Abstracts for PPI
The Image of Achilles in Plato's Symposium
Closer attention to some previously unnoticed aspects of the imagery of Plato's Symposium can help us to achieve a better understanding of Plato's use of heroic figures. Alcibiades says that he will praise Socrates "by means of images" (215a). He must resort to imagery because of Socrates' strangeness: "With a man such as Achilles was," says Alcibiades, "one might compare Brasidas, and others, and with such a man as Pericles one might compare Nestor and Antenor," but Socrates can be compared with no other human, ancient or modern (221c-d). Thus, Alcibiades says that Socrates is not the image of anyone else, and, in particular, that he is not the image of Achilles, first on this list of heroic figures. Comparison of significant words and actions of Socrates in the Symposium with those of Achilles in the Iliad reveal, I contend, that Socrates is indeed not an image of Achilles in the sense of a likeness. He is, on the contrary, an Achilles in reverse, whose words and deeds are just the opposite of those of Achilles. That is, he is a mirror-image of Achilles, in the sense of an image that is the reverse of the original (see Timaeus 46a-c).
‘The Tripartite Soul as Metaphor’.
As Plato might have said, but didn't, all soul is metaphor. This paper explores the implications of this in the tripartite model of the soul as deployed in the account of the deviant personality types in Republic 8 and 9. The levels of the hierarchy and the stages of degeneration from the ideal make frequent use of personification. Agency, however, is not attributed only to the εἴδη of the ψυχή, but also to the individual and to his desires. Interaction takes place between the individual and the εἴδη of his ψυχή, but also between the individual and his desires, as well as between desire and desire, and between the εἴδη of the ψυχή. There is interaction between one individual and another, but also between one individual and various personified elements of another’s personality. Since personification characterizes the model at all levels, it makes no sense to ask what the ἐπιθυμητικόν (for example) can ‘really’ do; it is only in so far as it is personified that it can ‘do’ anything. The tenor of the metaphor is not some non-metaphorical or less metaphorical version of the tripartite soul, but simply the person.
Two images of the Soul in the Republic: The three-headed Beast (Book IX) and the Sea Creature Glaucus (Book X)
The moral psychology of the Republic is based on the conception of a tripartite soul, which is put into visual form in Book IX and, if Socrates is to be believed, Book X. It is interesting to compare the images of the three-headed beast and the sea creature Glaucus for two reasons: first, because they are both associated with strange beings, making the soul respectively into a sort of three-headed monster and a being with a deformed body; and second, because they are linked by Socrates, who makes them both images of the tripartite soul. Therefore they are not, according to him, fundamentally different: “we have seen the soul in a condition that is like that of the sea Glaucus” (611c8). Despite the fact that the idea of the composite soul, although not cast into doubt, seems somewhat undermined by the image of Glaucus, which suggests the idea of a simple soul, these two images are in reality complementary. The image of the three-headed beast enriches our understanding of the nature of the soul in relation to the arguments in Books IV and IX, while the image of Glaucus illustrates in a specific way the limits of the psychology of the Republic.
Plato on Images that make one laugh
If seriousness appears as one central mark of philosophy (and Socrates is never depicted as laughing, except perhaps when exercising eirônia), Plato uses laughter in many key passages of his dialogues. In many cases, laughter (either experienced by the protagonists of the dialogue, or a laughter that is supposed to be experienced by us readers) is evoked by images. I will review some of them (mostly from the Symposium), and try to figure out how they are supposed to work, and what philosophical gain we get from them.
Image and Comparison: The explanatory power of the eikôn in the Republic
My paper will focus on the Republic and Plato’s use of the term eikôn in four passages where he has "images" that clearly have an explanatory virtue (VI 488a-489a: the ship of the Athenian democracy; VII 514a -517a: the allegory of the cave; VII 538C: the image of the orphan; IX 588C-589b: the representation of the soul as a multi-headed beast).
