Chapter 5. Satyr, Lover, Teacher, Pimp: Socrates and His Many Masks

What was the most amazing thing about Socrates? If we trust Alcibiades, it was that no one living or dead could compare to him. Any number of remarkable individuals shared with Socrates a trait or two, yet none could match that singular “strangeness” (atopia) of his (Plato Symposium 221c–d). What, then, made Socrates so different? Evidently no single thing, but one idiosyncrasy clearly ranked high on the list. We are told that Socrates was an erastês, a “lover”: of Alcibiades, of philosophy, and so on. Hence for the authors of Socratic literature [1] a theme: erôs as expression or summation of Socrates’ extraordinary nature. Take, for instance, Plato’s First Alcibiades. There, Socrates, indifferent to his beloved’s outward beauty, loves what no one else does: Alcibiades’ soul. That view of Socratic erôs as philia—“affection” or “friendship”—at its best and most intense finds wide resonance in Socratic literature. This erôs aims high: on the improvement of others, on wisdom, on immortality. In Plato’s Symposium, it is, to quote, Charles Kahn, “resolutely rationalistic.” [2]
But what kind of erôs is “resolutely rationalistic”? Perhaps an erôs indifferent to physical beauty [3] erôs, then, as the highest expression not just of philia but of sôphrosunê, ‘self-control,’ a notion that finds expression in Plato and Xenophon. [4] Still, we have our assurances that Socrates really did feel the allure of physical beauty, male and female. [5] Further, in Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates expatiates not once but twice (237d–241d, 244a–257b) on an erôs that is anything but “resolutely rationalistic,” indeed, on erôs as a form of madness (241a, 245b–c). Yet this madness, if reined in, that is, if diverted from the objects of physical lust, can be ridden like a chariot to realms of transcendent truth (244a–257b)—which brings us right back to sôphrosunê, albeit on a higher plane.
We have, then, discovered a curious property of Socratic erôs: though often treated as a defining feature of Socrates’ inimitable self, its boundaries shift. Even within a single text like Xenophon’s Symposium, one juxtaposing Socrates’ advocacy of spiritual erôs with Socrates the pimp, Socratic erôs presents no simple account of itself; even within a single passage, Socrates can be described as both attracted to, and unmoved by, physical beauty. [6] Perhaps, then, what we need is sensitivity to irony and playful invention, a way to resolve seeming contradiction within our texts. But if our sources for Socrates’ erôs are literary sources (rather than, say, interviews, questionnaires, or the like), should we privilege this or that representation as more true to life, more “Socratic,” than the next? Should we not treat them all as fictions, as masks?
In what follows, we shall do just that as we examine Socrates and his several masks: how they offer us a model of the dialogical self as a boundary phenomenon, a negotiation between self and other. To see how that works, it will help to illustrate the logic underlying the self-other distinction with a thought experiment testing Socrates’ supposed simplicity and purity. From that will emerge how the very notion of a simple Socrates generates its own heteros logos, its own alternative account.

The Socrates Question

“Know thyself”—so commands the Delphic oracle, but what is it to know oneself? For Socrates in Plato’s Phaedrus, it is to know what sort of creature he is: whether a beast more complex and fiery than the monster Typhon, [7] or a simpler being partaking of a divine and mild nature (229e–230a). But are we to suppose that Socrates would ever identify with the Typhon-like convolutions—the tortured logic and specious speechifying—Socrates targets throughout the dialogue? So the question begins to look rhetorical: opposing Socratic simplicity to thinking and teaching consistently contested by the sage in the Phaedrus and elsewhere, it highlights the Socrates we know and love against the backdrop of his “Other,” his anti-self. [8]
Yet to keep self and other distinct, and the self pure, turns out to be less simple than might at first appear. For Derrida, to posit such distinctions necessarily casts otherness, all that lies outside the genuine article (in the present instance, the authentic self), in the role of contagion, an enemy-at-the-gates to be held at bay—a view Derrida deconstructs as utopian myth, a solipsistic nowhere. [9] But how does Socrates feel about it? It is curious that Plato’s Socrates, though seemingly more sanguine than Derrida about prospects for inner purity, at least acknowledges the main hurdle to achieving such a goal: the problem posed by borders themselves. Thus in the dialogue’s closing lines, Socrates prays that the gods will, among other things, grant him a fair interior (kalôi), an exterior to match, and the good sense to place a premium on wisdom, not gold. He prays, in other words, to be a philosopher through and through, though in so praying, seems to treat his interior as closer to his authentic self than his exterior; it is “me” (moi) as opposed to “what I have outside.” [10] Yet in laying claim to that outside, does not Socrates acknowledge some element of himself extending beyond his inner essence, which is to say, some element of his outside mixing with himself? What, then, if Socrates’ outer self really did fail to match the inner Socrates—if, say, Socrates were to present the appearance of a sophist or rhetorician while remaining true to philosophy internally? That is no idle question. In the Phaedrus, Socrates plays the sophist with consummate skill and considerable ambivalence. How deep, then, do we need to go for the pretense to end? Where does the outer edge of Socrates’ authentic, inner self lie?
To find out, it will help to try a simple thought experiment, one to test the implications of the pure and simple self Socrates envisions for himself in the Phaedrus. To conceptualize that as simply as possible, we need to imagine Socrates as something set off and nothing more—something set off from what he is not. On paper, that would look like a demarcation, preferably circular (it offers the fewest linear features), showing the limit of Socrates’ pure and undifferentiated self, the limit beyond which Socrates’ Other begins. But to say that Socrates represents a bounded entity already recognizes elemental complexity in him: Socrates as a product of his relationship to his Other. [11]
We can think of it this way: If Socrates could somehow detach himself from his outer boundaries, shrink a little so as to lose touch with his outside, he will have lost touch with what confirms him as a unique and separate being. In a sense, he will have ceased to be. Thus his relationship to what is outside him, to his Other, counts; at a basic level, it engenders him. We can, then, speak of Socrates as an entity in a dynamic relationship with its environment, as a Gestalt. [12] But that carries with it an important corollary: Socrates the Gestalt as a term (Socrates) within the binary (Socrates ~ Not-Socrates) expressing Socrates the Gestalt. Let me restate that. For Socrates to be he must be something set off. But that internalizes his being-set-off, his being apart, within his being, what makes him what he is. And that, in turn, will set off a rippling effect locating Socrates not wholly apart from, but in a dynamic relationship with, his surroundings. Socrates still lies at the center of it all, but he no longer possesses a determinate edge.
Important is the social-cognitive dimension to all this. Thus to understand the self-other relation, even at its most elemental, we must do so perspectivally, viewing things from the inside, as if that self were ourselves. But wherever we look, we look out; even reflexive viewing, our looking into a mirror, is looking at something outside ourselves. [13] But never fear: what defines us, what gives us value and meaning, comes from the outside, from external subjects and objects, entities that, in one way or another, matter to us. Self-knowledge becomes, then, an exploration of the self-other connection, the self not as a flat picture but as a bas-relief bulging out into the world. [14] Conversely, pure introspection, self-centered and detached from its environment, can give rise to despair: “In relation to myself, I am profoundly cold, even in the act of self-preservation.” [15] Thus our search for the “real” Socrates reveals not static limits but dynamic, shifting surfaces, a self located somewhere between Self and Other. [16] Like Vološinov’s utterance, Socrates absorbs and processes within himself other voices, other realities, to which his outer being, that which others see and hear, responds. Thus even if we were to grant him a simple essence, still, that essence could not be abstracted from its environment and still be itself.
What does that have to do with Socrates, specifically, his literary portrait? Let me suggest, a great deal. Vlastos sees in Socrates’ penchant for self-deprecation what he calls “complex irony,” where “what is stated both is and isn’t what is meant.” [17] Take the argument, “Socrates is beautiful,” a notion underpinning Socrates’ part in the beauty contest Xenophon relates (Symposium 5). Such a claim makes sense insofar as it refers to the utility of various body parts: protruding eyes the better to see with, broad nostrils the better to smell with, and so on. But it is also absurd with respect to the visual impression left by a Socrates whose body violates the norms of harmonious proportion as the Greeks understood them. One could argue that irony here resides in equivocation: competing senses of the term “beauty.” But one could also argue that we are dealing with complex framing: ugliness as frame for beauty and vice versa. Thus the “uglier” Socrates’ eyes (the more they protrude), the more “beautiful” (the more functional) his peripheral vision, as in the extreme case of a crab. But that further involves multiple, yet connected, levels of analysis, as each side to Socrates’ complex self shapes and defines its opposite. And it is in that space between self and other, the simple and the complex, that the literary Socrates as a meaningful self begins to take shape.
Which brings us to what is, perhaps, the best known image, simultaneously a mirror and a foil, associated with Socrates: the image of him as satyr or silen, an image exploring Socrates as a kind of boundary phenomenon. One ought, though, to proceed in proper sequence: from the somatic to the symbolic. That Socrates physically looked the part is treated as common knowledge by Plato and Xenophon. [18] But one hesitates to judge this book by its cover. For is it not ludicrous to think of Socrates, that paragon of restraint, as an inveterate boozer and sexual predator, a human counterpart to satyrs and silens, creatures “considered the antithesis of sophrosyne, the ideal of moderation and sober self-control”? [19]
If so, satyr-Socrates will represent no more than a casing hiding the true Socrates within. And so he does in Plato’s Symposium, where Alcibiades compares his erstwhile lover to a silen-figurine like those sold by herm carvers. [20] Open them up and you will find miniature gods; open up Socrates and you will find god-like temperance, wisdom, and beauty (215a–b, 216d–217a). Yet this shell Socrates carries about with him, not just his physical appearance, but the libidinous incontinence he is said to affect combined with the satyr-like absurdity of his analogies, not to mention the insincerity of his self-deprecation [21] —all that, though only skin-deep, still defines the dialogical self that is Socrates interacting with his world.
But how detached from this skin is the inner Socrates? Curiously, as Alcibiades elaborates upon his sage-versus-silen contrast, we find that the grotesque exterior begins to infiltrate the exquisite interior. Thus Alcibiades, labeling Socrates a hubristês (215b; cf. 175e, 219c, 221e), that is, a perpetrator of outrage, describes how the music of Socrates’ logos, like the music of the satyr Marsyas, leaves those who listen dumbstruck and powerless. Yet Socrates’ hubristically bewitching logos cannot originate from his outer, supposedly libidinous self. Because it compels Alcibiades to feel so ashamed of his shallow ambitions that he turns his attention to the really important things (read “soul”), Socrates’ logos, however violent and satyr-like, must issue from, and express, his inner essence: his soul (215b–216c). But when we penetrate the corporeal exterior to explore the inner being, we still find features of Socrates’ hubristic and satyr-like skin (saturou…hubristou doran, 221e): those hackneyed analogies, which on closer inspection, reveal a unique kind of sense, but which, even when we go deep, are still there (221d–222a).
