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Plato's Cleitophon as a Study in Radicalization

Fri, November 8, 2:00 to 3:30pm, Wyndham Philadelphia Hotel, Floor: Lobby Level, Franklin


Scholarship on Plato’s Cleitophon has primarily focused on its problematic ending: Cleitophon speaks for the vast majority of the dialogue but receives no response from Socrates. However, not enough attention has been paid to Cleitophon’s motivation and radicalization. I propose to more fully treat Cleitophon’s radicalization, trying to see how he moves from Thrasymachus’ argument about justice, the famous “justice is the interest of the stronger,” to an angry, pained declaration that if people do not know how to live, they ought not live. Specifically, I will closely consult Michael Davis’ close-reading of the Cleitophon in order to better understand Cleitophon’s own statements about his intellectual development, Mark Kremer’s volume of essays on the Cleitophon in order to contextualize Cleitophon’s complaints about Socrates within the broader tradition of political philosophy. I also plan on spending time discussing what is meant by radicalization and whether this question is itself a modern imposition on classical themes. Ultimately, I argue that Plato is concerned with the radicalization of those who would rule and make philosophic claims, and this concern makes itself manifest not in what is said, but what cannot be said—Cleitophon’s extremism can only be shown to those who may understand.