Radcliffe G. Edmonds III
Putting him on a pedestal: (Re)collection and the use of images in Plato’s Phaedrus
What is the right way to treat an image? In the Phaedrus Plato plays with the problematic status of images, employing some of his most vivid and memorable images to illustrate how images may be used philosophically in the processes of συναγωγή and ἀνάμνησις. The beautiful beloved serves as an image of the divine reality, and the lover sets up, adorns, and worships this icon as if it were the god itself, for it both reminds him of his prenatal glimpse of the hyperouranian realm and leads his soul back toward that divine reality. Plato describes the lover’s treatment of the beloved as an image of the divine in terms similar to those of the true rhetorician’s construction of a speech that leads the soul of the hearer toward truth. The lover actively tends to this divine image, fashioning it in the likeness of the god he recollects following in the path toward the hyperouranian realm, while Socrates claims that, when he finds someone who can employ philosophical collection and division, he will follow in that man’s tracks as if he were a god. Both the worship paid to the beloved icon and good speeches employ images and mnemonic associations to lead the follower, step by step, toward the truth. While Phaedrus fixes his desire upon the images, both the beloved boy and the speeches, Socrates uses these images as signs on his philosophic path, reminders of whence he has come and whither he is going.
Backgrounds to Plato's Iconology
This paper will consider the sympotic game of eikones legein as a way into the many aspects of Plato’s use of images. Taking as a starting point Alcibiades’ praise of Socrates dia eikonôn in the Symposium (215a), I will explore the affiliations of this mode of speech with the archaic ainos and with instances of eikasia in Homer. Special attention will be paid to the fifth century and the rhetorical study of eikonologia (Phdr. 267b). Passages from the Presocratics, especially Democritus, on language and reference will suggest that Plato used eikones not only to explore metaphysical and epistemological issues but also what he called theologia as well.
The Power of a Beautiful Image in Plato and the Poets: Infatuation or Transcendence?
It is increasingly recognized in the literature that Plato’s critique of the poets for their use of images in no way implies that philosophy can dispense with images. How, after all, could one fail to note that even the Platonic dialogue most unsparingly critical of imitation is not only itself a work of imitation but accomplishes its central philosophical work through images (think of the Sun and the Cave)? The starting point of any discussion of the topic must be the fact that Plato’s relation to images, and thus also to the poets in whom he sees the masters of images, is deeply ambivalent. What I wish to show is that this ambivalence is rooted in the ambivalence that characterizes images themselves on Plato’s account, an ambivalence that especially comes to the fore in the beautiful image. Such an image is ambivalent in that by its very nature it both produces satisfaction with itself, is desirable in itself, and points beyond itself, leaving one unsatisfied. In examining this ambivalence I will focus on three texts: 1) The critique of the Lovers of Sights and Sounds in Republic V as only resembling philosophers; 2) The positive role for philosophical transcendence of the beautiful image in the Phaedrus; 3) The contest between Agathon and Socrates in the Symposium. What we learn from the latter text in particular is that the beautiful image can be more than an image only when it ceases to satisfy. In the end, it is an emphasis on the ‘erotic’ character of images, and thus on their ambivalence between possessing and lacking that of which they are the images, that distinguishes the philosopher from the poet.
Platonic images: where the truth lies
Plato taught us that the image, as a matter of principle, cannot be the truth. It is well known that the same Plato, more than anyone else, did put images at the core of the philosophical landscape. And the importance of platonic images is not only due to the large number of their occurrences, nor is it due to the literary talent which they reveal; it also comes from the prominence of the pictured objects themselves.
Now the most paradoxical object that Plato submits to the revealing power of images is the truth itself. Several texts, often very famous, represent it through images: in particular the symbol of the Line, the allegory of the Cave, the image of the Sun, the comparison of the two kinds of works of art in the Sophist. Through what kind of imagery does Plato tell us exactly what the truth is? From metaphor to analogy, what are the picturing methods chosen to represent this essential and enigmatic concept? Actually, this concept in the Dialogues, and in particular in their images, is far from systematically receiving the same meaning. How then to articulate the selected kinds of images with the meanings of truth that Plato wants to convey? Can we go as far as perceiving a correlation between the various meanings he assigns to the idea of alethes or aletheia (in Republic VI or VII, Sophist, Phaedo), and the various kinds of images he uses to say it?
