Rationality, Eros, and Daemonology

There’s an obscure Platonic dialogue called the Theages. In this dialogue a man named Demodocus comes to Socrates looking for a teacher for his son Theages, and Socrates tangles them both up in perplexity — as usual — about the nature of education. What is education, anyway, and what is an educator? The dialogue ends with Socrates’ report of an ex-student’s condemnation of his own teaching abilities. In a nutshell, this report involves a lot of bodily contact and daemonic influence.

By and large scholars have been scandalized by this “superstitious” dialogue, but in this article I argue this is partly because Anglophone philosophers in particular abhor the spiritual dimension of Socrates’ philosophy. (For historians out there, I further argue this dialogue was written about 100 years after Plato’s death, when this kind of erotic-daemonic educational ethos held sway.)

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