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Universidad Externado de Colombia. The following essay presents a close reading of the Platonic dialogue Alcibiades I. In the text, Socrates is depicted as a young teacher approaching young Alcibiades, a future prominent and hubristic ruler of post-Periclean democratic Athens. For motives that will be explored in this essay, the mayeutic education of Alcibiades towards the life of wisdom not only failed, but also had undesired political outcomes. The Alcibiades I sheds light on the roots and potential limitations of the study of Platonic political philosophy.

Key Words: Socratic mayeutics, classical political philosophy, government, thumos , dialectic. Newell, Tom Darby, y el apoyo especial de Horst Hutter. ISSN: Introduction The Alcibiades I 1 is an attempt at a philosophical propadeutic 2.

It is an ad hoc conversation as it were, whereby the setting remains indistinct presumably it is a private conversation: where it takes place we do not know.

It is a performed dialogue: we are shown the actions of two fictionalized characters in the present tense, without the filter of a narrator. The dramatic date of the Alcibiades I occurs some seventeen years before. Presumably he has. Nevertheless he still seems to be unseasoned in the erotic art of psychagoge 3 or soul-shaping. John M. Cooper Cambridge: Hackett, Citations are by Stephanus number.

The dialogues were either read out-loud or performed for an audience of pupils c. For further discussions about paideia in classical political philosophy see the work of Waller R.

Chicago: U Chicago P, , pp. Michael Chase. Cambridge: Harvard UP, , especially pp. A classical observation about the relation between the historical Socrates and young Alcibiades can be found in Xenophon Memorabilia I. Deconstructing Alcibiades: Pater and Patria. He possesses all the right qualities of the kaloi kagathoi , good birth, looks, stature, family connections, fortune.

Thumotic men seem to be drawn to the political arena as therapy for the pain of some essential loss. Is the critical fate of their fathers awaiting them? Charles W. Danbury: Grolier, pp. According to C. Hackett, , pp. Thus his passion of pride is fueled by anger rooted in fear of failure. Alcibiades is angry, but he is still too young to understand this 8. He is not Callicles, who comes from a somewhat lower station in life and who is also older, more seasoned, and so more self-conscious about his political pretensions and fears 9.

Also: in contrast to the poet Agathon, for instance, who is also beautiful and talented but dreamy and passive Symposium d , Alcibiades is hot-blooded Aristotle, Rhetoric a a quality that induces him to daring action. Alcibiades, despite having all advantages that ordinary people seek, is. Can education make him more powerful? What then is your real ambition in life? Alcibiades craves universal, unequal recognition. Young Alcibiades is not fearful of death and his strengths, pride and eros, have directed his attention towards political action 1 1.

Machiavelli Discoursi III, Alcibiades is also a few days shy from addressing the Athenian assembly for the first time b1 , aspiring to be honored even more than the great Athenian statesman Pericles 1 2 b3. Can the political community accommodate the imposing ambitions of Alcibiades?

Political praxis aims at containing thumos fear and anger , channeling it in the direction of active civic virtue for the purposes of recognition in serving the common good. Can political life offer him this? Here the pedagogic dynamic of the dialogue presents a problem: the word philosophy is never mentioned in the Alcibiades I. Why is philosophy omitted? Plato hints that the future general-statesman will strive for transcendence Symposium b through the life of action.

Paideia and Empire. Why should Alcibiades associate with Socrates? Alcibiades is about to enter public life. However this may be, Socratic mayeutics draws the need for philosophy not in a preventive but almost in a curative or homeopathic sense: knowledge of ignorance has to precede the desire to know. For why would one pursue what one already has? Socrates appeals to young Alcibiades using the political paradigm, but he universalizes it, claiming that his desire for glory can only be fulfilled by being recognized to the extent of great rulers of the stature of Cyrus or Xerxes.

Consistency should make Alcibiades strive to become emperor. History of the Peloponnesian War, 2. But what if Alcibiades is not willing to forgo doxa? Shadows are sirens. The love of true knowledge or wisdom, has to be preceded by an aporia or perplexity—Alcibiades has to know that he knows nothing, this pre- noetic experience has to grip him, before Socrates can turn his desire towards the love of knowing.

For knowing that one does not know does not preclude the probability of further knowing. Knowing can only make sense if something can be known. The love of knowing tends to be abstract, meaning that its object s may not be tactile, but its origins are rooted in our common experience.

The search for objective knowledge begins inter homines, that is, with political questions a-d. This, at a political. What proved problematic was the further step to have Alcibiades move from the concrete love of demos to abstraction love of philosophy further to the elusive Idea of the Good that illuminates the Forms Republic d9ff.

Is the love of the demos possible after the awakening of the love of wisdom? Is philosophic philanthropy possible? And if so, can or should it be political? Paideia and War.

The discussion has made Alcibiades curious, yet he still remains somewhat indifferent a-b. He is expecting Socrates, like every teacher, to moralize at him through long rhetorical speeches. Socrates perhaps. Confucius Analects book II, ch. Socrates wants to teach Alcibiades to think, and so has crafted his approach to Alcibiades in the following way:.

These questions, in turn, will differ from the original proposition in that they will seem platitudes, usually requiring simple yes or no answers: they are not so much requests of information or detail as much as demands for an assent. Socrates is ironic in the sense that he pretends to be oblivious of the structure of the elenchus. After all, being refuted tends to make people ashamed or angry think of Thrasymachus in Republic at a.

The way in which Socrates presents his questions to Alcibiades seems to be somewhat contrived, unpolished: he questions him as he tries to tease him into learning to ask questions himself. We should also note that, according to the dramatic date of the dialogue possibly BCE Alcibiades was about 19 years of age. Young teachers tend to be imprudent. To come back to the text, at c Socrates questions Alcibiades with regards to his intention to advice the Athenian assembly: Alcibiades would be a good adviser only about matters of which he has attained knowledge.

What he knows he either learned from others, or found about on his own d Actual learning presupposes an active desire to learn: it differs from habituation, training, or primary instruction in that for the most part these are imparted to us to form our character and disposition, as preparation for proper conduct and further development. Now, Alcibiades has received instruction in music and gymnastics and these are the subjects he has incorporated. Alcibiades is a high school graduate trying to run for public office, as it were.

Will Alcibiades advice the Athenians on grammar, wrestling, or lyre playing? What if the Athenians are seeking advice on measures regarding, say, public health, should they listen to a precocious wealthy citizen, or to a doctor? As usual, Socrates contends that the standard for political counsel should be expertise in the matter in question c But what does the assembly deliberate about? The regular management of government or routine matters of domestic policy is something Alcibiades is not really concerned about.

Apparently Oikonomia does not agitate the passions, even if taking place at a large scale, the way questions of justice and war do. War and Justice. But then—how do we know whom or what is right to fight when and for how long? The way a physician or medical expert is able to identify a sickness and knows that what is right is to attempt to re-establish health in the patient, the political expert must also know a standard of what is right regarding the problem of war.

Although Alcibiades is no doctor he knows that it is better for a sick patient to get healthier—but he seems to be at a loss when it comes to knowing what is proper when advising the assembly on the issue of war ea4.

War is usually undertaken under grounds of having been cheated, robbed, or injured. Whom will Alcibiades advice the Athenians to wage war against—those who are. But not so fast: Alcibiades is not Glaucon. Alcibiades knows he has possibly overheard private conversations of Pericles with senior Athenian officials that they are not dealing with a straightforward question c :.


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