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Gold, Jeffrey BruceNames, concepts, and abilities : Plato on naming and knowing /
Doctor of Philosophy, The Ohio State University, 1978, Graduate School

Committee:

Not Provided (Other)

Subjects:

Philosophy

Keywords:

Plato;Plato

Nielsen, Alex CahillMaking Waves: Bacon, Manley, and the Shifting Rhetorics of Opulent At(a)lantis
Master of Arts in English, Cleveland State University, 2015, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences
In the modern critical environment, there has been a renewed interest in the role that proto-feminist and feminist satires have played in the development of cultural commentary and the modern novel. Lesser-studied works have seen several new approaches applied by critics such as Rachel Carnell, Rebecca Bullard, and Ruth Herman, who have focused on the role of the genre of “secret history” in the popular growth of the novel as a form for political dissent. Secret history, which can offer revelatory glimpses into the contemporary scandals and governance of the female authors of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, is a field that, properly contextualized, can provide a new focus for previously under-appreciated works, themes, and literary strategies. In this study, these critics’ contributions are applied to an interpretation of the works of Delarivier Manley (c. 1663 – 1724), and specifically to the proto-novel Secret Memoirs and Manners of Several Persons of Quality, of Both Sexes. From the New Atalantis, vols. 1 and 2 (1709) as a turning point in the development of modern tropes and the utilization of utopian and dystopian spaces, especially those based upon or resembling the mythical lost nation of Atlantis. Extending Manley’s semi-biographical secret history from the elements of cultural and political satire present in Sir Thomas More’s Utopia (1516) and Sir Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis (1624), the study aims to demonstrate that Manley’s text has dramatically influenced the modern interpretation of Atlantis specifically, and dystopias generally, in diverse cultural media including film, literature, comic books, and mythology. Examining the cataclysmic motifs of Atlantean utopias, anti-utopias, and dystopias, the study attempts to note the ways in which Manley’s The New Atalantis has permanently revised the accepted causes and motivations for the destruction of the Atlantean continent and the rhetorical commentary that these cataclysmic representations provide the modern reader as well as the creators of modern media.

Committee:

Rachel Carnell, PhD (Committee Chair); Adam Sonstegard, PhD (Committee Member); James Marino, PhD (Committee Member)

Subjects:

British and Irish Literature; Literature

Keywords:

Atlantis; satire; secret history; Delarivier Manley; Francis Bacon; Thomas More; Plato; utopia; dystopia; 18th century literature

Jazdzewska, Katarzyna AnnaPlatonic Receptions in the Second Sophistic
Doctor of Philosophy, The Ohio State University, 2011, Greek and Latin

The dissertation examines interactions of three Second Sophistic authors (Plutarch, Dio Chrysostom, and Ailios Aristeides) with Plato and his dialogues. Although the significance of Plato and his dialogues for Greek literature of the imperial period is well-known, there is lack of nuanced case studies attempting to uncover the mechanics and purpose of literary interactions with Plato. Scholarship tends to explain Plato’s presence in the Second Sophistic literature en masse as a socio-cultural phenomenon, interpreting Platonic presence in the Greek imperial authors as a cultural and stylistic statement on their part: as a means by which authors create their cultural identity and construct the cultural status of the present. Consequently, particular instances of the interaction between Second Sophistic authors and Plato frequently remain unexamined. In my examination of texts by Dio, Plutarch, and Ailios Aristeides, I focus on their meaning and how it is shaped and modified by placing Plato in the background.

In the Introduction, I offer a broad picture of the reception of Plato and his dialogues before and during the Second Sophistic. I draw attention to the fact that by interacting with Plato, a Second Sophistic author located himself within a lengthy and complex tradition of Platonic reception. I examine different literary strategies by means of which Second Sophistic authors interact with Plato, with special emphasis on a literary allusion and a dialogic genre as two ways of positioning one’s work vis-à-vis Plato’s text(s).