But Socratic hubris? Of course, Alcibiades indulges in paradox: to implicate as exemplary a being as god-like Socrates in a kind of hubris confuses surface and depth, the good with the bad. [22] Paradox continues as Alcibiades turns to the subject of erôs: Socrates’ for him and his for Socrates. Thus Socrates, only posing as an erastês, turns out to be the paidika—the “darling” or beloved—of his disciples (216d–e, 217c, 222a–b; cf. Xenophon Memorabilia 4.1.2). He has not fallen in love with them; rather, they have with him. That conceit—a thinker-teacher’s students and adherents as his “lovers” (erastai)—is a commonplace among the Socratics. [23] Here, though, that conceit finds concrete expression as Alcibiades, obsessed not just with Socrates’ philosophy but with the very man, presents the symptoms of the love-besotted suitor as he yearns to play the passive partner in a sexual encounter with his beloved. [24] But Socrates will not trade wisdom for sex, nor gratify Alcibiades’ lusts at all (217a–219e). So Socrates’ hubris was to have refrained from hubris. [25] But what kind of hubris is that? It is, of course, hubris as mask. Like Socrates’ satyr-skin, it expresses something profound about the man, but at the surface. To quote Deleuze, “What is most deep is the skin.” [26]
Consideration of the Socrates question as handled by Stilpo, the fourth-century BCE leader of the Megarian school, reveals further aspects—dialogical ones—to this problematic of Socrates’ supposed simplicity and singularity. According to Stilpo (or his school), things whose discourses differ must themselves be different (hôn hoi logoi heteroi, tauta hetera estin), and difference entails separation (ta hetera kekhôristhai allêlôn). Imagine that you and I are talking. If what I am saying differs in any way from what you are saying, even the slightest bit, then necessarily we are talking about two, disparate things. [27] To most of us, as to ancient critics (including Simplicius, our source), Stilpo’s insistence on the radically monological character of things (the exclusive connection of each thing to one logos and one alone) will seem an almost laughable sophistry. Imagine further that you and I are talking about Socrates—different aspects of him, you, his educational attainments (Socrates as mousikos), I, his light-skinned complexion (Socrates as leukos). Are we not, then, saying different things about one and the same thing? Stilpo says “No,” though with a twist. Since your logos differs from mine, we are necessarily talking about different things—though in either case, that thing is Socrates. Hence a paradox: Socrates, the man of multiple discourses, as a “self split-off from himself” (autos hautou kekhôrismenos, 30 SSR). [28]
That paradox rises above the level of parlor trick if we think of it in relation to dialogue: different logoi ostensibly focused on a common object of thought. Thus Stilpo’s paradox forces us to ask whether we, as speakers asserting different things about Socrates, can really share between us one and the same vision. Put that way, the answer still seems to be “no”: no two of us envisions precisely the same Socrates. But what else are we talking about if not Socrates? And what else drives our dialogue if not the belief, the hope, that there is a graspable reality out there, an authentic Socrates transcending our individual constructions of him? But can dialogue ever bring us to that longed-for common ground if truly it is to remain dialogue, speech that enacts difference?
Perhaps not, yet still we want it to. “Eros is an issue of boundaries. He exists because certain boundaries do.” [29] Contemplating Socrates, we find ourselves at the edge, cut off from that singular and extraordinary being who, if we could but grasp him, would yield up an account of himself to silence all others. “The moment of desire is one that defies proper edge, being a compound of opposites forced together at pressure.” [30] Attraction and separation operate simultaneously: the nearer we get, the more frustrated we feel.
We are now ready to venture an answer to the question with which we began, the question Plato’s Socrates asks about himself: whether he, Socrates, is a simple or complex creature (Phaedrus 229e–230a; see above). At first glance, that appeared rhetorical: what else could Plato have meant but that his protagonist embodies a moral and intellectual purity to which Typhon’s snaky coils offer a telling contrast? But the prayer closing the Phaedrus, distinguishing, as it does, between an inner and an outer self, hints at complications more fully developed in Alcibiades’ notion of Socrates as hybrid, a god in satyr’s skin. Alcibiades’ conflicted response to Socrates, his erôs and panic, a terrified fascination (Plato Symposium 215b–216c), would seem, then, to make Socrates out to be, if not a Typhon, then at least some kind of monster. Yet how much store should we set by Alcibiades’ evidence? Perhaps not much if, as Vlastos remarks, Alcibiades can do no better than paint for us “the picture of a man who lives behind a screen—a mysterious, enigmatic figure, a man nobody knows.” [31] But Alcibiades nowhere claims the last word in matters Socratic. Struggling to convey his experience of Socrates, of Socrates’ dialogical self, he vividly conveys his struggle to process the conflicting data Socrates presents.
We shall, in a sense, inherit that struggle when we examine erôs as index to Socrates’ dynamic relationship with his world. As we shall see, that erôs pushes in two directions at once: away and toward. Presenting Socrates as the ideal lover, it lifts him up and out from our midst. Yet it also stresses Socrates’ zeal to bridge separation. Taken to extremes, it suggests Socrates’ atopia, his utter disconnection from the ordinary. [32] Yet in that form, it can show him engaging other speakers at close quarters as he strives to bring them around to his own worldview. So we need to be patient with this dialogically engaged, if at times infuriatingly ironic Socrates. We need to give him a chance to show us how he struggles to make a difference with those likely to make a difference in the city. Yet we need also to acknowledge those moments when Socrates’ teaching yearns not for the pluralistic discourses of free debate, but for the normative discourses of philosophical idealism.

Socratic Maenadism in Aeschines Socraticus

Aeschines of Sphettus, called “Socraticus” (“of the Socratic circle”) to distinguish him from Aeschines the orator, may not be a household name today, but in antiquity he ranked in the forefront of Socratic authors. None of his works survives entire, but one yielding extensive fragments is the Alcibiades, in which Socrates strives to dissuade the title character from entering public life without first getting the knowledge he needs, not just in politics and military strategy, but in moral wisdom (aretê)—an education Socrates seems determined to offer the young man. [33] Judging from the remains, Socrates has his work cut out for him. Arrogant and irreverent (cf. 45–46 SSR), yet keen to make his mark in the assembly (cf. 42 SSR), Alcibiades will not gladly sit still for instruction. But matters are complicated by certain deficiencies on Socrates’ part. Claiming not to possess any technical expertise from which a youth in Alcibiades’ condition could benefit (53.4–5 SSR), Socrates reflects on the one thing he can count on, his erôs:
In consequence of the desire (erôs) which I happened to feel for Alcibiades, I had undergone an experience no different from a bacchant’s. For indeed, whenever they are possessed by the god (epeidan entheoi genôntai), they are able to draw milk and honey from sources that others cannot even draw water from. As for myself, though I knew nothing beneficial to teach anyone, still, I thought that by being with Alcibiades, I could, because of my erôs (dia to eran), improve him.
Aeschines Socraticus 53.22–27 SSR
Erôs, then, as catalyst of miracles, but how? And what can it mean that Socrates, in becoming the teacher he wants to, must take on the persona of a bacchant (bakkhê), whose very name could in ancient sources serve as a byword for a dangerous loss of self-control? Past scholarship, superimposing Socrates’ ostensibly sober self on his bacchic mask, has denied that Socrates here associates himself with mania, the divine rage regularly associated with bacchants and maenads. [34] But unless we lay the mask on the outside, how can we pay the image its due? Framing Socrates’ pedagogy within his maenadic persona, I shall argue that Socrates’ mask draws him out of his normal self and locates him closer to his dialogical other. But possession by erôs, Socrates’ “Dionysus” and the inspiration for his intuitive teaching, carries with it evaluative two-sidedness. Thus as Socratic apologetic, Aeschines’ Alcibiades makes the case for Socrates’ good intentions and heroic efforts on behalf of his beloved pupil. Yet Socrates’ maenadism problematizes the risks Socrates takes and the impression his pedagogy will likely make.
First, structure and theme. Aeschines’ Alcibiades, like Plato’s Republic or Xenophon’s Symposium, presents us with “narrated drama.” [35] A narrator, here, Socrates, reports a conversation, here, Socrates’ with Alcibiades, held at some point in the dramatic past. To the outer, narrative frame belongs the coda, quoted earlier, in which Socrates struggles to express the feelings that impelled him to try to help Alcibiades, and why he felt that he could. In the process, our speaker slips in a seemingly extravagant comparison: Socrates as bacchant. But rather than try to filter out surplus resonance, we should instead let the whole image say its piece, even at the risk of allowing a bacchic “madness” to place its stamp on Socrates’ exercise in intervention.
More in a moment on that madness. For now, let us consider two motifs, very important in Socratic literature, introduced into Aeschines’ coda: (a) Socrates’ disavowal of knowledge and the ability to teach it, [36] and (b) Socrates as benefactor of those he kept company with. [37] Merging those two themes, Aeschines in effect acknowledges a dilemma: what business has a pedagogically challenged teacher like Socrates to try to teach those whom he would help? How, in other words, can he know that his teaching will not fall short of the mark, how can he be sure it will not, somehow, corrupt pupils, if all Socrates knows is that he does not know? [38] Elsewhere, the admission of ignorance becomes for Socrates the beginning of wisdom. Elsewhere, too, we need to take Socrates’ disclaimers with a grain of salt. Here, though, Socrates’ admission of ignorance has to be taken seriously, else his reliance on inspiration makes little sense.