The serpent within: the afterlife of a Platonic image
This paper explores both the context and some of the rich afterlife of Socrates' famous observation in the Phaedrus that he investigates whether he is a Typhon or a rather gentler and simpler creature. This passage suggests opposing ways of approaching mythical narrative (rationalisation, allegorisation, or simple acceptance as true) and gave rise to, or contributed to the shaping of, elaborate comparisons of the passions to snakes or snake-like monsters. A particular group of texts focused around the venomous creatures which filled the Libyan desert, and the principal post-Platonic text to be discussed will be Dio Chrysostom 5, the 'Libyan Myth', which goes beyond Plato in asking about the conditions under which such images and myths arise.
The Rhetoric Of Plato’s Cave
If the Allegory of the Cave is, as one scholar has recently put it, the “most compelling” (Schofield) of all Plato’s images, the image is nevertheless deeply confusing. There is no scholarly consensus on even the most basic questions of interpretation, and Glaucon himself finds it “strange.” What, then, makes the Cave so compelling?
Although scholars have not tackled this question head-on, they have indirectly suggested some answers. The imagery is “memorable” (Annas); the allegory functions protreptically to motivate the emotions (Destrée); the Cave aims to elicit the “shock of disillusionment about current Athenian moral values” in its audience (Schofield); the image “instills dissatisfaction with our current level of experience” (Lear). Without taking issue with any of these suggestions, I would like to take a different approach that looks closely at the way that Plato has Socrates present the image. The Cave could have been told in many different ways, and not all of them would have been as powerful as the version Plato offers. Plato has crafted Socrates’ narrative in particular ways – for example, so that the narrative does not simply describe, but asks Glaucon to draw inferences from the material. The image also includes its own interpretation – or rather successive stages of interpretation. This paper will examine the specific ways Plato has structured Socrates’ narrative and argue ultimately that the “telling” of the Cave itself performs a rhetorical ascent out of the cave. The Cave narrative compels by giving its audience an experience analogous to the very thing it describes.
The Ship of State (Republic 488a-489d) in its contexts
I begin by explaining the plurality of contexts and the relationship between them: (i) the discussion of images in the Republic; (ii) the discussion of Callipolis; (iii) the analogy in other literature; (iv) the sequence of images in Books 6 and 7. I then focus on the immediate context, where Adeimantus criticises question-and-answer argument and Socrates suggests that the problem – explaining the contemporary attitude to philosophers – does not easily admit of proof. I consider what Socrates’ suggestion means and argue that it reflects the contrast between, on the one hand, the philosophers’ character and development, which can be established through dialectical argument, and, on the other hand, the mindset of those hostile to philosophers. I explore how the image addresses these difficulties and why Socrates draws attention to the complexity of the image. I then ask how we should characterize this context and argue that the most appropriate label is ‘Socratic’.
Images of Hades in Plato: body, soul, and space in the netherworld
In his myths on the netherworld (esp. Phaedo, Gorgias, Republic X), Plato creates new topoi and new topographies of Hades. The aim of this paper is to study striking features and relations between ethical and spatial categories, but also between body and soul in context of this new geography of death. Images of the soul will be considered in comparison with earlier concepts of the soul (and the corpse). In the blend of old and new semantics of ‘Hades’ in Plato’s philosophical myths, this paper will emphasize the religious dimensions and the ‘culture of viewing’ in the netherworld.
Susan Sauvé Meyer
Plato on the Evaluation of Images
In Laws II, 669a-b, the Athenian identifies music as a representational (eikastikê) art, and argues that there are three criteria that a wise judge must recognize in order to pronounce such a work to be (kalon):
- what it is
- that it is correctly (orthôs) rendered
- that it is well (eu) rendered.
The Images of Knowing Oneself
Plato’s Socrates urges self-knowledge onto practically all his interlocutors, and does so through images. Some are images suggesting what to do; others suggest how to be. The first kind depicts people doing analogous activities: the mirror-gazer (Alc.), the myth-rectifier (Phdr.), the riddle-solver (Apol.), the comic butt (Phlb.), the self-diagnostician (Chrm.). The second kind provides a form the meditation on which conduces to self-knowledge: Typhon (Phdr.) and Prometheus (Prot.) are two examples.
