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Wounded HeroesVulnerability as a Virtue in Ancient Greek Literature and Philosophy$

Marina Berzins McCoy

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199672783

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199672783.001.0001

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Wounding and Wisdom in Plato’s Gorgias

Wounding and Wisdom in Plato’s Gorgias

(p.88) (p.89) 4 Wounding and Wisdom in Plato’s Gorgias
Wounded Heroes

Marina Berzins McCoy

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

Chapter four focuses on the myth of judgement at the end of the Gorgias and its image of a wounded, unjust man. There Socrates uses a mythos and, in particular, the language of wounding to communicate with Callicles, who has so far failed to be responsive to abstract argumentation. Just as the judges of the myth can judge well only because they are naked as the ones that they judge, Socrates emerges as one who is able to excel at questioning others because of his self-awareness of his vulnerability. Socrates not only is vulnerable to the judgement in the courtroom, but also displays an epistemic vulnerability that guides his questioning of others. Plato emerges not as a perfectionistic thinker who desires to avoid tragedy and human frailty, but rather as a thinker who is aware and accepting of human limitation and vulnerability.

Keywords:   myth, Plato, Gorgias, Socrates, wounds, judgement, Greek medicine, vulnerability, soul, elenchus, epistemology, tragedy, eschatology, imagination, shame, healing, images

Any discussion of vulnerability in Greek thinking ought to consider the difficult case of Plato. A variety of commentators have argued that Plato is particularly insensitive to vulnerability and human imperfection. Martha Nussbaum, for example, sets out the thesis that in the dialogues, Plato is offering an example of ‘anti-tragic theater’.1 Nussbaum argues that Plato writes in a theatrical genre, the philosophical dialogue, in a way that deliberately minimizes the engagement of emotions, thus separating himself from the tragedians who encourage such feelings.2 In her view, works such as the Republic diminish the affective realm and even attack the goodness of ordinary life in favour of a more removed, rational order. Similarly, Charles Griswold has argued that the Republic asserts the goodness of the perfection of the forms at the expense of diminishing ordinary, imperfect human life; the world inside the cave is undesirable on the Platonic account, yet where most people actually live their lives.3 Against this view, others argue that Plato takes up an outright tragic view, for example, identifying a certain scepticism in Platonic thought with respect to the ability of reason to achieve the ends for which it strives.4 Socrates (p.90) posits an idealistic account of excellence, but does not argue that he has achieved it or that human beings can do so.

Indeed, the dialogues offer philosophy through the dialogue form as an alternative both to the tragic form and to the work of other intellectuals of Plato’s time (such as the sophists, but also other politically minded thinkers, including Isocrates).5 The dialogue form draws upon the tragic genre (and other genres such as the epic and even poetic), while also offering criticisms of the shortcomings of those narrative forms.6 At the same time, however, Plato continues within a tradition of writing in dramatic form, not in treatises. His works, like those of tragedy, comedy, and epic, contain multiple voices and perspectives as part of their articulation of ideas. Platonic dialogues rely upon narrative not only as dramatic setting for abstract ideas, but also include dramatic action as part of the working out of philosophical activity. Plato presents philosophy as a way of living, and not only a way of thinking. Moreover, we find the dialogues themselves concerned with the question of vulnerability within some of their internal narratives.

This chapter examines one such narrative: the myth at the end of Plato’s Gorgias that features as its central image a wounded and unjust man. In that myth, Plato sets forth attentiveness to human vulnerability as central both to philosophical living and to the political art. While he does prescribe the virtues as a means for overcoming a degree of vulnerability to harm, Socrates also recognizes a limit to the extent to which such overcoming of imperfection is possible. Socrates’ continued willingness to seek out and to engage others in their imperfection through philosophical conversation reflects a care for human imperfection and frailty. Just as Greek medicine understood itself to be a limited, although valuable, therapeutic, Socratic and Platonic philosophy seeks to meet and to act as a kind of θεραπεία‎ for others in their imperfection. In this chapter, I first examine the notion of wounding in the myth of the Gorgias, and then explore links between Greek medicine and philosophy for how (p.91) their relation helps us better to understand Socrates’ care for his interlocutors in their vulnerability.

The myth that ends Plato’s Gorgias is one of the strangest in the Platonic corpus, both for its content and the context in which it arises. Socrates and Callicles have been arguing over whether the just man or the unjust man lives the happiest life, and rather than ending either with a resolution of the problem, or even ordinary ἀπορία‎, their conversation has degenerated into total silence on Callicles’ side. Shortly before the myth, Socrates takes both his and Callicles’ ‘part’ in the conversation before an angry, disgruntled Callicles—who is understandably upset after Socrates’ comparison of Callicles’ ideal man to a κίναιδος‎ (catamite, or passive homosexual). Neither Socrates nor Callicles seems to be a model of good sportsmanship by the end of their conversation. Yet, Socrates feels compelled not to rest in silence, but insists on telling his myth of judgement. The myth is a harsh indictment of the unjust man and, by implication, also of Callicles. However harsh it is, Socrates’ myth nonetheless shows a deep sensitivity to the vulnerability of the human condition.

