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Colm Shanahan


I will argue that, due to the level of attention given to comparing and contrasting Socratic Intellectualism with the Republic, the question of the possibility of akrasia in Plato’s thought has not yet been adequately formulated. I will instead be focusing on Plato’s Symposium, situating Alcibiades at its epicentre and suggesting that his case should be read as highlighting some of Plato’s concerns with Socratic Intellectualism. These concerns arise from the following position of Socratic Intellectualism: knowing the greater good will necessarily entail doing good, and will thereby remove the motivational content of prior knowledge of what is good. Through Alcibiades, Plato explores the possibility of a negative reaction to knowledge of the greater good. Importantly, rather than simply arising as a result of being overcome by the passions, Alcibiades’ negative reaction assumes that rational freedom is required to reject the greater good (virtue) in favour of the lesser.

Harold Tarrant and Suzanne Stern-Gillet

D.A. Vasilakis


This article deals with the complex relation between providence and descent in Neoplatonism, with particular reference to Proclus and especially his Commentary on the First Alcibiades. At least according to this work, descent is only a species of providence, because there can be providence without any descent. Whereas the gods (for instance the Henads) provide for our cosmos without descending to it, a large group of souls provide for our cosmos by descending to it. The former kind of providence is better than the latter, even if it is necessary that souls descend in order to give existence to the beautiful cosmos. The following study deals with providence as descent, looking at it from two angles. In the first section I show that Proclus designates this form of providence in two rather surprising ways. One term he uses for it, which will be well known to readers of Plotinus, is τόλµα (audacity)—this despite the word’s negative connotations due to its Neopythagorean and Gnostic origin. A second name for descended providence is ἐπιστροφή (‘reversion’ or better ‘turning one’s attention’). Again, this may be surprising, since we usually expect this term to express the ‘turning back’ of a lower effect to its cause. In Proclus, the word ἐπιστροφή too can have negative connotations, but he also uses it in a positive way when applying it to providence. In the second part of the paper, I explain how Socrates’ providence for Alcibiades (as seen in the Alcibiades I) can be undefiled (i.e. unmixed), even if Socrates necessarily descends as he offers providential guidance. Proclus’ comparison of Socrates with Hercules, who went to the Underworld in order to save Theseus, serves as a positive illustration of Socrates’ divinelike providence, and marks the deficiency of Socrates (or Hercules as a ‘semi-god’) compared to the transcendent and undefiled providence of Neoplatonic divinities.