The first part of the paper explains why Plato has Socrates deploy these images. One reason is that knowing oneself means more than cataloguing one’s beliefs or accepting one’s (im)mortality. Self-knowledge assumes and ratifies a dynamic picture of what it is to be human, as, e.g., active, transformable, and ideally rational. Urging someone to know himself involves bringing him to accept such a picture of himself.
The second part of the paper identifies two worries consequent to this use of images. First, the problem of opacity: many of Socrates’ images are charming, fascinating, and puzzling on their own, and reflection on them may stop at them, without flowing through to reflection on the self. Second, the problem of imitation: images may encourage the right kinds of behaviors but fail to ensure that these actions are done seriously and meaningfully.
The paper concludes with the argument that the problem of self-knowledge is tightly linked, for Plato, with the problem of images, in particular images of the self.
The Art of the Helmsman and the Uses of Comparison.
At the beginning of Republic Book 6, the interlocutors have concluded that the government of the state should be handed over to philosophers. Adeimantos, however, presses Sokrates with the general perception that philosophical study renders the talented good for nothing. In order to defend his position, Sokrates declares he will need to speak in images. He responds with the famous image of wrangling sailors and the helmsman, and, even more interestingly, uses the simile of a painter creating a “goat stag” to illustrate the difficulties of composing a suitable image to fit the current situation. Taking this passage as the starting point of my paper, I shall examine why Sokrates feels himself compelled to “strain after imagery” and, further, how the image of the helmsman (here and elsewhere) reveals the cultural tensions inherent in strategies of comparison.
Poetry and the image of the tyrant in Plato’s Republic
Towards the end of the discussion of poetry in Republic X Plato describes poetry as an erōs, a passion from which all right thinking people should tear themselves away, like lovers who realise their passion is doing them no good (607b-608a). Mimetic art as a whole had earlier been figured as a hetaira who consorts with an inferior part of the soul to bring forth base offspring (603a-b), and now poetry herself is envisaged as a dangerously seductive female whose charms must be resisted at all costs. This erōs, which has been engendered since childhood by education, paideia, has its analogue in the master-passion that takes control of the tyrant’s soul at 572e-575a8. The figure of erōs tyrannos is itself a theatrical image (cf. Eur. Hipp. 538) and in this paper I shall look at how poetry and tyranny are linked through a network of imagery and verbal echoes which reinforce the argument for banishing poetry as we know it from the Republic.
Images and Imagination in Plato’s Politeia
In the simile of Line in Book 6 of Plato’s Politeia, the status of “images” is lower than pure thought. However, the simile (eikōn) itself is an image (eikōn), and it is doubtful whether philosophical discourse can be pursued without any image or power of imagination. Plato must be aware that his dialogue is located not on the stage of intelligence (nous) but on dianoia. The ontological, epistemological and methodological meaning of “an image” is crucial to understanding Plato’s philosophy. This issue can be examined with reference to another dialogue of Plato, namely the Sophist, which fully discusses the notion of “images”. It tries to distinguish between a correct image (eikōn) and an incorrect image (phantasma) within the category of an image (eidōlon) in order to separate philosophy from sophistry. I’ll examine the philosophical significance of this concept in the Politeia and the Sophist.
Viewing the invisible: Plato’s use of pictorial arts
Contrary to the traditional interpretation of Plato’s stance towards painting as derogatory (Stevens 1933, Schuhl 1952), recently it has been rightly argued that its treatment in the corpus is too complicated to be dismissed as only negative (Rouveret 1989, Halliwell 2002). Painting is for Plato a well-adapted analogy that allows him to discuss highly intricate philosophical issues, as, for example, the relationship of the Forms with our earthly realm of sense-perception. In this paper I focus on Plato’s references to one particular pictorial technique, that of shadow-painting (skiagraphia), which appears for the first time in the Phaedo and is then re-employed in the Republic and in the late dialogues. I argue that this innovative 5th century technique serves as a metaphor for discussing the intricate philosophical issue of deceptive opposition and antithesis (ta enantia). From this point of view, skiagraphia can be grouped together with a number of other Platonic pictorial metaphors that seek to investigate false opposition and deceptive mixture, such as reflection of objects in water and in mirrors (eidola and phantasmata in Republic 10) or the work of a sculptor (phantastikê technê in the Sophist).
