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THE CHARMIDES. . T.M. Tuozzo Plato's Charmides.
Positive Elenchus in a Socratic Dialogue. Pp.
xii + 359. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
2011. Cased, 55, US\$90. ISBN: 978-0-521-19040-4.
Dougal Blyth
The Classical Review / Volume 63 / Issue 01 / April 2013, pp 60 - 62
DOI: 10.1017/S0009840X12002351, Published online: 01 March 2013
Link to this article: http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0009840X12002351
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Dougal Blyth (2013). The Classical Review, 63, pp 60-62 doi:10.1017/
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promising, but the scanty remarks about courage in the dialogue do not provide much evi-
dence one way or the other.
In the first of the essays on the ancient reception of the Alcibiades I, F. King discusses
Philos critical attitude towards masculine same-sex behaviour; King says much of interest
about Philo but his essay is only tangentially related to the Alcibiades dialogues. Two
strong essays on the Neoplatonic commentaries on the Alcibiades I suggest ways in
which they can offer alternatives to modern readings. Proclus is of course a dogmatist,
as A. Taki notes, but his reading is none the less respondent-centred, an approach contem-
porary scholars would associate with a more sceptical reading. F. Renaud argues that
Olympiodorus effort to connect the divine sign to Socrates description of eros as a dai-
mon deserves more attention than it has received from modern interpreters, who tend
strictly to segregate the two ideas.
Three essays escape categorisation as erotic, Platonic or post-Platonic. In the most valu-
able, J. Mintoff evaluates Alcibiades argument that one can learn justice from the many
just as one can learn Greek (110e12d). His conclusion is that in a contemporary liberal
society, where disagreement about important moral norms is common and tolerated, the
many cannot be good teachers of justice. Mintoff, curiously, does not ask whether ancient
Athens was a liberal society in this sense, though the picture of democracy in Republic 8
suggests that Plato might have found Athens liberal in the relevant sense. M. Sharpe dis-
cusses the Alcibiades II, arguing, in a broadly Straussian fashion, that it presents Platonic
ruminations on the dangers of political megalopsuchia. N. Morpeths The Individual in
History and History in General does not get beyond generalisations.
Two appendices suggest problems for the authenticity of the Alcibiades I. E.J. Baynham
and T. argue convincingly that the reference to Peparethos at 116de makes most sense in
the context of events known to us from 340. But it is of course possible that we have lost
trace of other earlier events affecting this obscure island. In the second appendix, T. and
T. Roberts report on stylometric tests that show the Alcibiades I having more in common
with Platonic spuria than we would expect from authentic Plato. T. and Roberts do not dis-
cuss the statistical significance of their tests, and make no reference to other stylometric
work on Plato. This decidedly amateur critic of stylometry is left with the impression
that the stylometry here could benefit from more expert input.
There is a brief introduction sketching the books contents, a full and valuable bibli-
ography and two indexes. I have featured criticism, and these essays are a mixed bag,
but there is much of interest for anyone concerned with the Alcibiades I and the issues
it raises.
Southern Illinois University Carbondale DAVI D M. J OHNSON
mjohnson@siu.edu
THE CHARMI DES
TU O Z Z O ( T. M. ) Platos Charmides. Positive Elenchus in a Socratic
Dialogue. Pp. xii + 359. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
Cased, 55, US$90. ISBN: 978-0-521-19040-4.
doi:10.1017/S0009840X12002351
This book is important not only for those interested in the Charmides, but also in the debate
about Platos general conception of philosophy and how to read the dialogues. T. defends
(Chapter 1) and practises (Chapters 311) a principled unitarianism guided by a Platonic
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The Classical Review vol. 63 no. 1 The Classical Association 2013; all rights reserved
conception of wisdom as a substantive knowledge of the good (pp. 31325). His Socrates is
the expert whose knowledge (to explain those protestations of ignorance) T. characterises as
not an achievement, but a continually renewed investigative practice (pp. 3278). As he puts
it, the Zalmoxian charms Socrates offers Charmides, to be identified with their investigation
of (176ab, cf. pp. 2789), amount to the ongoing practice of distinguishing
the good in human activities, and (at least in Socrates case) not so much a cure as a psychic
regimen constituting a life participating in that good (pp. 3323).
While Chrm. depicts the failure of Charmides and Critias to master this dialectical prac-
tice in one lesson, they are positively influenced (to justify this characterisation T. devotes
Chapter 2 primarily to the case that Plato viewed Critias in a positive light unlike
Xenophon). On T.s account Plato provides indications of how the reader should build
on the partial progress of Socrates interlocutors. Here the book risks controversy, both
in advancing boldly beyond the text, and by presenting paradoxically a final quasi-
doctrinal synthesis of what is, after all, said to be a matter of practice not doctrine.
To take the final point first, we are not to conceive of Socratic dialectical wisdom as
opposed to theory, but as transcending and producing doctrinal formulae, on the basis
of T.s appeal to the Phaedrus and Seventh Letter. The underlying rejection of a develop-
mental approach rests on T.s argument that modern attempts to specify a distinctly early
period Socratic elenchus are compromised by anachronistic commitments to a conception
of philosophy characteristic only of the twentieth century, which distorts both the method
and content of the dialogues. T. appeals instead here to P. Hadot for the significantly differ-
ent character of ancient philosophy and in making his case for the subordinate role of phi-
losophical texts to A. Nightingale, A. Danto and A. Nehamas.