So one might say that Socrates would have to be mad to take up such a challenge, though in Socrates’ case, madness—bacchic erôs—empowers. But how does it empower? Since we do not have the whole Alcibiades, conjecture becomes unavoidable, yet conjecture aided by parallels has led to broad agreement that Socrates’ erôs is quite simply the desire to do another good. In contrast to an acquired art (tekhnê), this “divine dispensation” (theia moira) operates like a physical reflex (53.4–7, 10–15 SSR). Thus when Alcibiades triggers erôs in Socrates, it compels and enables good teaching from the older man, a self-fulfilling desire. That lesson—erôs as catalyst of Bessermachen, ‘moral improvement’ [39] —appears meant to trickle down to Alcibiades, who desperately needs to have his selfish ambitions refocused on whatever good he can do his city. Else Alcibiades must, like Themistocles, the role-model he both envies and despises, suffer disfranchisement and exile. [40]
Still, the question remains: How can Socrates be so sure he has handled it right? I would suggest that he does not feel altogether sure, which is where the bacchant image with its multiple resonances fits in. That image Aeschines seems to have borrowed from Plato’s Ion, [41] where Socrates argues that poets and performers, inasmuch as they lack technical expertise, must rely on inspiration—really, divine possession (enthousiazein, 533c–536d). Hence in Plato’s Ion power comparable to that of bacchants who, while literally out of their minds (aphrones), draw, as in Aeschines’ Alcibiades, milk and honey from unwonted sources. [42] But those similarities highlight an important contrast: in Plato, a not-Socrates, Ion, “channels” the divine; in Aeschines, it is none other than the philosopher himself. Thus Aeschines privileges his hero’s “divine dispensation” (theia moira, 53.5 SSR) in ways that Plato does not (theia moira, 534c). Both authors detach skill (tekhnê) from inspiration, but Plato presents the latter as something of a crutch, Aeschines, as an asset. [43]
What else will Plato’s and Aeschines’ bacchant image have betokened? More explicit in Plato than in Aeschines is the rapturous transport—in the Ion, being ekphrôn ‘out of one’s mind’, elsewhere called ekstasis—characteristic of the bacchant or maenad in her element. [44] Though Aeschines does not mention that condition by either name, he does, like Plato, speak of the bacchant as entheos, as possessed or inspired by the god, in our sources, a condition concomitant with ekstasis, even to the point that terms like ekstasis and enthousiasmos ‘possession’ often cover the same territory. [45] In surviving fragments of Aeschines’ Alcibiades, Socrates does not exactly dwell at length on possession per se, but we see its reflection in Socrates’ “divine dispensation” (theia moira), his erôs functioning like an involuntary reflex outside his control. That is, to the extent that his erôs, his “Dionysus,” is in him and works through him, to that extent at least, Socrates’ rational self is inoperative. [46] That may not present us with all the classic symptoms of clinical mania, [47] but it does not have to. In stating that his condition was “no different from a bacchant’s,” Socrates invites us to view that condition as a kind of possession, a kind of madness. [48]
And any such madness will have carried with it polarizing potential. Discussing ecstatic possession and related states, Albert Henrichs notes how they can elicit sharply divergent reactions, positive and negative, from observers, whether ancient or modern. Thus for someone on the outside,
“ecstasy” is often the disparaging term for an anomalous religious condition, while from the standpoint of participants, the experience of ecstasy, though still something out of the ordinary, has rather to do with an anticipated departure from the profane realm…to a higher level of consciousness. [49]
For students of the ancient sources, the locus classicus will be Euripides’ Bacchae, where the world in and around Thebes is divided into those who empathize and identify with the maenadism of the city’s women and those who do not. [50] Socrates, then, in declaring his maenadism, challenges others to declare their stance vis-à-vis it and what it stands for in Aeschines’ dialogue: Socrates’ teaching.
What of the psychological-subjective dimension to this “outsidedness”? Simply put, when the god is in us/with us (when we are entheoi, when we are in ekstasis), that fundamentally involves the relocation of our “state” (stasis), our being, to our outside (ek). [51] So too, in a sense, do masks. Prominent in Dionysian cult and art, masks are not simply things to hide behind. Fixing the image of a different self to our outsides, they draw us outside ourselves; they free us to exist outside the normal ambit of our lives. But when, as in scenes depicted on “Lenaea” vases (masks and god’s attire set up as cult images), the disguise is not worn, but in and of itself embodies the god, [52] then the circuit of imitation brings us back again and again to the surface. For god as mask collapses image and original, surface and depth, into a single image-reality, “the concrete embodiment of the power of Dionysus,” who seizes possession of us by looking us straight in the eye—through his mask. [53] Similar can be said of bacchants and maenads. Though they went unmasked, their altered state showed itself like a mask at the surface. [54] But maenads can themselves mask. Thus in poetry, tragedy especially, a maenadic “mask of words” (“So-and-so rages like a bacchant”) will at times superimpose a transformative Dionysianism upon a character. [55] Just so in Aeschines’ Alcibiades, Socrates’ mask of words invests him with a bacchic persona, and his teaching, with a special kind of power.
That power can be clarified with reference to Deleuze’s “simulacrum,” a concept developed partly in response to Plato’s notion of the phantasm, the copy of a copy with no firm connection to an original at the end of the chain of imitation. Only in Deleuze, a “Dionysian machinery” assigns positive value to these simulacra. Like masks, they generate meaning on their own and draw power from the difference between themselves and the “realities” over which they are fitted. [56] And that, at least at a very basic level, seems to describe what is happening in our dialogue’s final sentences, where Socrates, to illustrate his case, pictures himself a wonder-working bacchant possessed by erôs. In several respects, this “mask” fits him poorly. He, a man, assumes a feminine persona; he, a proponent and teacher of epistêmê, rational knowledge, disavows any such of his own; he, in the throws of bacchic erôs, seeks to rein in the wayward ambitions of his young friend. Yet this mask, the source of his power, is the very thing that he has undergone (53.23–24 SSR). A “bacchant” now, he “plays his other”: [57] he has stepped outside his normal self and has embodied himself on the outside, closer to his dialogical other, but closer, too, to his anti-self, what he is not. As such, it responds not to his intention to make Alcibiades better but to his desire, his erôs, to do so, something over which Socrates as autonomous subject has absolutely no control. Like blood drawn to the body’s surface by the cold, Socrates’ erôs expresses the interpenetration of inside and outside, of action and passion.
I have said that Socrates’ bacchant’s mask responds not to intention but to desire. But we cannot simply ignore intention. Rather, we should view it, at least in the present instance, as indistinguishable from expression, and Socrates’ teaching, as rhetoric merging the two. For Socrates is, for the moment at least, all show. But so are his examples, interventions meant both to open up and to narrow the world of possibilities facing his pupil [58] —exercises, one might say, in masking, and as such, ambivalent, like Socrates’ bacchant’s mask. We see this especially in Socrates’ eulogy of Themistocles (50 SSR), a speech designed to leverage Alcibiades’ envy and ambition to maximum effect with minimal damage (cf. 49, 51 SSR). Thus Socrates, while praising Themistocles for winning favor with both Greeks and their bitter enemy, the Persian king (“such was the superiority of his intellect”), delicately sidesteps the whole issue of Themistocles’ role in letting the Persians escape back to Asia. According to Herodotus, Themistocles, falsely taking credit for the idea (cornered in Europe, the retreating Persians might have put up a stout resistance and prevailed), did so in order to ingratiate himself with the Persian king, should Themistocles ever find himself in need of refuge abroad. [59] And need one he would, though Socrates, in discussing Themistocles’ exile, judiciously airbrushes the general’s “Medizing,” all the aid and comfort he ended up providing to the Persian enemy, out of the scene. [60] For Socrates stresses instead Themistocles’ great good fortune even in exile (50.32–35 SSR). Yet Themistocles’ disfranchisement and expulsion cannot but betoken what Athens finally thought of its native son, or illustrate the depths to which Themistocles’ fortunes sank as a result of his imperfect wisdom. [61]
As to the effect Socrates’ words have over their intended target, overcome, Alcibiades collapses in Socrates’ lap and weeps (46.9–15; 51.6–7, 17–18; 52 SSR). But does that signify a breakthrough on Alcibiades’ part? Possibly, though it may only signify how mortified Alcibiades is by how far short of his role model he has fallen—so much so that, in having failed in the care of himself, he has so far risen no higher than the vulgar herd, as Socrates seems to imply (50.41–43 SSR; cf. 51.1–13 SSR = Aristeides 3.576–577). True, Alcibiades now desires aretê (virtutem: 52 SSR = Cicero Tusculan Disputations 3.32.77–78), but the surviving fragments provide no clear indication whether that will be that higher sort of moral wisdom (aretê) Socrates cares about, or the kind of “manly excellence” (aretê) Alcibiades envies in Themistocles. At all events, Themistocles, in offering Alcibiades this simulacrum of greatness achieved through a mix of wisdom and cunning, of achievement both enviable and surpassable, offers the young man a seductive glimpse into his future. It is the persona Alcibiades will himself someday assume.
And that provides a connection to the dialogue’s ambivalent ending, where Socrates’ mask fuses image, Socrates’ maenadism, with message, Socrates’ intuitive, erôs-driven pedagogy—erôs that, like an involuntary reflex, remains outside Socrates’ control. But is Socrates out of control? In Socrates’ case, maenadism will itself be a symptom of something else: erôs. And in tragedy, that in combination with the maenadic can turn out, well, tragic. [62] But does it here?
Earlier, we saw how, in our sources, maenadism and associated states can have a polarizing effect, exciting in onlookers either identification with, or rejection of, what they see. It is, then, interesting to note that Socrates, who as teacher impersonates a bacchant, senses polarizing potential in his teaching. For the lesson he seeks to get across to Alcibiades is one that, he fears, both Alcibiades and the public at large will take the wrong way: that human fortune hinges on the success or failure of human beings to attain wisdom, thereby to gain control over their lives. That lesson, Socrates imagines, will run afoul of anyone who superstitiously privileges tukhê, fortune as god-directed causation, above all else. Those who think like that will likely charge Socrates with atheism. But only let them try: Socrates will sooner convict them of atheism than they him. [63]
Socrates seems at this point to be getting unnecessarily exercised: no one yet is talking about an impiety trial. But that bit of foreshadowing (Socrates will be tried, convicted, and executed for impiety in 399 BCE) conveys Socrates’ own misgivings that, to those outside his circle, even perhaps to an ambivalent Alcibiades, his pedagogy must come across as impious rationalism. Note the element of masking, its power both to reveal and to conceal. To Socrates’ critics, this “mask,” his sophist’s persona, projects a dangerous sort of “madness,” the kind of madness that Strepsiades, fed up with Socrates’ teaching, seeks to incinerate in Aristophanes’ Clouds (1476–1509). Still, as Socrates sees it, his critics have got it all wrong. Failing to apprehend what this mask “really” projects, they miss his deeply felt religiosity, not to mention the irrational source of his teaching: his erôs to improve others. But even there, Socrates’ zeal to help destabilizes. Daunted by Alcibiades’ nearly incorrigible arrogance, Socrates tries to get through to the youth by means of a role-model whose triumphs and failures prefigure those of Socrates’ pupil.
Has, then, Socrates’ knowledge deficit got the better of him? Xenophon, that unflagging advocate for his one-time teacher, concedes in passing that the philosopher would have done well to teach prudence (sôphronein) first, then politics, to his “companions” (Memorabilia 1.2.17)—a curious admission, since it hints that Socrates, even if he did nothing actively to inflame Critias’ or Alcibiades’ wayward ambitions, could at least have done more to curb them. In Aeschines, Socrates definitely makes the effort, but like a bacchant, he draws on dry wells. For the trick to work, it would take a miracle.

