the dialogues is to guide us toward self-inquiry and self-knowledge.
In this highly original and provocative book, Sara Ahbel-Rappe argues that the Platonic dialogues contain an esoteric Socrates who signifies a profound commitment to self-knowledge and whose appearances in the dialogues are meant to foster the practice of self-inquiry. According to Ahbel-Rappe, the elenchus, or inner examination, and the thesis that virtue is knowledge, are tools for a contemplative practice that teaches us how to investigate the mind and its objects directly. In other words, the Socratic persona of the dialogues represents wisdom, which is distinct from and serves as the larger space in which Platonic knowledge—ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics—is constructed. Ahbel-Rappe offers complete readings of the ApologyCharmidesAlcibiades IEuthyphroLysisPhaedrusTheaetetus, and Parmenides, as well as parts of the Republic. Her interpretation challenges two common approaches to the figure of Socrates: the thesis that the dialogues represent an “early” Plato who later disavows his reliance on Socratic wisdom, and the thesis that Socratic ethics can best be expressed by the construct of eudaimonism or egoism.
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About the author

 Sara Ahbel-Rappe is Professor of Greek and Latin at the University of Michigan. She is the author of Socrates: A Guide for the Perplexed and Reading Neoplatonism: Non-discursive Thinking in the Texts of Plotinus, Proclus, and Damascius; translator of Damascius’s Problems and Solutions Concerning First Principles;and coeditor (with Rachana Kamtekar) of A Companion to Socrates.


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Additional Information

Publisher
SUNY Press
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Published on
Apr 26, 2018
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Pages
296
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ISBN
9781438469287
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Damascius was head of the Neoplatonist academy in Athens when the Emperor Justinian shut its doors forever in 529. His work, Problems and Solutions Concerning First Principles, is the last surviving independent philosophical treatise from the Late Academy. Its survey of Neoplatonist metaphysics, discussion of transcendence, and compendium of late antique theologies, make it unique among all extant works of late antique philosophy. It has never before been translated into English. The Problems and Solutions exhibits a thorough?going critique of Proclean metaphysics, starting with the principle that all that exists proceeds from a single cause, proceeding to critique the Proclean triadic view of procession and reversion, and severely undermining the status of intellectual reversion in establishing being as the intelligible object. Damascius investigates the internal contradictions lurking within the theory of descent as a whole, showing that similarity of cause and effect is vitiated in the case of processions where one order (e.g. intellect) gives rise to an entirely different order (e.g. soul). Neoplatonism as a speculative metaphysics posits the One as the exotic or extopic explanans for plurality, conceived as immediate, present to hand, and therefore requiring explanation. Damascius shifts the perspective of his metaphysics: he struggles to create a metaphysical discourse that accommodates, insofar as language is sufficient, the ultimate principle of reality. After all, how coherent is a metaphysical system that bases itself on the Ineffable as a first principle? Instead of creating an objective ontology, Damascius writes ever mindful of the limitations of dialectic, and of the pitfalls and snares inherent in the very structure of metaphysical discourse.
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