The three chapters of my dissertation examine different approaches to Plato and Platonic legacy. In the first chapter, I examine two dialogues which evoke Plato both structurally and verbally: Dio Chrysostom’s Charidemos and Plutarch’s Symposion of the Seven Sages. Both these texts make a considerable use of Plato’s Phaidon. I examine literary techniques by means of which Dio and Plutarch evoke Platonic text and ask the question about the function and significance of the Platonic background.

In the second chapter I focus on Platonic allusions in two non-dialogic works by these two same authors: Plutarch’s On listening, a work focused on philosophical education, and Dio’s Euboïkos. The affinity of these two works lies in their choice of the Republic as a subtext; in my examination I argue that recurrent references to the Republic are a sign of an intense interaction with Plato’s views on education and politics as expressed in this particular dialogue.

In the third chapter I move to a slightly younger author and examine Ailios Aristeides’ To Plato: in Defence of Oratory, to show an author actively engaged in the discussion over the Platonic legacy and the values and perils that it involved.

Committee:

Anthony Kaldellis, PhD (Advisor); Richard Fletcher, PhD (Committee Member); Tom Hawkins, PhD (Committee Member)

Subjects:

Classical Studies

Keywords:

Greek literature; Second Sophistic; Plato; Plutarch; Dio Chrysostom; Aelius Aristides

Hirsh, Merril"The Evil that Men do Lives After Them" (Sometimes) A Study of Twentieth Century Analysis of Plato's Political Theory
BA, Oberlin College, 1979, Government

This paper has two purposes. The first is to develop a theory about what approach to the ideas of the past in general, and Plato in particular, will help us the most in learning how to act in politics. I hope to do this by examining and evaluating the ways in which the 20th Century analysts have looked at Plato. The second purpose is to provide an example of the type of analysis I believe to be most useful. I hope to apply my approach not to Plato, but to those who have analyzed Plato, in an effort to make the most use of these writers’ ideas. Chapter One is a general overview of the analysts I will be discussing; Chapters Two, Three, and Four deal with what it means to approach Plato in a particular way; Chapter Five provides a discussion of what approach to Plato is likely to be the most useful; Chapter Six is a brief conclusion.

My analysis rests on two important initial assumptions. The first is that political action is based on political ideas – that individuals makes choices in politics based on the theoretical values they hold. The second assumption is that the goal of understanding our values- the principles on which we act- is best served when we challenge them with as many different views about politics as possible. I will be suggesting that it is not the nature of the view of politics an author has, but rather an author’s failure to be cognizant of the limitations of his/her viewpoint that makes an approach to political thought less than useful.

This last point needs some clarification. I believe that the attempt to view the past inevitably involves a tradeoff between presenting a thinker’s ideas “faithfully” in the way he/she had intended them to be presented, and viewing a thinker’s ideas in the way we would like to. As J. G. A. Pocock suggests, the attempt to study the past is an act of translation, and I believe that something is always lost in translation. Much as we might like to have Plato’s opinions on modern questions, Plato never addressed the problems of industrialized mass society, or, for that matter, the threat of totalitarian regimes to individual liberty. To apply Plato to our modern world can only be accomplished if we extrapolate from what he said, and we must realize that we do this at the cost of fidelity to Plato’s intentions. Yet, an analysis which seeks to avoid extrapolating from Plato’s ideas is done at the cost of limiting the extent to which Plato’s ideas can be applied to our own problems.

Committee:

Harlan Garnett Wilson (Advisor)

Subjects:

Political Science

Keywords:

Plato;

Mooradian, Norman ArthurPleasure and illusion : false pleasure in Plato's Philebus /
Doctor of Philosophy, The Ohio State University, 1992, Graduate School

Committee:

Not Provided (Other)

Subjects:

Philosophy

Keywords:

Plato;Pleasure;Idea

Maiullo, Stephen AnthonyFrom Philosopher to Priest: The Transformation of the Persona of the Platonic Philosopher
Doctor of Philosophy, The Ohio State University, 2010, Greek and Latin

This dissertation examines the transformation of philosophers into priests and demonstrates that the fusion of philosophy with religion was a complex literary and philosophical process that ultimately responded to metaphysical and epistemological questions raised by Plato himself. I focus on the period between the first and early fourth centuries CE, when Platonic philosophers such as Plutarch, Numenius, and Iamblichus began to energize the role that religion played in the philosopher’s search for the truth. In their texts, these authors gradually and increasingly adopted the persona of priests, which changed not only the textual presentation of philosophy, but also the very substance of that philosophy.