Philosophy versus Demerasty in Plato’s Gorgias

Plato’s Gorgias, named for one of the great sophist-rhetoricians of the fifth and early fourth centuries BCE, plays like a three-act drama. After a brief overture, Act One has Socrates dispute the title character’s contention that to lead effectively, a city’s leaders need only master the art of persuasion. The next act pits Socrates against Polus, a rhetorician promoting rhetoric as the path to power and happiness. But the previous two acts are only warm-ups for the third, in which Callicles, a demagogue on the make (515a), champions nature and the cause of the stronger over convention and the cause of the weaker. Callicles can see a role for Socrates’ philosophy—as a child’s plaything. Eventually, though, everyone has to grow up. And so the man of affairs, the only kind of “real” man, must cast toys aside and master the art of speaking, both to get ahead and to guard his rear. [64]
That side to the dialogue’s argument, the side concerning the morality of rhetoric—rhetoric’s value in the larger scheme of things—has been explored elsewhere. [65] It will not concern us here. What will is the reverse: the rhetoric of morality, especially as that concerns Socrates’ presentation of the moralist’s case for philosophy. For just when Socrates reveals the full measure of his uncompromising dissatisfaction with the kindred arts of rhetoric and sophistic, he begins, we shall see, to package his moralism for a resistant audience. In the process, that audience—Callicles—labels Socrates a sophist, by which he means a manipulator of argument and meaning, an identification that, if on target, would hoist Socrates on his own petard. But rather than evaluate the accuracy of Callicles’ characterization, we shall explore how the dialogue’s third act conveys the sense of Socrates as anti-sophistic sophist—how, in other words, a kind of rhetoric frames Socrates’ uncompromising moralism, and how that moralism frames Socrates’ turn toward the rhetorical. My reading will be dialogical, but I shall not follow the suggestion that Socrates’ role in the Gorgias instances a free-wheeling, carnivalesque, pluralistic contribution to the discursive climate. [66] Rather, what will emerge is “Socrates” as a forward stance dialogically, a position from which to mount an assault on Callicles’ ideological space.
Let us begin at the dialogue’s turning point, where Callicles feels he can no longer sit on the sidelines as Socrates, summing up positions he has charted out in conversation with Gorgias and Polus, combines two arguments: (1) that rhetoric, a spurious kind of persuasion analogous to the confectioner’s art, serves no useful purpose in a well-run state; and (2) that it is better to suffer than to do harm. Argument (1) Socrates qualifies tongue-in-cheek with (2): rhetoric serves a valid purpose only when used to procure just and salutary punishment for ourselves or our friends, or to “harm” enemies by saving them from same (480a–481b). Which is to say, rhetoric is justified only when used altruistically, which is never.
Unable to keep quiet any longer, Callicles turns to Chaerephon and Socrates to ask if the latter could be serious (481b–c). From the standpoint of self-interest and conventional wisdom, enemies richly deserve any suffering that comes their way, our friends, none. That accords with the “help friends, harm enemies” ethic, the golden rule of traditional Greek morality. [67] So, for instance, Gorgias earlier stipulated that rhetoric, a weapon of verbal combat, not be used against family and friends (447a, 456c–457a), against whom Socrates would deploy rhetoric, provided they deserve it. Hence what Polus terms the “strangeness” of Socrates’ arguments (atopa, 473a, 480e), which fly in the face of an egocentrism most everyone sympathizes with (471c–d, 473e–474b, 481b–c). But Socrates presses the argument to its (il)logical extreme by commending punishment helpful to our friends and ourselves, and deprecating punishment helpful to our enemies. That deviously re-subscribes to the conventional wisdom, but contradicts it too: Socrates would withhold suffering from those who, in the view of the many, deserve it.
To that, Socrates can only have expected an incredulous reception, which, as we have seen, is just what he gets. Iakovos Vasiliou calls that “reverse irony”: shock listeners into perplexity (“You can’t be serious!?”); whet their interest and leave them impatient to get to the bottom of it. [68] It can, then, be regarded as a rhetorical “hook.” Whether or not Socrates himself would class that with rhetoric or sophistic (practically identical from Socrates’ perspective), it holds an ironic mask in front of the speaker’s serious message.
But it also risks alienating listeners, who can be expected to chafe at the feeling of being put on, of being asked to entertain a seemingly ludicrous suggestion. [69] Now, I am not suggesting that moralism is itself ludicrous, only that here, Socratic irony underscores what Polus takes to be the thinker’s atopia, an attitudinal-ideological “Nowheresville” deeply at odds with conventional wisdom. Hence an incredulous Callicles’ sudden entry into the discussion. [70] Were Socrates serious, he would, comments Callicles, turn all human life completely upside down (481b–c).
Aware that he is losing his audience, Socrates tries to reconnect:
It has occurred to me that you and I, even as we speak, are in the throes of one and the same passion. For the two us feel erôs, each for a different pair of beloveds: you for the Athenian dêmos and for Demos son of Pyrilampes; I for Alcibiades, son of Cleinias, and for Philosophy.
Plato Gorgias 481d
Why bring up eros? Comments Dodds, “Socrates is trying to find common ground to make Callicles understand his passion for truth.” [71] In proposing that it is better to suffer than to do harm, Socrates challenges conventional wisdom, and in so doing, signals his disconnection from society, present company included. Yet in so doing, Socrates merely echoes his beloved philosophy; with that, surely a lover like Callicles can sympathize. For, as Socrates has just finished explaining, there can be no communication without shared consciousness:
Callicles, what if there were no single emotion human beings shared—not exactly the same for each person, but basically the same? What if each of us instead felt something unique to each and foreign to the others? To explain to someone else what it was that one felt would not, in that case, be easy.
Plato Gorgias 481c–d
Again, quoting Dodds, “Communication is possible only on the basis of some community of experience…” [72] Here, Socrates addresses an important aspect of the sociality of language: shared consciousness (Socrates speaks of shared emotion, but that can be generalized to shared experience, values, etc.) as basis for shared speech. We see, then, Socrates at work trying to forge with Callicles that first link in Vološinov’s ideological chain. If love is more than a word to each, then “I love” or “you love” becomes more than information. It becomes, potentially, at least, a moment of identification, of social bonding.
But how alike are Socrates and Callicles in their erôs? They both love; they feel substantially the same emotion. Still, if not the substance, then the sense of their erôs differs—“sense,” that is, both in the French sense of “direction” (sens) and in Deleuze’s sense of the event or surface effect that an utterance presents. We can think of sense as that chariot passing through one’s lips when one says “chariot,” not a meaning, not a syntactical or logical operator, but a happening. [73] I would extend that in the direction of the social to say that sense represents not the intention conveyed by an utterance or expression, but the impression it leaves at its outermost edge, its event horizon. Yair Neuman illustrates with the sentence, “I love you.” Whatever the truth-value of that sentence, however we analyze its syntax, semantics, or logic, it is an event, one that happens, as we have seen, between lover and beloved, a “happening” located in—or rather, on—the utterance itself. [74] But there is more. If something happens when I say, “I love you,” still, we cannot say that that something will always be the same. We are, then, concerned with the sense of love, not its unitary meaning, but its surface orientation, its spin.
Let me illustrate with Plato’s First Alcibiades, [75] where Socrates makes much of the exceptional character of his erôs for the title character. Yet it is the sense, not the essence, of his erôs that is exceptional. On one level, erôs is no more than a word. But when Socrates says, “I love” (erô, philô), something very special happens. Thus Socrates, doggedly following Alcibiades around, as Alcibiades puts it, “harassing me” (enokhleis me, 104d), exhibits overtly erotic behavior. Nothing special there: so have plenty of others. [76] Yet Socrates’ erôs, love not of body but of soul, sets Socrates apart from rivals (131c–e). In pedagogical terms, that translates as mentoring; for a budding statesman like Alcibiades, Socrates’ attentions model how to lead. But so does the wrong-way erôs of demagogic dêmos-lovers (dêmerastai) whose ranks, Socrates fears, Alcibiades may join (132a). Socialized into the city’s values and eager to please, the demagogue receives upon himself the imprint of the dêmos’ moral stupidity, which he then imprints right back on the dêmos. [77] Compare that to Socrates’ right-way approach: along the vertical axis, a properly top-down pederasty, pedagogy, and politics channeling goodness on high to those below (105d–106a, 106c–d, 118c–d, 132b, 134b–c, 135b); along the horizontal, a spiritually uplifting dialogue, erastês to erastês, producing mutual benefit (132d–133c, 135d–e). Thus to alter the sense, the directionality, of erôs is to reappraise its objects: on the one hand, “real” beauty and knowledge, on the other hand, simulacra of same, an erôs that, for Socrates, at least, will feel as if it is headed the wrong way.
And that will help us understand how the sense of Socrates’ erôs differs from Callicles’ in the Gorgias. Just to review, when I say, “X loves,” the meaning of “loves” does not vary with the identity of X. Still, when I say, “Callicles loves” and “Socrates loves,” different things happen. Though Callicles identifies with those seeking to dominate, not be dominated by, the many (483b–484c, 491e–492c), his erôs, whether for the Athenian dêmos or for Demos Pyrilampes’ son, forces him to conform to their erratic will (481d–482b, 512e–513c, 521b). A slave to his urges, he might as well be living the life of a “bugger” (kinaidos, cf. 494e). With that contrast Socrates’ right-way erôs: a slave only to his beloved philosophy, his message never varies because neither does hers (cf. 482a–b). There is a dialogical dimension to all this. Discourse as frank speech (parrhêsia) free from the taint of demeaning self-compromise earns Socrates’ admiration. [78] But when a verbal transaction involves self-assimilation to listeners unworthy of emulation by reason of their inconstancy, then it will not receive the philosopher’s nod. Viewed through the lens of philia ‘friendship,’ ‘affection’, such discourse translates as kolakeia ‘flattery’; [79] through the lens of erôs, as buggery. [80]
Socrates does not, of course, come out and accuse Callicles of being a kolax-bugger outright, but Socrates’ arguments are not hard to follow, and Callicles reacts accordingly (521b, 494e). As for his being cast as dêmos-lover (481d, 513c), he cannot have found it much to his liking. Callicles despises “the many,” in other words, the dêmos, for their natural weaknesses, and regards it as scandalous that the system permits sons of the elite to be brainwashed into the slave mentality holding them and their fathers back (483b–484c). In point of ideology, Socrates and Callicles are closer than one might think; for both, popular sovereignty leaves much to be desired, only Callicles refuses to face his complicity in a system he detests, whereas Socrates has nothing to be ashamed of. Hence Socrates’ use of the demerast characterization: fraught with all sorts of negative connotations, it is meant to shame Callicles into reconsidering his position.
If there is no right-way demerasty, then what takes it place? For Socrates, that will be erôs for philosophy (481d–482a). Only from philosophy could Socrates have gained the political expertise (tekhnê, 521d; cf. 500b–d) that he opposes to rhetoric, its simulacrum (eidôlon, 463d); only through knowledge of justice, implicitly, a gift of philosophy, can one become an orator “the right way” (orthôs, 508c). At no point does Socrates actually state that he intends to convert Callicles to philosophy. Still, Socrates and Callicles seem to recognize that their debate will necessarily oppose the competing claims of philosophy and practical rhetoric (484c–486d, 487e–488a, 500c). But Callicles also offers Socrates an opportunity not to be missed: to win over so worthy an opponent “will demonstrate these convictions,” those held by Socrates, “to be true” (486e). Framed as it is by Socrates’ passionate devotion to his mistress, this desire for a meeting of minds, though it may not itself qualify as erôs in the strictest sense, carries the stamp of the erotic.
