Socratic Philosophy and Its Others

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We can order this Usually dispatched within 3 weeks. Quantity Add to basket. This item has been added to your basket View basket Checkout. View other formats and editions. The overall aim of the volume is to explore the relation of Socratic philosophizing, as Plato represents it, to those activities to which it is typically opposed. The essays address a range of figures who appear in the dialogues as distinct "others" against whom Socrates is contrasted-most obviously, the figure of the sophist, but also the tragic hero, the rhetorician, the tyrant, and the poet.

Each of the individual essays shows, in a different way, that the harder one tries to disentangle Socrates' own activity from that of its apparent opposite, the more entangled they become. Yet, it is only by taking this entanglement seriously, and exploring it fully, that the distinctive character of Socratic philosophy emerges. As a whole, the collection sheds new light on the artful ways in which Plato not only represents philosophy in relation to what it is not, but also makes it "strange" to itself.

It shows how concerns that seem to be raised about the activity of philosophical questioning from the point of view of the political community, for example can be seen, upon closer examination, to emerge from within that very enterprise. Each of the essays then goes on to consider how Socratic philosophizing can be defined, and its virtues defended, against an attack that comes as much from within as from without.

The volume includes chapters by distinguished contributors such as Catherine Zuckert, Ronna Burger, Michael Davis, Jacob Howland, and others, the majority of which were written especially for this volume.

Together, they address an important theme in Plato's dialogues that is touched upon in the literature but has never been the subject of a book-length study that traces its development across a wide range of dialogues. One virtue of the collection is that it brings together a number of prominent scholars from both political science and philosophy whose work intersects in important and revealing ways. A related virtue is that it treats more familiar dialogues Republic, Sophist, Apology, Phaedrus alongside some works that are less well known Theages, Major Hippias, Minor Hippias, Charmides, and Lovers.

While the volume is specialized in its topic and approach, the overarching question-about the potentially troubling implications of Socratic philosophy, and the Platonic response-should be of interest to a broad range of scholars in philosophy, political science, and classics.

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Added to basket. The History of Philosophy. Derren Brown. On the Shortness of Life. Sex and the Failed Absolute. Slavoj Zizek. Jordan B. The Art of Logic. Eugenia Cheng. One's existence as a political animal and thus politics demand one thing, while the philosophical knowledge of the highest divine good on which politics itself depends demands something else. Those who best know that good to which humans aspire will at least want to live a distinctly human, political life.

We thus appear to be left with a tense, problematic relationship between politics ethics and philosophy, not so different from that encountered in the Republic. If Plato, in attempting to reconcile politics and philosophy also shows them to be in conflict, Aristotle, in attempting to keep them sharply distinct, also shows them to be implicated in one another. This of course is not to deny any difference between the two positions. Therefore, theoretical philosophy represents for Aristotle the highest aim of a politics that aims at the highest human good.

This is strikingly evident in book VIII of the Politics with its insistence that what the city should seek to promote above all in its system of education is useless knowledge see especially a Correspondingly, when confronting the debate concerning whether the contemplative or the political life is better, Aristotle chooses the former but only in insisting that it is the most genuinely active : a praxis that is 'exoteric' in aiming at some end external to itself is less truly active, rather than more active, than a praxis that is pursued entirely for its own sake b In conclusion, one could perhaps best express the difference between Plato and Aristotle as follows: while for both of them philosophy and politics remain distinct, for Plato philosophy can serve politics while for Aristotle politics serves philosophy.

In courses from the 's Heidegger credits Aristotle with avoiding the confusion between ethics and ontology supposedly found in Plato's Idea of the Good. And indeed in a course entitled Grundfragen der Philosophie , 10 Heidegger describes the making of philosophers into kings in the Republic as "the essential degradation [ Herabsetzung ] of philosophy.