Regarding content, T. takes the things that are ( ) as substantive objects of wis-
dom knowable only in terms of the good; regarding method, he considers the aporetic dia-
logues as exemplifying incompletely (owing to novice inquirers) a practice essentially
continuous with that described in Ep. 7.343bc, 343e and 344bc, of distinguishing
between the being and the quality of what is. Hence (I suppose), according to the
Phaedrus account, to which T. appeals, his own final chapter would be just a further writ-
ten reminder () of the principles of a dialectical skill that the reader needs to
reconstruct in practice for him or herself to understand properly what the dialogue is about.
I turn to T.s detailed treatment of Chrm. (Chapters 310). Generally his discussion of
the argumentation of the text will be extremely useful to any reader, quite independently of
his account of how we should continue the dialectic ourselves. The steps of individual refu-
tations and their terms are subjected to precise analysis and elucidation in such a way that
even committed developmentalists will learn much about the reasoning in the text. For
instance T. makes a systematic study of how the arguments as to the possibility and puta-
tive benefit of versions of Critias final definition of as self-knowledge are
precisely distinguished and sequenced, on the basis of an identified difference between
Critias own interpretation of this idea, as the knowledge of knowledge, and Socrates elab-
oration of it in terms suspiciously evocative of his own refutatory activity. As on other
topics, T.s engagement here with scholarship in several languages is learned, and includes
a significant original contribution. The book bristles with advances on smaller points of
text, translation, elucidation and argument too numerous to mention.
T.s overall interpretation of the dialogue begins with the observation that throughout
Socrates focusses on the question of the value of , excepting only the excursus
to investigate with Critias whether their reformulations of its identification with self-
knowledge make it even possible. We are repeatedly reminded that this is only preliminary
to resumption of the question of its benefit. As T. argues, this excursus explicitly points the
reader towards a further specific inquiry regarding self-knowledge: the analysis of kinds of
THE CLASSI CAL REVI EW 61
relative term, which, he reasons by way of Aristotle, leads to the question what, as such, the
knowable is (and so whether knowledge could itself be knowable).
In brief, T.s eventual proposals are that the knowable is the good, and that the distinc-
tion made at 174d175a between knowledge of knowledge and of the good (so as to con-
clude that the former provides no benefit), should direct the reader to identify
with the latter, when understood in the light of the preceding dialectic. If the knowable is the
good, then the images of a Socratic skill also called up to interpret the idea of self-
knowledge direct us to a knowledge which knows not the content or method of other knowl-
edges, but their ends as conditional goods and their relation to the absolute good; in this way
the knowledge of knowledge (so understood), the knowledge of good and the virtue
are all found to be identical with Socrates own investigative practice.
Inevitably a book on this scale produces some reservations: whether T.s account of dia-
lectic is best established by appeal to the Phaedrus and the Seventh Letter; why we should
not expect some diagnosis of Critias political error, notwithstanding Platos positive
regard for him; why the flagged attention to literary features produces so little of signifi-
cance; whether at p. 124 with n. 48 (cf. p. 126), where T. follows van der Ben (1985), it is
better to take 157b6 as subject, rather than with in the complement after :
not all humans ( , b5) try to be doctors, and in any case Thracian doctors
are not subject to the error criticised; whether (164b9) is reflexive: the middle is
not primarily so, and here may just signify the overriding interest of the craftsman in pro-
ducing benefit; whether T. presses the text too hard occasionally for Platonic specifications
of the readers homework (e.g. pp. 2912 on 175bd); whether Rep. 7.534bc on surviving
elenchus supports the claim that philosophical knowledge is not a finished result, and how
that stands with T.s claim (p. 252) that for Socrates avoiding contradiction does not con-
stitute knowledge; and finally, whether some of the claimed allusions to exchanged and
mutual goods have a textual basis, or even support his argument: cf. e.g. pp. 11112 on
156ab, p. 126 on 157c, pp. 16970 on 161d162a, pp. 1867 on 164d165a (least
implausibly), pp. 2012 (otherwise), and pp. 299300 on 176c.
These reservations, and the slight liberties T. sometimes allows himself in looking
beyond the dialogues ipsissima verba for its significance, should not detract from the ser-
iousness of his main contentions, and the light he sheds on the argumentation. Certainly a
challenge is laid down as to whether any developmental account of Chrm. can make sense
of its detail, and the road is open for improved explanations of how the explicit contents of
a Platonic dialogue could point beyond themselves. The book is well finished, with a list of
works cited and two indexes (all within measure) and only a handful of typographical and
similar errors.
University of Auckland DOUGAL BLYTH
dougal.blyth@auckland.ac.nz
P LATO S L AWS
MO O R E ( K. R. ) Plato, Politics and a Practical Utopia. Social
Constructivism and Civic Planning in the Laws. Pp. x + 133. London
and New York: Continuum, 2012. Cased, 60. ISBN: 978-1-4411-5317-3.
doi:10.1017/S0009840X12002363
This book is an interesting extended thought-experiment, on the whole rather successful. In
the preface M. summarises his main claim, that the fictional, utopian polis of Magnesia is
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The Classical Review vol. 63 no. 1 The Classical Association 2013; all rights reserved