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In: Art, Intellect and Politics

Abstract

The Theages offers an alternative solution to that in the dialogues which are seen as Plato’s with regard to the question of the educational purpose of Socrates. Even though he claims to be clueless, it is undeniable that the people who accompany him are making progress towards the acquisition of knowledge. Plato had introduced the maieutic method in his Theaetetus, in order to explain how this could be possible. The author of the Theages proposes another idea, namely that of the transmission of knowledge through physical contact – a representation which confers to Socrates a magical and thaumaturgic character that cannot be reconciled with the one which emerges from Plato’s dialogs. In this context, we can see that the Socratic δαιμόνιον has a redeeming role in both dialogues since it permits and prohibits contact between Socrates and certain other individuals and consequently allows some to get closer to him or rather to knowledge itself. The Theages is nonetheless different from other works of the corpus platonicum when it comes to the description of the demonic sign, and this represents evidence that it is not authentic. The daimonic sign is not described as the vague τὸ δαιμόνιον which Platon writes about, but is presented as a sort of personal oracle which provides predictions of future events and prophecies. This is on the one hand indicated by the fact that the author of this work uses the term δύναμις in order to refer to it, by which he underlines an active power as opposed to Plato’s image of the δαιμόνιον as an apotreptic and inhibiting sign. On the other hand, it is indicated by the conclusion of the dialogue, in which Theages proposes that Socrates put the divine sign to the test or to calm it down with prayers, sacrifices and all the other methods indicated by the fortune tellers. Those are proceedings which were part of the traditional religious beliefs related to gods and δαίμονες but not to the divine or demonic sign received by Socrates and described by Plato in his dialogues.

In: Thinking, Knowing, Acting: Epistemology and Ethics in Plato and Ancient Platonism
The volume explores the relationship of artists and intellectuals from ancient Greece to modern times. Special attention is paid to Plato, Augustan poets (including the reception), Soviet art (Mayakowsky) and Jewish intellectuals. Non European contexts (China, Turkey) are treated as well.