The first two chapters study Iamblichus, who, in the De Mysteriis, adopted the persona of an Egyptian priest in order to answer Porphyry’s objections to his programmatic fusion of Plato with theurgy, a set of rituals derived from the “Chaldeans.” I argue that Iamblichus’ main philosophical divergence from the Platonic tradition was related to his epistemological view that knowledge of the Good is possible, but attainable only through the grace of the gods.

The third chapter turns to Plutarch, whose textual identity was primarily defined by his dual role as Platonic philosopher and priest of Apollo at Delphi. I specifically examine his Delphic Dialogues and his Isis and Osiris to show that Plutarch viewed his role as priest at Delphi as a means to incite the shrine’s visitors to philosophy, and that both the religious rituals performed and the mysterious truths revealed there presented their participants with the unique opportunity to study them philosophically.

The fourth chapter looks at centuries between Plutarch and Iamblichus by focusing on one transformative figure in particular: Numenius of Apameia. Numenius was a second-century Platonist, who called for a complete cleansing of the impurities of the Platonic tradition. I argue that Numenius represented the formative exemplar of Platonists who readily admitted that Plato’s inconclusiveness presented a challenge to the philosopher in search of wisdom. Because “Plato’s doctrines” were so obscured by the dialogue form, his successors actually subverted Platonic doctrine. His goal was to arrive at the true dogma of Plato, but this required divine aid and an appeal to other traditions, a claim that formed the fundamental basis for Iamblichus.

The conclusion studies Plato himself, focusing in particular on two priestly figures, Diotima and Euthyphro, in order to show that while Plato did allow for priestly figures in philosophy, he did problematize the role that they played in the philosophical search for wisdom. I conclude that Iamblichus explicitly resolved both Plato’s and the Platonic tradition’s implicit ambivalence about whether knowledge is possible by invoking the help of the gods as the end, not the beginning of the philosopher’s search; that Iamblichus took direct aim at Plutarch and his mode of exegesis and was authorized to do so by the Platonic tradition itself; and that during the centuries in question, Plato and the Platonic texts had become apologetic tools for everyone.

Committee:

Anthony Kaldellis, PhD (Advisor); Richard Fletcher, PhD (Committee Member); Sarah Johnston, PhD (Committee Member)

Subjects:

Classical Studies

Keywords:

Religion; Philosophy; Plato; Iamblichus; Plutarch; Numenius

Anderson, Daniel PaulPlato's Complaint: Nathan Zuckerman, The University of Chicago, and Philip Roth's Neo-Aristotelian Poetics
Master of Arts, Case Western Reserve University, 2008, English
This thesis examines how Philip Roth’s education at the University of Chicago shaped the Zuckerman Bound books. By investigating the influence that the Chicago “Neo-Aristotelians” had on Roth’s graduate work, I show how Aristotle and Plato organize the tension between Zuckerman’s career as a novelist and his heritage as a Jew. The thesis examines how the Chicago emphasis on the critical powers of Pluralism was derived from Aristotle’s Poetics and how that literary practice influenced Roth. The Chicago emphasis on Pluralism emerged from a disagreement between Plato and Aristotle over the nature of art, specifically, whether a work of art exists in and of itself, or if it’s simply part of a single organizing system. Like his Chicago mentors, Roth models the tension between Zuckerman’s heritage and art after the philosophical disagreement between Plato and Aristotle. A close reading of the Zuckerman Bound books reveals that Chicago criticism is alive and well in literature.

