Plato's Alcibiades 1: Self-Knowledge

The Alcibiades  is a dialogue between Socrates and Alcibiades centering on the question of what knowledge one needs for public life.  The question soon turns to the teachablility of virtue and the importance of self-knowledge as a starting point for any leader.

For centuries The Alcibiades was considered the best entry point for new students of Plato due to its loving and honest exchanges, shedding light on what Socrates really means when he encourages that we follow after virtue and knowledge.

 

LINK: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1676/1676-h/1676-h.htm


Difficulty: We can expect a high-level discussion that remains relevant to all members due to the ethical/universal subject matter and dialogue format of the reading.   We are trying to develop our own interpretive skills, so no need for secondary literature that will do this work for us.


Contention level:
Hopefully none.  We aren't here to evaluate the truth of the text, but to determine ways in which such a truth could be evaluated.  Each can draw their own conclusions from the various approaches we develop.

 

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  • Jose B.

    In my opinion one of the greatest if not greatest words ever written on the subject of romantic love are encapsulate for posterity on the following passages: “if anyone has fallen in love with the person of Alcibiades, he loves not Alcibiades, but the belongings of Alcibiade…He who loves your soul is the true lover, the lover of the body goes away when the flower of youth fades, but he who loves the soul goes not away, as long as the soul follows after virtue. And I’m the lover who goes not away, but remains with you, when you are no longer young and the rest are gone…I only love you, where as other men love what belongs to you [your body]; and your beauty, which is not you, is fading away, just as your true self is beginning to bloom. And I will never desert you, if you are not spoiled and deformed by the Athenian people; for the danger which I most fear is that you will become a lover of the people and be spoiled by them.”

    1 · December 29

    • Brian

      Yes, that's quite beautiful. Welcome to the group, Jose. :)

      December 29

    • Jose B.

      Thank you!

      December 30

  • Harihar Rakshit S.

    It was a nice discussion. I enjoyed it thoroughly and was a glad to be there. I will be looking forward to being part of many such discussions in future.

    1 · July 14, 2014

  • Mike B.

    Hi guys, I just ran across Robin Waterfield's Why Socrates Died. Waterfield argues that Alcibiades and political historical context are key to reading the dialogues, that a purely philosophical approach cannot be sustained.

    2 · July 14, 2014

  • Jenny T.

    Good discussion, but it does seem like a re-hash of points we've made before. Perhaps less Plato in general is needed. Would've liked more focus on the "Self-Knowledge" part of the meetup.

    1 · July 13, 2014

    • Brian

      Funny, I was just discussing with Imran how it feels our understanding is new every time we return to the dialogues.

      July 13, 2014

    • Brian

      The Plato series has always been popular so I don't see it going away. I agree we could've discussed self knowledge more.

      July 14, 2014

  • Imran M.

    Anyone dubious about the authorship of this? Reads a little too straightforward for Plato's style.

    1 · July 12, 2014

    • Jenny T.

      @Imran: There do seem to be instances of jarring wording that don't seem Platonic.

      July 12, 2014

    • Imran M.

      Looking at some of the stylometric analysis on it, it seems a strong case can be made for its authenticity. Maybe it feels awkward to some of us because Socrates is... flirting o_o

      2 · July 12, 2014

  • Brian

    FLASHBACK TO SAUSSURE: A couple months ago we discussed the sense in which language is neither taught nor discovered. If you trace back to any earlier society we will find no contractual moment establishing the terms of language. Yet all people take themselves to know their meanings of words. The specific example Saussure provided is found in the Alciabiades- "On matters of oak and stone"

    July 12, 2014

  • Harihar Rakshit S.

    Looking forward to be there but am on the waitlist. Please let me know if there is place!

    July 11, 2014

    • Brian

      Okay, let's hope the waitlist clears by tomorrow. I'll email if it does

      July 11, 2014

    • Brian

      You're in!

      July 12, 2014

  • Mike B.

    Brian, you're happy, I'm happy.

    1 · July 10, 2014

  • Mike B.

    Brian, I wouldn't want to pick a favorite dialogue. Yet Gorgias and Protagoras demand to be to be read and re-read. What do you think?

    July 9, 2014

    • Brian

      We will read Gorgias soon. I'm very happy with this order of dialogues: Alcibiades, Meno, symposium/phaedrus, Gorgias

      1 · July 10, 2014

  • Mike B.

    Me too.

    1 · July 7, 2014

    • Brian

      Do you have a favorite dialogue, Mike? You've attended every Plato meetup for some time now.

      July 9, 2014

  • Brian

    I'm really looking forward to this discussion. I am becoming convinced anyone can appreciate this dialogue. It's certainty a great introduction to Plato.

    2 · July 6, 2014

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Rafaël

We just grab a coffee and speak French. Some people have been coming every week for months... it creates a kind of warmth to the group.

Rafaël, started French Conversation Group

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