Yet when Heidegger four years earlier assumes the Rectorship of Freiburg University and joins the National Socialist Party, he sings a very different tune. Delivering a course entitled The Essence of Truth [ Vom Wesen der Wahrheit ] , 11 the first part of which is devoted to an interpretation of the Cave Analogy, Heidegger seeks in the ideal of philosopher-kings justification for his own political involvement.

However, it becomes clear from what Heidegger says that for him the idea of philosopher-kings does not mean any kind of actual involvement in concrete politics on the part of philosophers of any type. What he does say, after having characterized the Idea as the rule Herrschaft and the origin Ursprung for beings, is that "the rule of the being-with-one-another of human beings in the state must be essentially determined" through philosophical men and philosophical knowledge id.

Socrates: The Father Of Western Philosophy

But what does this mean, if it does not mean philosophers actually ruling the state? The following sentence provides the answer:. Plato posed the question of the essence of knowledge [Wissen], not because it belongs to a school-concept [Schulbegriff] of the theory of knowledge, but because knowledge [das Wissen ] forms the innermost enduring substance of political being [den innersten Bestand des staatlichen Seins ], insofar as the state is a free one , that is, at the same time a force that binds a people. Philosophers do not need actually to rule because philosophical knowledge, i.

Here we see at its clearest the complete identification of philosophy and politics or, more precisely, the complete absorption of politics into philosophy: the enduring substance of political reality is philosophical knowledge and philosophers are in themselves rulers of the state.


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Heidegger's interpretation of the Cave analogy, which can only be alluded to here, accordingly eliminates the descent understood as a political requirement. If the philosopher must return to the Cave, this is not a demand of justice, but only an illustration of the fact that truth is never fully separable from untruth cf. And if Socrates describes the philosopher who returns to the Cave as in danger of being killed, this for Heidegger does not not a tension between philosophy and politics but only the philosopher's being misunderstood cf. On Heidegger's reading, in short, there is no descent from philosophy to politics, no struggle and danger in the philosopher's attempt to become politically effective.


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  8. The philosopher is in himself and as such king; the people must come to him. Heidegger affirms the philosopher-king ideal to the extent that politics can simply be identified with philosophy; to the extent, however, that politics proves to be something quite different and much more "messy," as it no doubt did during Heidegger's Rektorat , Heidegger dismisses any association between philosophy and politics as a degradation of the former.

    Whether Heidegger brings politics out of the Cave or dismisses it as a descent and debasement, in either case he remains outside the Cave. What he describes still in the late 's as the "inner truth and greatness" of National Socialism 13 is all he ever saw in the movement; what changed was only his assessment of the extent to which the National Socialist party and its members lived up to this "inner truth and greatness". The failure of Heidegger's Rektorat , and even the catastrophe of World War II, was inessential because it represented nothing but the failure of those within the Cave to open their eyes to what is essential.

    The Clouds

    To criticize Heidegger for his failure as a political leader, or to demand that philosophers become political leaders in the ordinary sense, is to miss what is essential and degrade philosophy. The politics Heidegger identified with philosophy remained untouched by the travails and upheavals of "real" politics. When Heidegger reports having been accused of a "Privatnationalsozialismus" after his Rektoratsrede ibid. As for how one can have a "private politics", that is of course precisely the problem. In conclusion, Heidegger 'solves' the problem of the relation between politics and philosophy by simply collapsing the former into the latter: by, in other words, characterizing philosophy in the form of ontology as the only authentic politics and the philosopher as ruling just by virtue of being a philosopher.

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    In contrast, Michel Foucault's reading of the Republic in his course, Le Gouvernement de Soi et des Autres , insists that the philosopher-king proposal, in claiming only that the same person should practice philosophy and politics, keeps the two completely distinct. Thus Foucault develops his own view that, if philosophy can play a role in relation to politics by transforming the subject who lives politically, it plays no role within politics.