That meeting of minds we can reasonably expect to be conducted according to principles of fairness, courtesy, and cooperation enunciated by Socrates, observed in discussion with Gorgias, [81] and reaffirmed in conversation with Callicles (505e–506a). Socrates hopes, of course, not just to converse but to convert. Still, simply to defeat his “opponent” will not do; he must, as Socrates puts it, bring his interlocutor to “bear witness” in Socrates’ behalf (472b–c). How do things go? Along the way, Socrates extends to Callicles courtesies extended to Gorgias [82] and presents the more cogent case, as Callicles himself intimates at one point. [83] Still, Socrates also engages in captious argument, as when he presses Callicles to admit that “To the more intelligent should go the larger share,” Callicles claim, equates with “to the shoemaker should go more shoes” and similar absurdities (490d–e).
This tendentious side to Socrates’ discourse comes to the fore not least when Socrates, having professed his love for philosophy, then proceeds to “frontload” it into his arguments with a view to biasing discussion in his favor. What do I mean by “frontloading”? When subject matter exerting its own field of force (“Let us consider beauty / God / truth”) is put up for debate, as philosophy is in Plato’s Gorgias, then it can take an act of will to approach it dispassionately. At that point, the grounding of discussion can begin to resemble the effort to impose a shared consciousness: discussants will either be drawn to the premise like a magnet or will just as automatically resist. To all appearances, dialogue proceeds as it should, yet all on its own, the discursive focus imposes a “center-seeking” (centripetal) dynamic, or else so polarizes dialogue as to end it.
In the Gorgias, frontloading happens during Socrates’ opening speech to Callicles, specifically, when he challenges his interlocutor to refute not his word but that of his beloved philosophy (482a–b), which becomes thereby both a focus of discussion and a party to debate. In so doing, Socrates risks alienating Callicles, for whom, as Socrates well knows, philosophy holds little appeal (487c–d). Still, Socrates goes ahead anyway to illustrate how this lady-love of his offers him a privileged subjectivity within society, a subjectivity wedded to and derived from a higher and unvarying source of authority. Out of sync with the rest of humanity, Socrates will, at least, be in sync with himself, all thanks to his beloved philosophy (cf. 482b–c). That shifts the burden of argument upon Callicles. If Socrates fails to convince Callicles, Socrates will be none the worse for wear. If, however, Callicles fails to convince Socrates, Callicles, ever the slave to his fickle beloveds, must find himself at variance with himself. Philosophy, by contrast, never changes her tune because she does not have to. The logic is compelling, if circular. To all intents and purposes, philosophy’s constancy marks both the starting point and goal of Socrates’ reasoning. Does Callicles notice? I should say he does. Quoting Euripides, Callicles supposes that Socrates behaves no differently from the common run of humanity: he validates his personal strengths and preferences by presenting them as if naturally superior to the alternative (484e–485a).
To be fair, Callicles defends egocentricism and Realpolitik no less tendentiously. Charging Socrates with a kind of ivory-tower naïveté, he warns his “friend” to get with the program or suffer the consequences (482c–486d). Conceding philosophy’s charms, he belittles them. For Callicles characterizes philosophy as a childish pursuit, a toy to be discarded by grown-ups (484c–486a). Thus for Callicles to be won over to philosophy would, at least from his perspective, amount to surrendering his manhood—not his masculinity per se, but all that entitles him, a free and fully grown man of quality (a kalos k’agathos, 484d), to pursue his ambitions. Yet each of our two discussants impugns the other’s manhood: Callicles when he faults Socrates for refusing to grow up and learn the techniques of judicial self-defense, Socrates when he implies that Callicles stoops to kolakeia, even kinaidia, in courting his beloveds as he does.
Why does Socrates go at it this way? Gyl Gentzler, addressing the sophistic side to Socrates’ cross-examination of Callicles, provides an interesting explanation. By demonstrating competence in what he rejects (viz. sophistic rhetoric), the philosopher proves that his preference represents an informed choice. And by giving Callicles a taste of his own medicine, Socrates demonstrates its ineffectiveness and lays the groundwork for a more genuinely “Socratic” exchange later on. [84]
But that also implies an element of calculation and distance in Socrates’ self-presentation, as if in playing his “other” (the sophist-rhetorician) he does not really mean it. To that view I would suggest an alternative: that Socrates’ “pitch,” the case he makes for his beloved philosophy, cannot as manifestation, as Socrates’ presentation of his discursive “I,” [85] be so easily parsed as a momentary pose foreign to whatever “reality” the philosopher embodies. Rather, Callicles, by stepping back from his and Socrates’ discussion, effectively draws out Socrates the contentious arguer latent within Socrates the true believer. Projecting his dialogical self outside the ambit of the courteously dispassionate debater, Socrates grows “violent” (biaios, Callicles at 505d). No playacting version of himself, but the real McCoy, he takes up a forward position from which to mount a frontal assault on his interlocutor. Erôs can, then, be said to express the dual character of Socrates’ attachment to philosophy: on the one hand, the absence of any vulgar or impure motivation; on the other hand, a commitment so complete as to rule out any real chance at dialogue. That introduces a coercive dynamic into the discourse. Unwilling to yield so much as an inch, Socrates leaves Callicles little choice but to submit or quit.
Does, then, dialogue in Plato’s Gorgias fail, either by fault of the speaking characters, or else through flaws intrinsic to dialogue itself? What is difficult to understand is why, if the debate between Socrates and Callicles actually goes nowhere, Gorgias and the other bystanders remain raptly attentive (cf. 497b, 506a). So a kind of chemistry develops between the two men as each brushes up against the other’s abrasive obduracy. [86] Dodds points out how the periodic recycling of themes in the dialogue combines with an intensifying seriousness and depth to produce an “ascending spiral,” a “dynamic movement, from the superficial to the fundamental.” [87] This strange version of the love-dance by which lovers ascend the cognitive-existential ladder in Plato’s Phaedrus, Symposium, and First Alcibiades may not do much for either Socrates or Callicles, but it does for us who watch from the sidelines. Among other things, it suggests that no simplistic scheme will explain dialogue in the real world; that missteps and disconnects, aggression and frustration, inevitably figure into the process.

Socratic Pandering in Xenophon’s Symposium

“But the way I see it, we should remember men of quality not just for their serious accomplishments, but also for the things they have done in a more playful mood.” So begins Xenophon’s Symposium, a dialogue dramatizing a drinking party notable for the wit and wisdom evinced by the kaloi k’agathoi, the “men of quality,” in attendance. But Xenophon tests limits when he has Socrates masquerade as that most immoderate, inconstant, and self-compromised of characters: a pimp. For how can this mask, one that, if taken at “face” value, expresses everything disreputable, confirm Socrates as a kalos k’agathos? As we shall see, Xenophon’s Symposium shows Socrates “playing his other,” his anti-self, as a way of negotiating relationships with dialogical others. Because a mask, pimping distances the man behind it from skills that notoriously drew to him the likes of Critias and Alcibiades, Socrates’ two most infamous pupils. Yet this mask also reveals the networker—the “pimp”—in Socrates, and therefore his ability to reach out and compromise with a paradoxical kind of grace.

Bragging Rights

Composed probably in the 360s, Xenophon’s Symposium purports to reenact a drinking party (a sumposion) honoring Autolycus son of Lycon for his Panathenaic boxing victory in 422. [88] There to lend the festivities cachet is Socrates (1.4), who urges the assembled company to take care of their own amusement, so as not to be outdone by the paid performers, persons of inferior quality (3.2). And so it is that Callias, the party’s host, suggests a game of show-and-tell: participants will take turns stating, then proving, whatever each takes special pride in (3.3, 4.1).
What do these guests and their host take pride in? Antisthenes, a poor man, boasts of his “wealth,” meaning his poverty, because it easily supports his frugal life-style (3.8, 4.34–45). Charmides, likewise impecunious, wears poverty as a badge of honor: it frees him from care (3.9, 4.30). We can think of that in terms of mask and sense. Thus Antisthenes and Charmides don the mask of the eudaimôn, the man fortunate in his material situation, not to conceal their poverty but to reveal their sense of it, the ways in which each has reconciled himself to his situation.
But in so doing, they obviously decline to play Callias’ game straight. That is, they avoid the kind of unambiguous self-aggrandizement that, for instance, Gorgias models in Plato’s like-named dialogue (449a). But so do most of Xenophon’s other players. Thus Hermogenes, showing off his piety, at first boasts only of his “friends” (philoi, 3.14), later revealed to be the gods. Yet he represents those “friendships” as a kind of cheap flattery: powerful protectors, the gods dispense favor cheaply in return for praise (4.49). Similar can be said of low characters whose “boasts” speak frankly of their disreputable professions (3.11, 4.50, 4.55). Even Autolycus, whose victory would seem to provide obvious bragging rights, will take credit only for having a good father (3.12–13).
One gathers that for most players, playing it straight will not do, not at this party, [89] but why not? Straight talk, parrhêsia, though admirable in its own way (cf. above on Plato Gorgias 487a), could be objectionable talk. To fail to modulate one’s message appropriately, to allow, in other words, one’s “manifestation” to become overtly intrusive, could be to fail to take into consideration one’s listeners’ sensitivities, and therefore to risk alienating them. [90] Plutarch observes that praise wittily (meta paidias) couched as abuse can be more agreeable than its straightforward counterpart (Moralia 632d–e, on Xenophon Symposium 4.61–64). So, too, self-praise becomes more palatable if mingled with self-censure (Moralia 543f–544d). The name of the game will, then, be not simply to parade one’s talents, but to do so engagingly, to explain what sets one apart, but without setting oneself apart—to flatter oneself without alienating others.


But Socrates trumps them all when he proclaims mastropeia, ‘pimping,’ his special skill (3.10). That claim raises a laugh—what could be more ludicrous than the thought of Socrates plying so disreputable (adoxôi, 4.56) a trade? The aura of sexual passivity and foreign origins, both prejudicial to the honorable standing of any citizen male, could be said to have hung about the profession. [91] As for what mastropoi actually did, first and foremost, they hunted down customers for sex-providers, a function reflected in the etymology of their name. [92] In that capacity, they could be associated with a predatory type of cunning, as could the prostitutes they worked for. [93] Diphilus shows us mastropoi playing the role of go-betweens helping arrange a sex party (42.22 PCG); that suggests overlap between the business of the mastropos, a “seller’s agent,” and that of the proagôgos, a “buyer’s agent” whose job was, in the narrow sense, to procure sex-providers for clients (Xenophon Symposium 4.61; Theopompus 115 F 227 FGrH; Plutarch Moralia 632e).
