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Ancient World Seminar: Albert Joosse (Freiburg), 'Ancient Philosophical Education and the Platonic Alcibiades'

Wanneer:ma 16-12-2013 16:15 - 17:30
Waar:Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, room 130

The Platonic First Alcibiades is a fictional portrayal of an encounter between Socrates and Alcibiades. It is a story of a philosophical conversion, in which Socrates makes the young Alcibiades realise that he is ignorant and urgently needs to take care of himself (epimeleisthai heautou). It is also the story of a failed conversion. By the time the dialogue was written, Alcibiades had become a paradigm of excess and opportunism—the very opposite of a successful philosophical product.

Hundreds of years later, Platonic teachers used the dialogue for the philosophical conversion of their students by teaching it as the first of Plato’s dialogues in the curriculum. But how does this relate to the fact that the Alcibiades also raises the question of philosophical failure? Did teachers and students perceive this challenge to the efficacy of philosophical teaching? And how did they deal with it? What made the Alcibiades so important to them that they placed it first?

In discussing this dialogue and its ancient reception, I will argue that this reception was not only a Platonic affair, but that philosophers from other schools too were interested in it and the questions it raises. For these philosophers, the Alcibiades was above all a text about self-knowledge, love, and the divine backing of their own teaching.

Dr. Albert Joosse studied Ancient History in Utrecht and Philosophy at King's College Londen. In 2011 he received his Ph.D., also at Utrecht, for his dissertation Why a philosopher needs others: Platonic and Stoic models of friendship and self-understanding. Until this year, he worked as a post-doc in a DFG-Graduiertenkolleg that investigates friendship and patronage from different disciplinary angles, at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität of Freiburg. He is currently at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies, where his research concerns the ancient reception of the Platonic dialogue Alcibiades Maior.