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Politics of the Soul in the Alcibiades

James M. Magrini

Politics of the Soul in the Alcibiades is an important book that develops an interpretation of the essence of the political (politics of the soul) as elucidated through the analysis of Socrates’ practice of “self-cultivation” or care for the soul. In the process, it also confronts the issue of the problematic relationship between philosopher and statesman that is present to Plato’s dialogues. The analysis contributes the following to ongoing scholarship: (1) It offers a detailed and critical discussion of the neglected and ofttimes maligned dialogue the Alcibiades; (2) It contributes to the reinterpretation of the traditional view of the Socratic method arguing for elenchus as an expression and instantiation of the normative politics it seeks to define; and  (3) In developing a unique account of Socratic participatory democracy, it has the subordinate aim of demonstrating the value of Socratic practice over our own impoverished practice of political discourse. The text is suitable for scholars working in the fields of philosophy, ancient Greek philosophy, and classical studies. It would serve as an excellent secondary text for graduate level courses reading Plato’s dialogues because it contains an extensive and sustained discussion of the Socratic method. In addition to graduate students, it is appropriate for college students pursuing courses in philosophy in their third or fourth year of study. Laypersons who are intellectually curious about philosophy, particularly those interested in Socrates, will be attracted to this text.

Preface – Abbreviations and References – Introduction – Why the Alcibiades Matters – Controversy Surrounding "Platonic" Authorship – Alcibiades in the Historical and Philosophical Traditions – Reading the Alcibiades – Socratic Elenchus, Method, and Education in the Alcibiades – The Socratic Education of Alcibiades – Socratic Elenchus: Attunement and Learned Ignorance – The Failure of Alcibiades’ Education – Socratic Self-Knowledge and the Virtuous Order of the Soul – The Intimate Knowledge of the Soul – Self- Knowledge and Radical Limitations – The Well-Ordered Soul: Dikaiosune, Sophrosune, and Phronesis – Socratic Virtues, Ethics, and Democratic Ideals in Dialectic – Socrates’ Critical- Elenchus: The Concern for Social Justice – Instantiating Phronesis of the Virtues in Socratic Dialectic-and-Dialogue – Socratic Dialectic and Democratic Ideals – Socratic Politics of the Soul: Philosopher, Statesman, and Democracy – Statesman-as-Philosopher: The Virtuous Ordering of the State – Socrates’ Virtuous Practice of Politics in Athens – Socrates and Contemporary Dialogue: Dialektos, Parrhesia, and Oikeion – About the Author.