Socrates, then, in boasting of his pimping, “plays his other,” at least insofar as this pimp’s mask of his ill fits the civic-masculine dignity elsewhere associated with him. [94] But has Socrates never actually plied the trade? Apparently he has not, though he thinks he “could make a lot of money, should I choose to practice the art” (3.10; cf. 4.61). Yet at no point does he flatly deny ever having pimped. Indeed, by admitting that he intends to hand the business over to his friend Antisthenes (4.61), Socrates’ playacting implicitly embraces pimping as a biographical fact. Yet Socrates still plays coy. However deep—or shallow—his past involvement, he intends to leave that life behind. How do others understand his pimping? Antisthenes teasingly addresses Socrates as a pimp who pimps himself (mastrope sautou, 8.5); Callias, whom Socrates encourages to enter politics, takes that encouragement as a hint that Socrates intends to pimp for him, and to the whole city, no less (me…mastropeuseis pros tên polin, 8.42).
We shall need to keep in mind Socrates’ ambivalence toward this art, one that he can speak of in both literal and figurative terms, both boast about and hold at arm’s length; it will prove important to how he defines himself. For the moment, though, it will help to place Socrates’ pimping in context: to consider how it fits into the larger profile of all that he is good at. Thus when Socrates assimilates his friend’s matchmaking—teacher-pupil pairings and conversation partnerings—to sexual procurement (4.61–64), what Socrates leaves out is that he, too, excels at just that sort of thing. [95] What makes Socrates so good at it? From Aspasia, matchmaker par excellence, Socrates has learned the value of truth in advertising: that misrepresentation can produce unhappy results (Memorabilia 2.6.36). But sincerity does not, evidently, preclude a flair for spin, as when Socrates expertly reconciles men down on their luck to arrangements that, while intended to provide for their material needs, also carry social stigma. [96]
But it is in the art of coaching others in the art of friendship that Socrates’ expertise most closely approximates a pimp’s. This skill, which Socrates likens to hunting and enchantment (Xenophon Memorabilia 2.6.8–13, 2.6.28–35, 3.11.6–17), involves a crucial element of seeming “good” (agathos) based ideally on being it (2.6.39). So when Socrates treats Theodote, a courtesan renowned for her beauty, to a lesson in “friend-hunting” (3.11.10), his expertise impresses her enough that she offers him a job “hunting”—pimping—right on the spot. [97] At no point in the narrative are terms like “pimp” or “prostitute” (hetaira) used, but the obvious luxury of Theodote’s establishment and retinue (3.11.2–5), combined with the narrator’s coyly suggestive explanation that Theodote “was one to keep company with anyone who would ‘persuade’ her” (3.11.1), leave little doubt as to the nature of her business or the fees she commands—or the value to her of a good pimp (3.11.9). [98]
As to the “moral” of this last episode, William Johnson points out that Socrates’ interview with a prostitute, by exposing the tricks of the trade, “immunizes” friends listening in. [99] But I would suggest that the episode does more than that. In defining Theodote’s profession in terms of her indiscriminate choice of “companions” or “friends” and the monetary incentive for doing so, Xenophon allows us to draw parallels between prostitution and sophistic, which, like prostitution, involves a service provider’s willingness to share indiscriminately with anyone who can come up with the cash, not with a select group whom he will befriend. [100] And so, suggests Socrates, the sophist might as well be trading, like a pornos (a male prostitute) or, one might add, like Theodote, on his looks (Xenophon Memorabilia 1.6.13; cf. 1.2.5–8). That parallel can be extended along predictable lines. Thus sophists, like courtesans and the pimps working for them, “hunt” for wealthy young clients (Xenophon On Hunting with Dogs 13.9; cf. Plato Sophist 223a–b). Indeed, Love himself (the god Eros), an adikos sophistês or “devious sophist,” by getting one of his victims into trouble, teaches the man lessons in love and the soul—perhaps, lessons in getting oneself out of a sticky situation—in a roundabout sort of way (Araspas in Xenophon Cyropaedia 6.1.41).
I am emphasizing these parallels specifically to argue that Socrates, through what Plato’s Socrates might have termed a “pleasant turn” (Phaedrus 257d–e), deviously masquerades at being pimp to acknowledge with plausible deniability the potential for his pedagogy to supply what a sophist offers. To see that, we need ourselves to play along with Socrates’ play-acting: we need to ask how, when we view Socrates with his mask on, it alters our sense of what Socrates does. Thus we note how this masquerade brings to light Socrates’ expertise in “love magic” (philtra, epôidai), expertise that makes Socrates popular with “girlfriends” (philai), which is to say, with pupils like Apollodorus, Antisthenes, and others (Xenophon Memorabilia 3.11.16–17). Socrates seems here to be associating himself with a type, the sorceress dealing in love potions and pharmaka, whose activities placed her at the margins of society. [101] Figuratively (mis)representing his teaching in this way, Socrates presents it in a paradoxically transgressive light. Yet Socrates, still speaking tongue-in-cheek, deals in just the sort of magic (philia-arousing epôidai) that won the Athenian people over to Themistocles and Pericles (2.6.12–14) and enabled Cyrus to command the willing obedience of entire nations [102] —“magic,” in other words, conventionally associated not just with sexual seduction but with persuasion generally and sophistic in particular. [103]
But Socrates as sophist? Is that not precisely the thing Xenophon takes great pains to refute? [104] Still, Socrates need not have been a sophist for pupils to feel they could get from him what they might otherwise have sought from his “other.” So, for instance, Critias and Alcibiades are said to have gone to Socrates for instruction in effective speaking and politicking (genesthai an hikanôtatô legein te kai prattein, Xenophon Memorabilia 1.2.15), the sort of thing that might have marked Socrates a genuine sophist had he taught only that and nothing else (cf. 1.2.31, 48). Yet Xenophon’s Socrates, though the very model of the anti-sophist, by no means discounts the importance to leaders of learning how to speak (cf. 3.3.11). As for Socrates’ own skills, he offered, Xenophon tells us, the example of one who “in argument…could do what he liked with any disputant” (1.2.14, Loeb trans.). Imitated but misapplied by a pupil like Alcibiades (1.2.39–46), that more or less translates as eristic, the art of competitive debate and verbal entrapment, reportedly a specialty of Protagoras, sophist extraordinaire. [105]
Taking stock, we have so far been exploring Socrates’ pimping on two levels: as a serio-comic way to think about Socrates’ skill at negotiating the complexities of social networking; as Xenophon’s spin on his erstwhile mentor’s unique sort of pedagogy, a way, in other words, for Xenophon to negotiate the fit between the principled if versatile philosopher he champions, and the sophist attacked in polemics that preoccupy the first book of the Memorabilia. In either case, Socrates’ pimp’s mask says something important about its wearer, namely, that Socrates, for all his uncompromising idealism, recognized the importance of surface as interface between inner and outer being. We see that, among other places, in the philosopher’s conversation with Pistias the armorer. There, Socrates establishes that the well-proportioned breastplate follows no absolute rule, but adapts itself to the shape and needs of the one inside; it is all a matter of fit (Xenophon Memorabilia 3.10.9–15). Similar can be said of painting and sculpture, where outer form manifests inner character and feeling (êthos and pathos, 3.10.1–8). Those principles can be extended outward toward the observer, and so they are in Socrates’ pimping lecture (3.11.7–14), where the impression—visual, verbal, and so on—one leaves on others, though it originates from within oneself, from one’s soul, is articulated at, and emanates from, the surface. As for whether it does so to the betterment of all concerned, that depends on how well it negotiates the fit between inner and outer being; there can be no one-size-fits-all good. [106] Socrates, then, in lecturing the hetaira, offers more than an antidote to the hetaira’s charms. He offers a lesson in how to project a self well-adapted to mediating the self-other divide.
And so does he in Xenophon’s Symposium, where Socrates defines pimping (mastropou ergon) as the art of rendering clients areskontes, ‘agreeable’ (4.57). Combining the functions of cosmetician and coach, pimps concern themselves with hair, clothes, facial expressions, utterance, all that bears upon “agreeableness,” which is to say, sex appeal. [107] But Socrates shows himself principally concerned with utterance: modest versus shameful, hostile versus friendly (4.58). Thus “any pimp worth his salt will teach (didaskoi an) only those utterances conducive to agreeableness (toutôn…ta sumpheronta eis to areskein)” (4.59). Lest we miss the point, Socrates adds that the perfect pimp will offer instruction with a view to rendering clients pleasing to the entire city (holêi têi polei areskontas); anyone who can do that deserves a high fee (4.60). For “pimp,” read, then, “sophist”; for our pimp’s clients, politicians in training.
But does Socrates actually pimp in the Symposium? As we shall soon see, he does toward the end of his speech on love. Yet that speech contains some distinctly un-pimp-like talk. Focused on a more mature man’s erôs for a younger man or adolescent (i.e. on pederasty), it champions love focused on the love-object’s inner beauty as basis for enduring affection. As elsewhere, so too here, that leaves little scope for carnal desire, what Socrates calls Pandemian or “vulgar” love, which, if consummated, can, he tells us, do the younger man harm. [108] As to the financial end of things, money can purchase sex, but not affection (8.21). And with that, pimp Socrates, speaking frankly now of the sham he evidently thinks Pandemian love to be, seems to have left his pimp’s persona far behind.
Still, like a pair of bookends, evocations of Socratic pandering frame that speech: on the one hand, where Antisthenes, professing love for Socrates, mischievously suggests his beloved pimps himself (mastrope sautou) by playing hard to get (8.4–5), on the other, where Callias divines from Socrates’ love speech that this supposed pimp intends to pimp for him (8.42). Why would Callias think that? Having offered various reflections on Ouranian love, Socrates shifts from the general to the particular when he takes up the question of how so excellent and worthy a youth as Autolycus ought to be courted. How else but for the erastês to prove himself a worthy partner to his beloved’s endeavors (8.37–38)? Taking his cue from the fame Autolycus will win in the public eye, Callias must likewise make a name for himself—something, we gather, that Callias has yet to do. But Callias, unlike Autolycus, will pursue fame not in war or sport but in politics. Callias needs, then, to gain the necessary knowledge:
If, then, you would prove yourself agreeable (areskein) to the lad, you should consider the types of knowledge that equipped Themistocles for the freeing of Greece, or what it was that Pericles had learned that made him the perfect statesman in the eyes of his countrymen (kratistos edokei). But you should also consider how Solon’s philosophy established for his city such excellent (kratistous) laws, or how Spartan training confers on Spartans the aspect of great commanders (kratistoi dokousin hêgemones einai).
