Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
In contemporary Platonic scholarship, Socrates is quite often depicted as a hyper-rationalist, i.e., an individual who relies upon reason alone in his philosophical pursuits. And, such a position is not entirely unsupported, especially when one considers the rigor with which Socrates engages his interlocutors via the elenchtic method, not to mention the charges of impiety and atheism levied against him, for which he was found guilty. Yet, while Socrates did indeed hold reason in the highest esteem, when we look to the texts, we find evidence to suggest that he also took seriously the role played by divine inspiration in the pursuit of truth. Not only do we find examples of Socrates recognizing the potential for truth that the divinely inspired seem to exhibit, but further, we find Socrates himself to be the recipient of divine revelation in the form of his daimonion. And, while some scholars have dismissed such references as mere ironic gestures, I argue that these dismissive, and admittedly anachronistic claims are entirely unfounded. Instead, I propose that Plato recognized, and valued, the role that divine inspiration played in the case of Socrates. Yet, while the divine inspiration experienced by Socrates is seen in a positive light by Plato, given the uniqueness of his situation, Socrates, and his methodology, can no longer be the model upon which philosophical investigation is founded. Thus, recognizing the limitations of Socrates, limitations which are alleviated via divine assistance, Plato, in his late period, develops a new methodology, i.e., collection and division, one which might allow for the definitional knowledge which he seeks without reliance upon divine inspiration. Despite this change, however, I maintain that even in the late Platonic period, Plato still recognizes the value of divine inspiration. As such, Socrates, while perhaps not a philosopher in the unqualified sense according to Plato's later understanding of philosophy, might rightly be understood as a unique individual who, through divine inspiration, is given access to truth, albeit a truth he is unable to fully explain.
dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.
Larkin, Daniel Brian, "A Madness to the Method: A Defense of Divine Inspiration in the Case of Socrates" (2017). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1694.