preview

Responding to Socrates’ Pedagogical Provocation

Satisfactory Essays
Responding to Socrates’ Pedagogical Provocation

ABSTRACT: In this paper I examine the text of the Symposium to illustrate two non-philosophical responses to Socrates’ pedagogical provocation. While Apollodorus and Aristodemus, two Socratic disciples, demonstrate their erotic commitment to Socrates, they do not practice philosophy. They manifest their non-philosophical behavior in two ways. First, they idolize and imitate Socrates. Second, they constantly tell stories about Socrates. In the first section I analyze Aristodemus’ and Apollodorus’ emotional attachment to Socrates. While both disciples are genuinely protective of Socrates, their behavior often precludes the practice of philosophy. In the second section, I examine the nuances of the narrative frame of the Symposium. Apollodorus and Aristodemus both express their commitment to Socrates by telling stories about him. While their stories do preserve knowledge about Socrates, they are unpersuasive spokespersons for the philosophical life. They remain mired in their personal love for Socrates. In the third section, I interpret Plato’s rhetorical use of anonymity as a strategy designed to mitigate against the dangers of discipleship.

In this paper, I examine the text of the Symposium to illustrate two non-philosophical responses to Socrates’ pedagogical provocation. While Apollodorus and Aristodemus, two Socratic disciples, demonstrate their erotic commitment to Socrates, they do not practice philosophy. They manifest their non-philosophical behavior in two ways. First, they idolize and imitate Socrates. Second, they constantly tell stories about Socrates. Unfortunately, these practices do not lead them toward a genuine philosophical commitment. They remain mired in their personal love for Socrates. I then interpret Plato’s rhetorical use of anonymity as a possible strategy designed to mitigate against the dangers of discipleship.

1. Imitation of Socrates' Non-narrative Behavior

When Aristodemus arrives at Agathon's party without Socrates, his solitary appearance surprises Agathon. Upon seeing Aristodemus without Socrates, Agathon acts as if such an occurrence were an anomaly. Somewhat bewildered, Agathon exclaims "but where is he?" (174e8). Apparently, Aristodemus follows Socrates around everywhere. Apollodorus' concluding description of Aristodemus reveals that the man habitually followed Socrates everywhere; "He [Aristodemus] followed him [Socrates] just as he was accustomed" (223e10).(1) Given this behavior, it is not surprising that Agathon cannot imagine a circumstance in which he would find Aristodemus without Socrates. Early in the dialogue, Apollodorus suggests that Aristodemus engages in this behavior because he is "obsessed with Socrates" (173b).

When Apollodorus tells us that Aristodemus "followed Socrates just as he was accustomed" (223e10), he uses the word, hepomai. The Greek word hepomai carries the sense of "following as an attendant" (Liddell and Scott 310).
Get Access