Xenophon Symposium 8.39
The word kratistos ‘excellent,’ ‘best’, used three times in the preceding passage, has already been used by Socrates to describe the suitor who will “best” guide Autolycus on the path to glory (8.38). But Socrates speaks here in terms not just of being, but of seeming to be, best (kratistos). Thus it was in seeming (edokei) to be the best counselor of the dêmos that Pericles’ political expertise proved of value to him. So, too, Spartans profit from their rigorous training by seeming (dokousin) to be great commanders. Does that mean that Callias, in cultivating the appearance of excellence, can afford to neglect its substance? Not exactly. Elsewhere in Xenophon (Memorabilia 2.6.39; Cyropaedia 1.6.22), the reality of virtue offers the best route to the appearance of it, and nothing in Socrates’ Symposium speech contradicts that. [109]
Still, unless Callias can leverage appearances, he will fail in his bid for glory and for Autolycus, too. Socrates’ focus accordingly shifts as he touts what campaign managers today would refer to as Callias’ “positives.” Callias comes from noble stock and holds a prestigious priesthood; he has one of the most attractive bodies in town, though a body ready to endure hardship. This is not Socrates speaking through his wine, this comes from the heart. Both he and the city have never ceased to be lovers, sunerastai, of such men—men of a noble nature, men ambitious to excel in virtue. Men, in other words, like Callias (8.40–41).
Autolycus’ gaze is by now riveted on Callias, and Callias’ on Autolycus, though the older man does manage a response to Socrates’ effusions: “So I suppose, then, you’ll pimp me to the city? That way as a politician I’ll never cease being agreeable to it” (8.42). Or, for that matter, to Autolycus. “Agreeable” here translates the adjective arestos, cognate with the verb areskein, used by Socrates to describe both the agreeableness of prostitutes decked out by their mastropoi, and the agreeableness Socrates seeks to instill in his host to make him a more attractive erastês to Autolycus.
Using, then, Autolycus as bait to inflame Callias’ hitherto dormant ambitions, Socrates plays the pimp with consummate skill on multiple levels. In so doing, he would appear to offer a kind of validation for Critobulus’ belief in the power of physical attraction—of Pandemian love—to spur lovers on to deeds of distinction to impress their beloveds (3.7, 4.15–16). Now, Critobulus may not possess the wisdom of a Socrates. But he does, at least, recognize the role of appearances, a general’s good looks, where leadership and command are concerned (4.16). That leadership model receives fuller treatment in Xenophon’s Cyropaedia, where Cyrus seems particularly attuned to the value of appearances and what can only be called “sex appeal” to a monarch like Cyrus. [110]
I would suggest that Xenophon’s picture of barbarian absolutism in the Cyropaedia frees that work to express more bluntly what receives careful packaging—heavy doses of paidia mixed with spoudê—in Xenophon’s Symposium, namely, that only through surface manifestation, whether verbal or visual, can inner meaning, the “soul,” enter the give-and-take of social reality and thus make a difference. [111] Given the extraordinary character of Callias’ get-together, a before-the-fact second chance for victims and perpetrators of stasis to get along, [112] Socrates’ pimping, the very picture of agreeableness and sociality, conveys that message with special poignancy for a post-403 audience. Yet the Pandemian side to Socratic erôs carries ambivalence as well. Rallying citizens around leaders “groomed” to inspire erôs for community and consensus (Socrates on sunerastai, 8.41), it enacts Pandemos the unifier, who, though suppressed in Xenophon’s text, would seem to have emerged into public consciousness at least by the time of Xenophon’s writing. [113] But it also enacts Pandemos the Prostitute, sponsor of carnal love and, by devious routes, of all the “love magic” that went into making Pericles great, or at least seem that way.
And so when Socrates has finished with his lecture on love, Lycon, Autolycus’ father and Socrates’ future prosecutor, will pay the sage that highest of tributes: he will pronounce him a kalos k’agathos, a “man of quality.” But note how Lycon expresses that not in terms of core essence but of outward appearance: “By Hera, Socrates, you certainly do appear to me a person of quality!” (kalos ge k’agathos dokeis moi anthrôpos, 9.1). One senses in those words genuine appreciation, but also recognition of the role of surfaces, of seeming, and with that, maybe a hint of doubt.


[ back ] 1. Plato, Xenophon, Antisthenes, Aeschines Socraticus, et al.—third-century prose-authors writing about Socrates, his circle, and related topics. See SSR.
[ back ] 2. Kahn 1992:592, which see passim. Newell 2000 contrasts the Platonic Socrates’ transcendental erôs with thumos, a lower-order possessiveness. Cf. Ober 1998:198 on a “philosophy-loving (ergo strictly rational…)” Socrates in Plato’s Gorgias. Contrast Vlastos 1987:90–93: Socratic erôs (limited tolerance of sensual pleasure, non-transcendental) versus Platonic (a non-physical divine rage). Socratic erôs as desire to improve others (Bessermachen): Döring 1984; Ehlers 1966. Socrates’ critique of non-philosophic erôs in Plato’s Lysis: Nightingale 1993:114–116.
[ back ] 3. E.g. Plato Symposium 210b–c, 216d, 222a–b; Xenophon Memorabilia 4.1.2.
[ back ] 4. Plato Symposium 188d, 196c; Laws 711d; Xenophon Symposium 1.10.
[ back ] 5. Vlastos 1987:88 cites Plato Protagoras 309a; Gorgias 481d; Charmides 155c–e; Meno 76c; Xenophon Symposium 8.2. See also Dover 1989:154–155. Heteroerotic interests: Aristoxenus fr. 54a.15–16, 54b.12; Xenophon Memorabilia 3.11.3.
[ back ] 6. Plato Symposium 216d–e, on which Vlastos 1987:90.
[ back ] 7. Polycephelous, serpentine, fiery, cacophonous Typhoeus/Typhon: Tsifakis 2003:94–95; Gantz 1993:48–51.
[ back ] 8. Socrates will portray sophists and rhetoricians as highly versatile with “comparisons and disguises” with which to spin truth, facts, etc.: Plato Phaedrus 261c–e. Cf. Republic 382e, god as “a thing simple and true” (haploun kai alêthes).
[ back ] 9. Derrida 1981:100–104.
[ back ] 10. Plato Phaedrus 279b–c. Cf. Socrates as lover of Alcibiades himself (his soul), not “what is yours” (physical beauty): Plato First Alcibiades 131e.
[ back ] 11. Cf. the “first” or “primary distinction” and Spencer-Brown’s logic of distinctions: Neuman 2003:89–98.
[ back ] 12. Gestalt here in the sense of perceptions from which the mind produces progressively more organized formations: Neuman 2003:100; Brandist 2002b:533–536; Brandist 2002a:21–22; Holquist 1990:14–39; Vološinov 1986:29–30.
[ back ] 13. Mirroring: Neuman 2004.
[ back ] 14. Bakhtin 1990:30. Cf. Holquist 1990:18 on Bakhtin on dialogical consciousness (“In dialogism, the very capacity to have consciousness is based on otherness”); Neuman 2003:143–156.
[ back ] 15. Bakhtin 1990:51; more generally 4–59; Neuman 2004:61–62.
[ back ] 16. Cf. Neuman 2003:102–104.
[ back ] 17. Vlastos 1987:86.
[ back ] 18. Plato Symposium 215b; Xenophon Symposium 4.19, 5.7.
[ back ] 19. Padgett 2003:27. Satyrs and silens (anthropoid often with equine features, sex- and drink-addicted) mediate culture and nature, the human and the Dionysian: Isler Kerényi 2004; Padgett 2003; Lissarrague 1993.
[ back ] 20. Alcibiades’ speech as praise oratory (encomium): North 1994; Nightingale 1993:123–127.
[ back ] 21. Plato Symposium 216c–217a, 221e; cf. 175e; Plato Republic 337a, for which Vlastos 1987:81; Gooch 1985.
[ back ] 22. Cf. Neuman 2003:105–106 on Deleuze 1990:9.
[ back ] 23. Antisthenes fr. 99 SSR; Xenophon Symposium 8.4; Plato Phaedrus 257b; Symposium 173b; Protagoras 317d; Edmonds 2000; Kahn 1992:587–588; Halperin 1986.
[ back ] 24. Reversal in Alcibiades’ erôs for Socrates: Wohl 2002:161–169; Edmonds 2000:272–277.
[ back ] 25. Edmonds 2000:275. Gagarin 1977 attributes Socrates’ failure as teacher of Alcibiades to Socrates’ hubris, his antisociality generally and refusal to consummate his erôs for Alcibiades. For Socrates’ hubris here, also North 1994:94–98.
[ back ] 26. Deleuze 1990:10.
[ back ] 27. That appears to be a corollary of the dictum that no subject can validly carry a predicate other than itself, e.g. horses are horses and running is running, but horses are not running (Stilpo 29 SSR).
[ back ] 28. Cf. Stoic use of paradox as linguistic thought-experiment: Chrysippus in Diogenes Laertius 7.187; Brunschwig and Lloyd 2000:357–358, 382–383 on Megarians and Stoics; Deleuze 1990:8–9.
[ back ] 29. Carson 1986:30. Cf. Diotima in Plato Symposium 202a, 203e on erôs as metaxu, “a median between contraries” (Gagarin 1977:27).
[ back ] 30. Carson 1986:30.
[ back ] 31. Vlastos 1987:90; cf. Plato Symposium cf. 216c–d.
[ back ] 32. Socrates’ atopia (‘nowhere-ness,’ ‘strangeness’): Plato Symposium 175a, 215a; 221d. Eide 1996 understands Socratic atopia in the scientific-mathematical sense of “‘illogical’, ‘inconsistent’, ‘contradictory’” (60); cf. Kofman 1998:18–21.
[ back ] 33. Aeschines Socraticus and his Alcibiades: SSR vol. 3 pp. 605–610 (VI A 41–54), vol. 4 pp. 585–591; Giannantoni 1997; Kahn 1994; Joyal 1993; Ehlers 1966; Taylor 1934:10–19; Dittmar 1912.
[ back ] 34. “Maenad” (mainas) and “bacchant” (bakkhê): female worshippers of Dionysus, god of wine and madness. “Maenadism”: the mental state and demeanor of maenads-bacchants. Non-manic Socrates in Aeschines Socraticus: Kahn 1994:104; Vlastos 1987:91n42; Ehlers 1966:22; contrast Taylor 1934:14–15.
[ back ] 35. Taylor 1934:9.
[ back ] 36. Plato Apology 19d–e; Menexenus 236a; Symposium 175d–e, 177d–e (erôs his sole expertise), 216d; Laches 186c; Xenophon Memorabilia 1.2.3, 1.2.7–8. Socrates acknowledges-boasts of his reputation for teaching: Xenophon Apology 21.
[ back ] 37. Kahn 1994:92–94, 101–102; Döring 1984; Gaiser 1969; Ehlers 1966:10–25, 85–95; Gaiser 1959:92–95.
[ back ] 38. Untaught in virtue, Socrates does not teach it: Plato Laches 186b–c. Diotima Socrates’ teacher in erôs: Plato Symposium 201d–212c. Aspasia in rhetoric, matchmaking: Plato Menexenus 235e–236a; Xenophon Memorabilia 2.6.36; Oeconomicus 3.14. See Morrison 1994:198–203.
[ back ] 39. Bessermachen: Ehlers 1966, aspects of whose views are picked up by Giannantoni 1997:362–363; Kahn 1994; Joyal 1993; Döring 1984:17–25.
