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Plato's Charmides, On Temperance (and Self-Knowledge)

Plato's Charmides is a beautiful early dialogue touching on deep platonic themes hidden amidst Socrates' natural way of questioning.

Is temperance self-knowledge? But in order to be truly self-knowing, knowledge must also know what it does not know. For this we’d need some sort of knowledge of knowledge. 

But is this "knowledge of knowledge" possible?  Even if so, would it be of any use?

After suggesting that this ideal of self-knowledge at least helps frame or guide further learning, Socrates recounts a "dream" in which the perfect state is ruled by wisdom (knowledge of knowledge)—the problem is that he cannot convince himself that everyone would really be happy.

Questions looming:  What is the good (use) of self-knowledge? Is there a science of the Good?   (writer's note: My own sense is that these two questions point to Kant and Leibniz, respectively, but I'll want to ask what you all think about that.)


Please read in advance. We will discuss together.

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1580

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  • Brian

    This was an All-time favorite meetup. A+

    1 · October 19, 2013

  • Brian

    This might be my all-time favorite dialogue

    October 19, 2013

    • Rick O.

      I agree - interesting - Hamilton pretty much dismisses it in her 'intro' to the dialogue - yet another reason to avoid the commentators! (p.s. - Brian - I think you say that after every dialogue.)

      1 · October 19, 2013

  • Mike B.

    Does anyone know of any scholarly investigation of the Greek notion of the self or of human nature? Remembering that the Greeks thought that we needed to be reminded that we must control ourselves, does not that suggest a negative assessment of human nature?

    September 29, 2013

    • Brian

      My first thought is to recall the Republic's account of the tripartite soul: appetites, power, reason. With self-knowledge the soul can be in harmony. If ignorant,e.g., our social ambition or love of honor/power will stand in for our reason and make us unjust jerks (and, so, miserable). The only person who is condemned is the tyrant who not only rules principally by power, but who is clever enough to PRESERVE himself though power, basically creating his own hell.

      September 30, 2013

  • Mike B.

    For a good long time I had thought that the Greeks' the Good, the True, and the Beautiful represented a tripartite ideal, and I had that this ideal was unproblematic. What could possibly be wrong with truth and goodness? But as "Charmides" reminds us, beauty is not an unalloyed good.

    September 29, 2013

  • Mike B.

    I just remembered something that I had wanted to mention last night: while reading Laches, and all the references to fathers and sons and the obligations of fathers to sons, did anyone think of the historical Plato who lost his own father and failed to have any sons? I'll grant that I have wondered off into areas uncharitable and into problems which at best are idle distractions. In Shakespere studies, my question is comparable to 'how many children had Lady Macbeth?'

    September 22, 2013

    • Brian

      Plato was born of Socrates and gave birth to the dialogues ;)

      September 22, 2013

  • Mike B.

    Thanks, Brian!

    September 22, 2013

    • Brian

      my pleasure, good choice:)

      September 22, 2013

  • Rick O.

    What - no YouTube video?

    1 · September 22, 2013

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