The question of vulnerability is also of interest, insofar as Socrates’ reasoned arguments with Callicles fail to persuade; we might then also see the myth about judgement as an alternative philosophical response in light of the limits of reason. Indeed, Socrates insists that his tale is both a μῦθος‎ and a λόγος‎; the two terms are not necessarily exclusive: ‘Give ear then—as they put it—to a very fine account. You’ll think that it’s a mere tale (μῦθον‎), I believe, although I think it’s an account (λόγον‎), for what I’m about to say I will tell you as true (ἀληθῆ‎)’ (Gorgias 523a1–3).7 By ‘true’, Socrates cannot mean a literal account of what happens after death, for we know from both the Apology and Phaedo that Socrates repeatedly asserts that he does not know the exact nature of what awaits him after death. Instead, Socrates seems to think that a story is better suited to convey an idea to his audience about a reality that is at least somewhat unknowable. Precisely because the literal details of what follows death are unknown, a μῦθος‎ is self-disclosive about its limits: it is ‘only a story’, yet its images evoke its audience’s imagination, feelings, and desires where reason by necessity cannot go. As such, a μῦθος‎ can still speak about the meaning of death as a human limit, and how that limit (p.92) ought to inform human life. Narratives such as the myth of judgement in the Gorgias serve as important reminders that the enterprise of Socratic philosophy is best understood as an exploration of human weakness, as well as of human strength. The myth of judgement exhibits such limit in its content, as it features a man who is wounded, who bears scars in his soul.

However, Socrates’ move to a mythological form also suggests a limit being displayed by this form of λόγος‎: myth expresses a form of understanding that admits its own limits in light of a reality (e.g. death) beyond full comprehension, but one which profoundly affects the whole of the soul while yet it lives. As Kathryn Morgan has argued, the tensions created by movement in and out of myths, from argument to myth and back again, force an audience to change perspective.8 The Gorgias’ final myth seems to intend a change of perspective, in asking Callicles to rethink his understanding of the large context of his choices and values. The particular imagery of the myth and its emphasis upon the language of health, woundedness, and judgement seems especially well suited for use with Callicles, with whom Socrates has had little success thus far in argument. The images of the myth re-contextualize some of Callicles’ aims and values into a larger, cosmic scheme.


Socrates begins his own story with a reference to the Homeric division of the cosmos among the gods Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades, but then links that division to a story of judgement in Hades’ realm. Under the reign of Cronos, he says, the souls of those who were about to die were judged while still alive, clothed, and able to bring forth family and friends as witnesses to their worthiness for heaven.9 However, their clothing disguised their true natures, insofar as clothing implied wealth, power, or beauty that veiled the true soul beneath. It was not only the souls of the dead that were veiled, but also the souls of the judges: even the judges were ‘awed’ by the souls (p.93) because they, too, were still alive when rendering judgement, and ‘they themselves too [had] their clothes on when judging; their eyes and ears and their whole bodies [were] interposed as a veil (προκεκαλυμμένοι‎) before their own souls’ (523d). In other words, these living judges lacked not only knowledge of those whom they judged, but also accurate knowledge of their own condition. This lack of self-knowledge, as well as knowledge of the other, rendered their judgements unjust, such that many who ought to have gone to the heavens were sent to Hades and vice versa.

To correct for these judicial mistakes, Zeus devises a new system of judgement. He announces to Prometheus:

What we must do first, he said, is to stop them from knowing their death ahead of time (προειδότας‎). Now they do have that knowledge (προῖσασι‎). This is something that Prometheus has already been told to put a stop to. Next, they must be judged when they’re stripped naked (γυμνοὺς‎) of all these things, for they should be judged when they’re dead (τεθνεῶτας‎). The judge, too, should be naked (γυμνὸν‎) and dead (τεθνεῶτα‎), and with only his soul he should study only the soul of each person immediately upon his death, when he’s isolated from all his kinsmen and has left behind on earth all that adornment (κόσμον‎), so that the judgment may be a just one. (523d–e)

The state of judges as dead and naked is a most curious feature of the myth. While the nakedness of the man who is to be judged is expected, that the judges themselves must be stripped and dead is striking (especially given the strong parallelism of language in the passage above with respect to the judge and the one being judged).

If Socrates’ main concern with a fair judgement is that the truth about a human being be public and ‘out in the light of day’, then the only one who is fit to render such a judgement would be another soul who himself has undergone the process of being ‘stripped down’ to his bare soul, the soul that understands what it is like to be in the position of being judged and made vulnerable to the judgement of another human being. He best understands the complexity of the human condition: the life of the person before judgement who lacks foreknowledge of death and who has had the experience of being stripped of the external goods that were once significant to him. The judges themselves must be dead because they alone comprehend both the finality of death and the difficulty of living a life in which the day of our death and the judgement of our lives’ goodness is fundamentally uncertain.