Committee:

Judith Oster (Advisor)

Subjects:

Literature, English

Keywords:

Philip Roth; The University of Chicago; Aristotle; Plato; Nathan Zuckerman; The Republic; Poetics; Jewish Identity

DiCola, Paul S.Socrates, Irwin, and Instrumentalism
Master of Arts (MA), Ohio University, 2008, Philosophy (Arts and Sciences)
This thesis is intended to argue against Terence Irwin's instrumental thesis that explains the relation of virtue to happiness in Plato's early dialogues. Irwin's instrumental thesis leads him to believe that virtue is a craft that is "entirely distinct" from the end it pursues -happiness. His instrumental thesis rests on the idea of techne being a productive craft; however, I argue that Irwin's interpretation of techne is skewed and leads him into trouble. Moreover, Irwin fails to answer the objection that virtue cannot be a craft since a craft is possible to be used for vicious ends. Finally, if we examine extreme situations, such as exile or bodily dismemberment, we notice that the relation of virtue to happiness is not as Irwin claims it to be.

Committee:

John W. Bender, PhD (Committee Chair); James Petrik, PhD (Committee Member); James Andrews, PhD (Committee Member)

Subjects:

Philosophy

Keywords:

Terence Irwin; virtue; Plato; Socrates; instrumentalism; virtue and happiness; Gregory Vlastos; techne; craft analogy; purely instrumental

Nelson, Andrew R.Platonic Interpretation is Set in Wax, Not Stone: Evidence for a Developmentalist Reading of Theaetetus 151-187
Master of Arts (MA), Ohio University, 2013, Philosophy (Arts and Sciences)
Interpreting Plato is a difficult, divisive affair. This is particularly apparent in the Theaetetus where there are two primary interpretations of the first definition of knowledge—Reading A and Reading B, Unitarian and Developmentalist interpretations respectively. Reading A claims Plato has accepted moderate versions of Heraclitean Flux (HF) and Protagoras’ Measure Doctrine (MD). Reading B finds Plato rejecting both theories. This thesis provides a brief history of Platonic interpretation, an exposition of the first definition of knowledge, and evidence for Reading B. The evidence appeals to the two Readings’ mutually exclusive interpretations. The thesis suggests essential features of moderate versions of HF and MD, relates them to modern empiricists’ notion of sense-impressions, and then shows that Plato rejects sense-impressions later in the dialogue. Thus, showing that Plato does not accept moderate versions of HF and MD, and providing corroborating evidence that Reading B is correct.

Committee:

Scott Carson, PhD (Advisor); James Petrik, PhD (Committee Member); Al Lent, PhD (Committee Member)

Subjects:

Classical Studies; Philosophy

Keywords:

Plato; Unitarian; Unitarianism; Developmentalist; Developmentalism; Theaetetus; Knowledge; Perception; Sense-impressions; Heraclitus; Protagoras; Measure Doctrine; Flux; Locke; Hume; Platonic Interpretation; Wax; Empiricism

Flores, Samuel OrtencioThe Roles of Solon in Plato’s Dialogues
Doctor of Philosophy, The Ohio State University, 2013, Greek and Latin
This dissertation is a study of Plato’s use and adaptation of an earlier model and tradition of wisdom based on the thought and legacy of the sixth-century archon, legislator, and poet Solon. Solon is cited and/or quoted thirty-four times in Plato’s dialogues, and alluded to many more times. My study shows that these references and allusions have deeper meaning when contextualized within the reception of Solon in the classical period. For Plato, Solon is a rhetorically powerful figure in advancing the relatively new practice of philosophy in Athens. While Solon himself did not adequately establish justice in the city, his legacy provided a model upon which Platonic philosophy could improve. Chapter One surveys the passing references to Solon in the dialogues as an introduction to my chapters on the dialogues in which Solon is a very prominent figure, Timaeus-Critias, Republic, and Laws. Chapter Two examines Critias’ use of his ancestor Solon to establish his own philosophic credentials. Chapter Three suggests that Socrates re-appropriates the aims and themes of Solon’s political poetry for Socratic philosophy. Chapter Four suggests that Solon provides a legislative model which Plato reconstructs in the Laws for the philosopher to supplant the role of legislator in Greek thought. The Athenian Stranger orients legislation towards virtue. I conclude that figure of Solon provides a basis for Plato to redirect the aims of politics towards philosophy and cultivation of virtue in the soul.