    Foucault insists that the idea of philosopher-kings in the Republic is only the idea that those who practice philosophy should be those who exercise political power and not a conflation of philosophical discourse and knowledge with political practice cf. Foucault sees this conclusion as supported by a careful and faithful translation of the text c-d.

    Foucault first points out that what the passage describes is not philosophers becoming kings or kings becoming philosophers as our shorthand of 'philosopher-king' suggests , but rather philosophers beginning to rule in cities or current rulers beginning to philosophize in an authentic and genuine manner.

    To say that rulers will philosophize and philosophers will rule is not to say that philosophizing and ruling will become the same thing. Yet some translations of the key sentence have it go on to assert precisely such an identity. The Waterfield translation likewise reads: "until political power and philosophy coincide. This literally says something like: "this falls together towards the same.

    This translation seems possible and can appeal for support to the use of a similar phrase at Theaetetus d to describe the relation that has been demonstrated between the definition of knowledge as perception, the Heraclitean flux theory and Protagorean relativism. In other words, the identity is not between political power and philosophy, but rather in the subject who exercises both.

    This allows Foucault to read the philosopher-king's proposal as preserving the distinctness of political power and philosophy. As he asserts at one point,. But from the fact that he who practices philosophy is he who exercises power and that he who exercises power is also someone who practices philosophy, from this one cannot at all infer that what he knows of philosophy will be the law of his actions and of his political decisions. Philosophy must speak truth in relation to political action, but this does not mean that it should speak truth for political action in the sense of determining how to govern, what laws to adopt, etc.

    Philosophy can make someone worthy of ruling, can develop in that person the kind of character we want to see in a ruler id.


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    7. As Foucault states the point more specifically, the ruler must learn through philosophy to govern himself in order to be the kind of person who can justly govern others id. The most important figure in this transition is Socrates who in the Apology, as Foucault points out, describes his divine mission of speaking the truth to his fellow citizens as turning away from politics. Philosophy as such a way of life that is always other cf. If Heidegger conflates philosophy and politics, one could argue that Foucault is no more faithful to Socrates' proposal in making philosophy and politics seemingly irreconcilable.

      However one interprets d, and Foucault's reading appears hard to defend, 18 it seems clear that for Socrates the knowledge the philosopher attains as such will be the law of his political actions and decisions.

      Socrates – a man for our times

      However, Foucault can also be seen as developing a tension between politics and philosophy that has been seen to be already there in Plato's text. Furthermore, if Foucault only reinterprets rather than outright rejects the idea of philosopher-kings, that is because even for him philosophy and politics do not diverge to such an extent that they cease to have anything to do with each other. If philosophy can never be politics, it nevertheless always exists in an essential relation to politics.

      After all, Socrates describes his philosophical mission as a great good to the city and thus as a gift of the gods Ap. Philosophy must speak to politics, but always from the outside. Even if philosophers become kings, to be a philosopher is never the same as to be a king. For Foucault, unlike Heidegger, the ideal of the philosopher-king is therefore not the ideal of an identity between philosophy and politics.

      Foucault can indeed be said to provide a diagnosis of Heidegger's error when he attributes what he calls "the misfortune and the equivocations in the relations between philosophy and politics" to the fact that philosophy understands itself, or allows itself to be understood, in terms of "coinciding with the contents of a political rationality" Yet, as Foucault continues, this misfortune can also arise when inversely "the contents of a political rationality have sought to justify themselves through making of themselves a philosophical doctrine" id.

      This is an important point in the context because, if Heidegger was able to identify with National Socialism, this is not only because he saw his philosophy as coinciding with a politics but also because the National Socialists saw their politics as coinciding with a philosophy. Hitler apparently insisted repeatedly that "Anyone who understands National Socialism only as a political movement knows virtually nothing about it. It is even more than religion; it is the will to a new creation of man" qtd. In emphasizing, and perhaps also exaggerating the difference between philosophy and politics he finds in Plato's text, Foucault can be seen as providing a corrective to Heidegger's reading.

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