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What Does Divination Mean for Plato’s Socrates? On the Relationship between Being and the Good

What Does Divination Mean for Plato’s Socrates? On the Relationship between Being and the Good

Huaiyuan Zhang, “What Does Divination Mean for Plato’s Socrates? On the Relationship between Being and the Good,” Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia 77, no. 1 (2021): 71–92,

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  • What does Divination Mean for Plato’s Socrates? On the Relationship between Being and the Good

    Type Journal Article
    Author Huaiyuan Zhang
    Rights © 2021 by Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia
    Volume 77
    Issue 1
    Pages 71-92
    Publication Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia
    ISSN 0870-5283
    Date 2021
    DOI 10.17990/RPF/2021_77_1_0071
    Language English
    Abstract Has philosophy ever completed a transition from divine revelation to rational reflection? Has it been Plato’s goal? In this paper I will establish and examine a parallel between divination and philosophy embodied in Plato’s Socrates. I will cite instances from both directions to analyze Plato’s indecision concerning a philosophical treatment of divination: On the one hand, Plato renovates the cultural stock of divination to supplement the rational process of Socratic dialectics. In particular, when he makes a proposal not as a proven proposition, but as the starting point of discussion, Socrates frequently helps himself to divinatory language. On the other hand, Plato does not seem to abandon the nondiscursive elements in his narrative, especially since the vision of the ultimate objective of the Platonic-Socratic project, i.e. the Good, requires a resort to divination. The indecision is reflected in the textual ambivalence as to whether the being of the Good transcends other forms or is on a par with other forms as the noblest form. Based on the correlation between the power of knowledge and the object of knowledge, I will argue that the epistemic entanglement of divination with reason in Plato’s approach corresponds to the ambiguous relationship between being and the Good in Plato’s ethically imbued metaphysical scheme. Since Plato presents Socrates as a seer in the aforementioned occasions, I will further suggest that Plato presents himself as a collector of oracles by preserving Socratic’s teaching in writing, whose ultimate meanings are open to interpretation and debate.
    Date Added 4/29/2021, 12:33:04 AM
    Modified 4/29/2021, 11:23:38 AM


    • dialectics, divination, Plato, the good.


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