[ back ] 40. Aeschines Socraticus 46, 49, 50.3–5, 50.32–41 SSR. According to Döring 1984:20–21n11, the specific charge against Themistocles will have been that of aiding the Persian foe.
[ back ] 41. Kahn 1994:103–106; Kahn 1992:590; Ehlers 1966:22 and n30 with bibliography.
[ back ] 42. Plato Ion 534a, for which Murray 1996:112–125. For poetic madness, cf. Plato Phaedrus 245a.
[ back ] 43. Plato’s ambivalence about mania-inspiration: Murray 1996:10–12.
[ back ] 44. Plato Ion 534b; see Murray 1996:118.
[ back ] 45. Henrichs 1994:37.
[ back ] 46. Aeschines Socraticus 53.4–7, 10–15, 22–27 SSR. Cf. theia moira in Plato Ion.
[ back ] 47. Clinical mania-possession: Aretaeus De causis et signis acutorum morborum book 2 1.6.11 (entheos . . . maniê); Henrichs 1994:34–35.
[ back ] 48. Cf. Taylor 1934:14–15.
[ back ] 49. Henrichs 1994:36 (my translation); see generally 35–38.
[ back ] 50. Cf. Demosthenes 18.259–260, for which Wankel 1976:1132–1134.
[ back ] 51. Murray 1996:118; Henrichs 1994:37.
[ back ] 52. Cf. Dionysus mask-faces: Tarquinia, Museo Nazionale, RC 1804; François Vase, Florence, Museo Archeologico 4209. See Isler Kerényi 2001:89; Csapo 1997:255–258; Seaford 1996:39, 186; Henrichs 1993:36–39.
[ back ] 53. Csapo 1997:257–258.
[ back ] 54. Insensitivity to cutting, piercing, cold, fire; the visual impression left by their demeanor, visage, clothing, accoutrements: Seaford 1996:32–38, 186, 222; Bremmer 1984:268–273.
[ back ] 55. E.g. Iliad 22.460; Euripides Hippolytus 550–551. See Schlesier 1993:94–97 et passim.
[ back ] 56. Reversing Plato’s deprivileging of copies, images of images, etc.: Deleuze 1990:253–279.
[ back ] 57. For the phrase and the concept, Zeitlin 1996.
[ back ] 58. Cf. Rushton 2002 on Deleuze on faces.
[ back ] 59. Herodotus 8.103–109. For spin in Socrates’ speech, cf. Aristeides 3.576–577 (= Aeschines Socraticus 51.1–13 SSR) on praise, censure modulated with a view to damage control vis-à-vis Alcibiades. Themistocles has a mixed reception in the historiographical tradition, e.g. Herodotus 8.108–112; Thucydides 1.135–138; Plutarch Themistocles.
[ back ] 60. Unmentioned in the text, but noted by Kahn 1994:93 n19; Döring 1984:20–21n11.
[ back ] 61. Aeschines Socraticus 50.38–41 SSR, cf. 48; Ehlers 1966:15.
[ back ] 62. Schlesier 1993:99, 108–112 on Phaedra in Euripides Hippolytus.
[ back ] 63. Aeschines Socraticus 50.43–50 SSR. Tyche ‘Fortune’ figures as personification starting with Hesiod (Theogony 360), as cult figure perhaps as early as mid sixth century BCE (Smyrna); Tyche and Agathe Tyche (“Good Fortune”) in Athenian cult from at least 392/1 BCE: Hamdorf 1964:37–39, 97–100.
[ back ] 64. Speakers in the dialogue: Dodds 1959:6–17.
[ back ] 65. See e.g. Newell 2000:9–41; Nichols 1998:1–24; Gentzler 1995; Dodds 1959:1–17. See the review of scholarship in Zappen 2004:120–124. Related is Ober 1998:190–213 on the inadequacy of philosophy to make a difference under rhetorocratic democracy.
[ back ] 66. Early Plato, including Gorgias, as carnivalized dialogue: Zappen 2004:12–15, 45–66, 117–140; Bakhtin 1984a:109–112, 132–133; Bakhtin 1981:24–26.
[ back ] 67. See p. 57 above.
[ back ] 68. Vasiliou 2002:227–229.
[ back ] 69. Cf. eirôneia ‘prevarication’ as irksome: Plato Republic 337a; Aristotle Nichomachean Ethics 1108a21–23; Theophrastus Characters 1.1–2. See Vasiliou 2002; Michelini 1998b:51–52; Vlastos 1987:80–83.
[ back ] 70. Atopia ‘strangeness,’ ‘absurdity,’ ‘inconsistency’ and irony in Plato’s Gorgias: Turner 1993.
[ back ] 71. Dodds 1959:261; cf. Ober 1998:197–198.
[ back ] 72. Dodds 1959:261; cf. Rocco 1995–1996:369.
[ back ] 73. Chrysippus in Diogenes Laertius 7.187, on which Deleuze 1990:8.
[ back ] 74. Sense: Deleuze 1990. The sense of “I love you”: Neuman 2004:63; pp. 50–51 above.
[ back ] 75. Questions of authenticity will not concern us here. Pro-authenticity: Denyer 2001:14–26.
[ back ] 76. Plato First Alcibiades 103a. Erotic harassing-following: Aeschines 1.139; Dover 1989:48, 54–57.
[ back ] 77. Plato First Alcibiades 110d–112d, 120a–b. Cf. demagogues dazed and brainwashed by the crowd’s uproar: Plato Republic 492b–c, on which Denyer 2001:139, 226
[ back ] 78. E.g., Plato Gorgias 487a; see Monoson 1994:161–165.
[ back ] 79. Sophistic and rhetoric as branches of kolakeia (along with cookery, cosmetics, poetic entertainment): Plato Gorgias 463a–467a; cf. 501c–503a, 513d, 521b.
[ back ] 80. Cf. Ober 1998:197–206.
[ back ] 81. Plato Gorgias 453c, 454c, 457c–458b, 472b–c; Nichols 1998:136; Gentzler 1995:25–27.
[ back ] 82. E.g. the chance to clarify one’s position: Plato Gorgias 489d–e. See Gentzler 1995:33–34.
[ back ] 83. Ambivalently at Plato Gorgias 513c; see Ober 1989:190–213.
[ back ] 84. Gentzler 1995:42 et passim.
[ back ] 85. See p. 85 above.
[ back ] 86. Cf. Dodds 1959:16–17.
[ back ] 87. Dodds 1959:3–4.
[ back ] 88. Date of composition, dramatic date, occasion: Huß 1999:71–73.
[ back ] 89. Niceratus seems to be the only player whose boast, expertise in Homer, plays it straight. For that, he is gently teased: Xenophon Symposium 3.5–6, 4.6–9.
[ back ] 90. See Michelini 1998b:53–56.
[ back ] 91. Cf. stereotyping of the brothel keeper (foreign born, sexually passive) in Herodas’ second mime; the kollopsi mastropois in Diphilus 42.22 PCG (kollops = sexually passive, Henderson 1991:212–213). Sexual passivity as highly prejudicial public “fact”: Winkler 1990:45–70.
[ back ] 92. See Chantraine s.v. μαίομαι, whence μαστροπός.
[ back ] 93. A mastropos who “wheedled” a speaker (teleôs m’ hupêlthen, ): Epicrates 8 PCG. Mastropoi “entangling” men in the “nets” of the women they represent: Theophilus fr. 11 PCG; cf. Lucian Toxaris 13. Predatory hetairai: p. 60n62 above.
[ back ] 94. Military service: Plato Symposium 219e–221c; Laches 181a–b. Cf. his council service: Plato Apology 32b–c.
[ back ] 95. Socratic “matchmaking”: Xenophon Memorabilia 1.6.14, 2.2–10, 3.11; Plato Laches 180c–d; Aeschines Socraticus Aspasia (59–72 SSR), for which Ehlers 1966:35–43.
[ back ] 96. Xenophon Memorabilia 2.7–10, on which Scholtz 1996:82–83; Osborne 1990:96–98; Millett 1989:33.
[ back ] 97. Xenophon Memorabilia 3.11.15. Cf. pederastic courtship as “hunting”: Barringer 2001:85–89; Dover 1989:87.
[ back ] 98. Fee schedules for Hetärentum in comparison to porneia: Davidson 1997:194–200.
[ back ] 99. Johnson 2005:199.
[ back ] 100. See Blank 1985.
[ back ] 101. Cf. Medea, Nino, and Theoris (scholia Demosthenes 19.495; 25.41). See Dillon 2002:104, 169–178, 324n203, 343nn221, 224.
[ back ] 102. Subjects’ “desire” (epithumia) to “gratify” (kharizesthai) Cyrus: Xenophon Cyropaedia 1.1.5 (note also rule by fear). Rulers should “cast a spell” (katagoêteuein): 8.1.40. Erôs and rulership in Cyropaedia: Rubin 1989.
[ back ] 103. Magic, technologies of persuasion, sophistic: Aeschylus Eumenides 81–82; Eupolis Demes fr. 102 PCG; Gorgias Helen; Plato Euthydemus 288b; Romilly 1975:3–43; Segal 1962.
[ back ] 104. Xenophon contra Socrates as professional teacher of practical rhetoric et sim.: Memorabilia 1.2, 1.5.4, 1.5.6–1.6.15; Blank 1985; Classen 1984. Cf. anti-sophistic broadside: On Hunting with Dogs 13.
[ back ] 105. Protagoras testimonia 1, 3, 21, fr. 6 D-K. Cf. Pericles’ “we used to go in for that kind of cleverness” (esophizometha): Xenophon Memorabilia 1.2.46. See Gentzler 1995:18–23; O’Connor 1994:156–158.
[ back ] 106. Cf. Xenophon Memorabilia 3.1.6, 3.8, Symposium 5.3–6.
[ back ] 107. Training of prostitutes: Demosthenes 59.18; Hamel 2003:25–26, 168n32.
[ back ] 108. Cf. Euripides fr. 388 Nauck; Plato Symposium 180c–185c; First Alcibiades 131c–e; Xenophon Spartan Constitution 2.13; see Huß 1999:32–34, 355–437, 451–455.
[ back ] 109. Cf. Xenophon Symposium 8.43. Civic virtue in Xenophon: Seager 2001.
[ back ] 110. See p. 139n102 above. No unalloyed eulogy to Cyrus (Johnson 2005; Rubin 1989), the Cyropaedia still expresses amazement at the quasi-erotic obedience commanded by the king.
[ back ] 111. Cf. Vološinov 1986:19: “Social psychology in fact is not located anywhere within (in the “souls” of communicating subjects) but entirely and completely without—in the word, the gesture, the act.”
[ back ] 112. Callias’ drinking party brings Charmides, loyal adherent of oligarchy in 404/3, together with Niceratus and Autolycus, both victims of that oligarchy. Lycon, Autolycus’ father, will join the prosecution of Socrates in 399. See further Huß 1999:38–49.
[ back ] 113. See pp. 16–17 above.