Committee:

Bruce Heiden (Advisor); Anthony Kaldellis (Committee Member); Richard Fletcher (Committee Member); Greg Anderson (Committee Member)

Subjects:

Ancient History; Classical Studies; Philosophy

Keywords:

Plato; Solon; ancient philosophy; classics

Simmonds, Kent CooperPhilosophical comments on symposium 20ld-7A /
Doctor of Philosophy, The Ohio State University, 1970, Graduate School

Committee:

Not Provided (Other)

Subjects:

Philosophy

Keywords:

Plato

Veneklase, MatthewPerfect and Imperfect Character in Plato and Derrida: A Distinction with Respect to "Universals" and Its Relevance for Feminist Thought
MA, Kent State University, 2014, College of Arts and Sciences / Department of Philosophy
This paper attempts to develop and apply two contrary concepts, referred to as perfect character and imperfect character. Both have to do with a very broadly construed notion of universals, wherein a universal is anything predicable of more than one other thing. The point of this definition is exclude particulars, or individuals, and thereby limit the scope of inquiry, while also avoiding traditional disputes over the metaphysical reality or non-reality of universals. The concept of perfect character is drawn from relevant works of Plato, and is hypothesized to be the usual way in which universals are understood. That of imperfect character is drawn largely from relevant works of Jacques Derrida, although those of Martin Heidegger and Ludwig Wittgenstein are considered as well. In developing these concepts, a certain amount of logical analysis is employed, although the limits of such analysis are also made clear. An attempt is then made to show the relevance of this distinction for feminist philosophy, in particular with respect to concerns that contemporary constructions of femininity function oppressively. To this end, works by several feminist thinkers are consulted, an article by Sandra Lee Bartky providing the focal point. The basic conclusion is that to understand femininity as having imperfect, rather than perfect, character, would undermine any oppressive functions of current constructions of femininity. The relevance to other feminist concerns of the distinction between perfect and imperfect character is also indicated. Besides feminist thought, this distinction should also be relevant to other inquiries, such as those concerning race and racism, post-colonial thinking, justice, and ecological concerns.

Committee:

Gina Zavota (Advisor); David Odell-Scott (Committee Member); Jung-Yeup Kim (Committee Member); Jennifer Larson (Committee Member)

Subjects:

Gender Studies; Philosophy

Keywords:

Derrida; Plato; Bartky; Universals; Self-Identity; Heidegger; family resemblance; feminism; femininity

Snyder, Jacob T.Reading Plato with Heidegger: A Study of the Allegory of the Cave
MA, Kent State University, 2012, College of Arts and Sciences / Department of Philosophy
Martin Heidegger's interpretation of Plato, in particular his analysis of the Allegory of the Cave, has enlivened interest in and debate about the thought of one of the West's most looming figures. After eight decades of criticism, what does Heidegger's interpretation offer us yet today? I hold that even with his misappropriations and misunderstandings, and at times because of them, Heidegger's work on Plato has in many ways renewed the thought of this looming figure. I will explore the occasions where Heidegger's work on the Allegory of the Cave illuminates aspects of Plato's thought in important ways, such as in his discussion of aletheia, and where his misguided efforts can lead us to more honest readings of Plato's texts, such as in his disappointing portrayal of the dialogue format.

Committee:

David Odell-Scott, PhD (Advisor); Jeffrey Wattles, PhD (Committee Member); Gene Pendleton, PhD (Committee Member); Vera Camden, PhD (Committee Member)

Subjects:

Philosophy

Keywords:

Heidegger; Plato; Hermeneutics; Theory of the Forms; Aletheia

Parker, Michael L.Sex and the Soul: Plato’s Equality Argument in the Republic
PhD, University of Cincinnati, 2006, Arts and Sciences : Philosophy
Plato is distinguished as one of the earliest Western philosophers to offer a philosophical argument for the equality of men and women. His primary argument for equality is presented in Book V of the Republic (451-457), and culminates with the claim that everything said about men applies equally to women in the sculpting of rulers for his ideal city (Republic 540c). He argues specifically that women are equal to men to serve as Guardians. Scholars have engaged in extended discussion over the meaning of this argument, including vigorous debate by modern feminist scholars. Not as much attention, however, has been given to the philosophical basis upon which Plato makes his case for equality. This dissertation is an inquiry into Plato’s philosophical basis for his equality claim. From the Guard Dog Analogy (Republic Book II), the Equality Argument (Republic Book V), and the Myth of Er (Republic Book X) the conclusion is reached that Plato’s equality claim is based upon his metaphysical conception of the soul. In part, Plato’s conception is that souls are equal in their origin and design; souls are the source of life and knowledge in the bodies they incarnate; and souls are asexual. From this foundation Plato makes his claim that men and women are equally capable to serve as Guardians inasmuch as the requirements of Guardianship have to do with features located in the soul, not the body. Since souls are asexual, sexual difference is irrelevant to Guardian service. This thesis is explored from three different perspectives: first, from within Plato’s corpus, primarily the Republic, although including the Timaeus; second, in relation to the broader nomos - phusis discourse, including Xenophon, Antiphon, and Euripides; and third, with respect to its continuity in Plato’s Laws.

Committee:

Dr. Lawrence Jost (Advisor)

Subjects:

Philosophy

Keywords:

Plato; Republic; Equality; Feminism; Guard Dog Analogy; Myth of Er; Laws; Nature; Soul; Phusis; Nomos; Female Nature; Guardians

McDonald, Matthew WilliamThe Good, the Bad, and the Grouch: A Comparison of Characterization in Menander and the Ancient Philosophers
Bachelor of Arts (BA), Ohio University, 2016, Classics
The comedic playwright Menander is known for his unique style of characterization. His genre of New Comedy is distinct in its way of using common stock characters, but Menander himself enriched this generic trope through variation of these stock types. Techniques of characterization are naturally found in all genres of literature, but New Comedy places a unique emphasis on character. Similarly, ancient ethical philosophy and rhetoric focuses on human character. The philosophers Aristotle, Theophrastus, and Plato each have notable works that try to answer ethical questions about character and try to depict and explain human behaviors through character elements. This thesis analyzes Menander's method of characterization and compares his style to the techniques of characterization used by Aristotle, Theophrastus, and Plato. The comparison is utilized to answer what aspects of characterization is similar between these two distinct genres and which elements of character these writers saw as important.

Committee:

William Owens (Advisor)

Subjects:

Ancient Languages; Classical Studies; Literature; Philosophy; Theater History

Keywords:

character; characterization; Menander; Aristotle; Plato; Theophrastus; Republic; Nicomachean Ethics; Rhetoric; Characters; Dyskolos; Samia; New Comedy; Greek; drama

Danielewicz, Joseph RobertParody as Pedagogy in Plato's Dialogues
Doctor of Philosophy, The Ohio State University, 2015, Greek and Latin
This dissertation is a study of parody in Plato’s dialogues. In it I argue that parody is not merely a literary, aesthetic, or rhetorical feature of his texts, but a part of his philosophical program and pedagogy. Plato humorously represents the ideas of other intellectuals to show the reader things about them which they might not have seen before such as their hidden assumptions and unintended consequences. In the Introduction I contrast my position with that which sees Plato’s philosophy as equivalent to some number of doctrines or philosophical positions. Often we try to square what Socrates is saying with what we think Plato believes, instead of seeing that what he says is actually a critical parody of someone else’s views. Here I situate my argument within larger schools of Platonic interpretation and discuss the history and theory of parody. In Chapter One I argue that we can better understand Plato’s use of parody by looking at his dramatic predecessor, Aristophanes. The comic playwright not only humorously represents and subjects to criticism many of the same ideas and habits of thought and speech Plato does, but he too does so in order to educate his audience. He uses humor and the (mis)representation of parody to paradoxically show them the truth. In Chapter Two I analyze Agathon’s speech in Plato’s Symposium, arguing that it serves as a parody of the views of the sophist Gorgias. This recognition allows the reader to see that Agathon’s eros is actually an external, physical, compelling force, something not apparent on the surface of his encomium. It is this underlying assumption about desire that Plato is exposing through the humor of parody. In Chapter Three I show that the theory of music education in the Republic is not representative of Plato’s views, but a parody of the theories of Damon, an intellectual in Pericles’ inner circle. Plato is showing his readers what happens when one adopts Damon’s ideas which, like Gorgias’, rest on materialist principles. In Chapter Four, I argue that Socrates’ etymological demonstration in the Cratylus, far from harboring Plato’s theory of language, is actually a parody of contemporary views about words. In this dialogue, Plato shows how one’s ideas about language go hand in hand with a metaphysics and ethics. He uses parody to show what a materialist view of language means for one’s conception of virtue, reality, and the self.