Political images of the soul
Folk psychology has traditionally used spatial images to represent the soul, whether dealing with actions, motivations, or other events, e.g. death, and we are naturally inclined to think that these folk images must have bearing on the soul’s nature. But the shift from ordinary language or myths to what the soul really is must be taken very cautiously. This paper examines the use of spatial images and metaphors that compare the soul to a city, especially in the Republic, the Timaeus and in the Laws. It will be argued that the metaphors aims at drawing up a topology as a means of representing the ordering of one’s soul in a given political society, fulfilling the scope of the city-soul analogy. Political images of the soul are understood as a means of going beyond a mere isomorphism between psychology and politics, explaining how the two fields interacts to convey the idea that politics can assuredly acts upon the individual soul, and reciprocally.
Gerd Van Riel
Perspectivism in Plato’s Views of the Gods
In the Sophist (235 c - 237 a), Plato presents a distinction between two kinds of mimetic art: “the art of likeness-making” (eikastikê technê), over against “the art of appearance-making” (phantastikê technê). The first consists in the accurate reproduction of the proportions of the model, while the second applies a number of tricks to remedy the optical effects brought about by the spectator’s perspective. Plato clearly prefers the image that accurately reproduces the proportions of the model, to the “perspectival” image, which –though more artistic – falls short in truth-value.
This rejection of perspectivism is a major point in Plato’s aesthetics, ethics, and epistemology. But it also underlies Plato’s theology. Contrary to what recent interpreters have held, Plato’s theology is not about introducing a monistic system headed by a thinking (and hence, comprehensible) Nous. Rather, Plato’s view of the gods is based on accepting human beings’ incapacity to grasp the nature of the gods. Ultimately, “god is pre-eminently the ‘measure of all things’.” (Laws IV, 716 c-d). That leaves us again with the problem of “perspectivism”. Starting from Plato’s hesitation in speaking about the gods (e.g., Crat. 400 d - 401 a, and Phdr. 246 b-d), and on his rejection of the Homeric description of the gods (Rep. II), we shall discuss this rejection of perspectivism in the context of theology. This will also involve a discussion of “speaking about the gods” in the context of cosmology (e.g. the Demiurge in the Timaeus), and, in general, of Plato’s innovation (or lack of it) in theology.
Mis-apparent Pleasure: Philebus 41a7-42c3
Central to Plato's conceptualization of the nature of pleasure is an engagement with visual imagery. For instance, in Protagoras Socrates' use of the hedonic calculus in his argument against the possibility of akrasia employs a visual perspectival analogy. In Republic 9, Socrates' argument for false pleasures employs a metaphor from visual illusion in painting. Once again, in Philebus Socrates' argument for false anticipatory pleasure employs the metaphor of a painter in the soul whose pictures have truth-apt content. The present paper focuses on another passage, at Philebus (41a7-42c3), that appeals to visual imagery in its attempt to explain a certain form of pleasure. Here too the argument concerns the possibility of false pleasure. In the course of explanation, Plato has Socrates recycle visual imagistic ideas from all of the earlier treatments, that is, from Protagoras, Republic, and earlier in Philebus. This itself is noteworthy. But more significantly, from the perspective of Plato's fundamental philosophical commitments, is the argument Socrates makes for the truth-aptness of the pleasure. Precisely, Socrates argues that the pleasure in question is truth-apt insofar as its appearance (phaenomenon) is truth-apt. What is remarkable about this claim is that Socrates regards appearance here as independent of belief (doxa). This is in striking contrast to the Eleatic Stranger's view in Sophist that phantasiai may be truth-apt insofar as they are hybrids of belief and appearance. If my construal of the Philebus passage is correct, then, Plato here commits to the view that (a) there are belief-free appearances and (b) these appearances have truth-apt content.