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Sôphrosunê and the Poets

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Rival Interpretations in Plato’s Charmides

image of Mnemosyne

This paper considers the intertextual role of two citations in Plato’s Charmides. The first, from Homer, is introduced by Socrates. The second, from Hesiod, is introduced by Critias. I argue that these citations reveal their full meaning only when their original contexts are considered. In particular, the source context in Hesiod makes clear that Critias’ citation is meant as a response to Socrates’ quote. The dialectic between Critias and Socrates thus turns into a poetic rivalry. It is a rivalry with substantive implications about sôphrosunê and that raises larger questions about authority and interpretation.

Affiliations: 1: Utrecht University, Dept. of Philosophy and Religious Studies


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