Committee:

Bruce Heiden, Dr. (Advisor); Richard Fletcher, Dr. (Committee Member); Tom Hawkins, Dr. (Committee Member)

Subjects:

Classical Studies; Philosophy

Keywords:

philosophy; ancient philosophy; Plato; parody

Bowden, Chelsea MinaIsocrates' Mimetic Philosophy
Master of Arts, The Ohio State University, 2012, Greek and Latin

This thesis argues that Isocrates was a philosopher and practiced philosophy, a view contrary to the majority of scholars, who view Isocrates solely as an orator or rhetorician. The study of Isocrates’ philosophy has been neglected primarily due to its dissimilarity to the philosophy of Plato, and Isocrates’ work has therefore not been regarded as philosophy, despite Isocrates’ frequent claims to practice philosophy. The goal of Isocrates’ philosophy is to improve decision-making in public affairs by attempting to arrive at the best course of action in any particular situation through a process of conjectures and approximations, which are founded in conventional wisdom.

A student of Isocrates’ philosophy learns what conjectures are suitable from exemplary men whom he takes as models for his own thought. For Isocrates, these men were successful Athenian politicians such as Solon, Cleisthenes, Themistocles, and Pericles, whom the community generally esteemed to be excellent. The best way to understand the thought of these men was through reading and imitating the speeches that they wrote. For Isocrates, speaking well and thinking well were inseparable, and therefore the construction of a speech, with thoughts parallel to those of his model, was both producing a philosophical text but also practicing philosophy. Having multiple models to draw upon is preferable in determining which excellent thoughts one should fit to the situation at hand in the speech.

As speech-writing is such an important aspect of his philosophy, a portion of his educational program consisted of learning the different figures of speech and methods of composition and how to suit and adapt them to the situation at hand to produce a speech that is persuasive to the audience. Isocrates believes that not everyone can do this complex interweaving of composition and situation effectively, however, his educational program will improve everyone’s abilities, though true ability is reserved for those with natural talent as well as training. Even if a speech is constructed well and contains excellent thoughts, it still may fail to persuade an audience. Isocrates believes that this can happen due to a poor reputation and the confusion or ignorance of the audience, factors which played a large role in his student Timotheus’ failure to obtain an acquittal on charges of treason despite being an excellent general and following Isocrates’ educational program.

Any student of Isocrates could achieve so much success that he could become a model for other students to imitate in their speech-writing. Isocrates provides an example of this in the Nicocles, which Isocrates writes in the voice of the tyrant Nicocles, who models his own speech after Evagoras and To Nicocles, two speeches by Isocrates written in his own voice. While many scholars have argued that in the Antidosis Isocrates imitates the philosophy of Socrates in Plato’s Apology, he actually only adopts the situation that Socrates was in and fits his own thoughts to it, exemplifying his philosophy in action. Through studying Isocrates’ philosophy, we can more fully understand the philosophical climate in Athens in the 4th century BCE.

Committee:

Fritz Graf (Advisor); David Hahm (Committee Member)

Subjects:

Ancient Civilizations; Ancient History; Ancient Languages; Classical Studies; Education History; Philosophy; Rhetoric

Keywords:

Isocrates; Philosophy; Plato; Mimesis; Greece; Greek; Oratory; Rhetoric; Antidosis; Nicocles; Athens; Paideia;