Socrates and Plato. Tutor and pupil. Socrates sentenced to death, Plato establishing the first academy, drafting the outline and laws of an ideal state, giving us immortal descriptions of love as well as the cataclysmic end of a degenerate, brutal nation known as Atlantis ... and, through his written dialogues where his demon Socrates is resurrected as his mouthpiece, eternally shaming the henchmen of his beloved teacher, comparing the process to “a physician tried in a court of little boys at the indictment of the cook”. Withdrawn, ethereal sages they were not. Socrates fought as a foot soldier in three great battles, saved the life of his friend Alcibiades and was praised by his general. Plato, in the cavalry, also saw action in the Peloponnesian War. This inseparable duo founded philosophy as we know it. Two millennia have revered them as giants of thought. Even in the twentieth century A. N. Whitehead stated that he could see no philosophy from the end of antiquities onwards that could not be labeled footnotes to Plato. Still, those who saw them as questionable company might not have been so far off. People engaging in their discussions were driven to despair, unable to decide whether the philosopher was in earnest or making fun of them. Some, exposed as empty heads rattling off, became mortal enemies. Others took their own lives in order to rejoin “the world of ideas” as quickly as possible. More than one Athenian family regarded Socrates the Gadfly and his avenger Plato as bad news. More than a dozen years after the execution of Socrates by poison, Plato was told: “the hemlock of Socrates is in store for you also.” PLATO AND HIS DEMON concentrates not only on forgotten or concealed gems in Socratic-Platonic thought, but also on the voices and timbres; capricious, poetic, ironic, sarcastic, even hateful, that reverberate through the dialogues. Far from harboring dispassionate, oracular words of wisdom, the texts come through as extremely personal expressions of minds that, when they chose to, could be lethally dangerous in a city-state that was already on the brink of military disaster. CARLOS WIGGEN, Doctor of philosophy and History of Ideas, also makes his PLATO AND HIS DEMON a personal statement on the art of interpretation and the present state of Humanities.
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