How to 'Know Thyself' in Plato's Phaedrus

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Abstract

When Socrates says, for the only time in the Socratic literature, that he strives to "know himself" (Phdr. 229e), he does not what this "self" is, or how he is to know it. Recent scholarship is split between taking it as one's concrete personality and as the nature of (human) souls in general. This paper turns for answers to the immediate context of Socrates' remark about self-knowledge: his long diatribe about myth-rectification. It argues that the latter, a civic task that Socrates' dismisses as too laborious, nevertheless serves as a model for the more personal former task. Both involve piecemeal acknowledgement and adjustment of one's commitments for the sake of living successfully. Both require looking simultaneously to general facts about people (or the world) and to particular facts about oneself (or one's city). Socrates' hope that he differs from Typhon (230a) means that he hopes he is amenable to rectification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)390-418
Number of pages29
JournalApeiron
Volume47
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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