(p.94) Socrates makes clear that nakedness of the judge’s soul proves to be a key to just judgement because only then will his own perceptions also be freed of the same reliance of social status and his own connections through kin, wealth, and other temporary ‘cloaks’ of the soul. Additionally, as one who is himself naked, but was once clothed, he is aware of the difference in himself between the self that he projected in the social world and the true self that lay veiled beneath. To this extent, he also has the capacity to see the true self in the other and to sympathize with the human condition of being stripped of such external trappings. That is, it seems that the self-knowledge and authenticity of the judge’s encounter with his own state of soul, as well as his past experience as part of the human social world, prepare him to see another accurately and sympathetically.

One implication of the myth is that we are not especially accurate judges of our own souls while still engaged in the process of living. In life, we might often have the experience that we understand aspects of another person that the other fails to see about himself or herself; thus, it is almost a common piece of wisdom that our friends often know us even better than we know ourselves. In death, too, the naked souls only come to see themselves through the eyes of another who can show or reveal their souls and their real conditions to themselves. As when, in the Phaedrus, Socrates suggests that one soul can come better to know itself as if in a mirror through interaction with a lover (Phaedrus 255d), the judges here reflect back to the judged man his true condition. That is, Socrates implies that our self-knowledge in life is rarely accurate, and that to come to a greater truth about oneself requires others. But a paradox of death is that it comes at a time not of our own choosing or foreknowledge, and yet, until the moment of death, it is not fully possible to make a fair judgement about oneself.

The souls of the dead are judged and sent to one of two places, either to Tartarus or to the Isles of the Blessed, for punishment or for reward. Initially, Socrates offers as the divine plan a total bifurcation of the world into good and evil: either one has lived the life of the non-meddlesome philosopher in justice and holiness, and so is rewarded with ‘perfect happiness’, or one has lived impiously and so is punished with a vengeance (526b–c). Missing from this picture of the human being is any sense of the ‘in between’ nature of the human being familiar from the Symposium and Phaedrus. If we look at many of Socrates’ interlocutors, too, we find that they are more often than not ‘in between’ people, who might care deeply about (p.95) courage, as does Laches, but not fully understand its nature. Some want to change their deepest life’s commitments, as does Alcibiades—at least in the presence of Socrates—but find themselves unable to do so.

Moreover, this myth reveals that we are also capable of self-wounding: some moral choices leave us deeply wounded with resulting scars that must be lived with or somehow integrated, or at least accommodated. Socrates’ interlocutors are at times sympathetic to Plato’s reading audience because we can, as readers, identify with them. We can understand not only why they might arrive at their philosophical positions (or at least unphilosophical beliefs), but also sometimes identify with their thumotic or appetitive reactions, or shortcomings of character. When Alcibiades in the Symposium presents his painstakingly honest situation as one who is always trapped in his political ambition, desires to be free of it, but finds himself never quite able to escape, he is sympathetic because his situation is human. Socrates, too, seems to have understood that Alcibiades was a wounded soul, looking to escape himself in his current state; where others might see a mutilator of the hermai or a betrayer (or hero) of politics, Socrates sees the inner, wounded man.

So it is at first unexpected that the souls in this myth are either destined for pure bliss or total suffering. However, as Fussi has argued, one of the key vulnerabilities of the human being displayed in this myth is the finality of death.10 While the myth speaks of a time when human beings once knew the day of their deaths and so could prepare for judgement, Zeus removed our ability to know the moment at which each one of us will die. Death is final with reference to our ability to change our characters. The ‘in betweenness’ of human nature that is central to our self-knowledge while alive ceases at the moment of death, when suddenly others can look back at a life no longer in motion and make an assessment, a judgement, of how that life was lived. Just as Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics points to the difficulty of assessing the happiness of an entire life until that life is over (N. Ethics 1100a1–6)—the least valuable time for a moral actor himself—Socrates’ myth points to the difficulty of assessing a whole life accurately from the point of view within the development of that life. Human beings are vulnerable not only to the facticity of death, i.e. death as the termination of life, but also to the way in which the overall shape or pattern of our lives as a whole is unknown to us before death. Even if a person of virtue can somehow regard himself (p.96) as a just person now—and Socrates often shows his interlocutors their lack of accuracy in self-knowledge—Socrates in the Apology presents the human being as in a constant ‘race’ against injustice, when he says that ‘injustice is swifter than death’ (Apology 39a). Added to the vulnerability of judgement itself is a kind of vulnerability of self-knowledge, in which we are at least partially ignorant of our own just or unjust state at precisely the time that we could change our state. Last, most human beings avoid thinking of death in the midst of life. At the purely phenomenological level, death often seems unexpected; despite abstract knowledge of my own mortality, it remains somewhat surprising that ‘I will die.’ Yet, once we are fully aware of the just judgement of our souls after death, Socrates implies, it is too late to change that state.

For Socrates, this limit is no cause for cynicism, but rather a call to devote oneself even more fully to the practice of virtue, rather than relying upon the social ‘clothing’ of wealth, status, and appearance as a place in which to hide our true selves from others and even from ourselves. In other words, if one is to come to see the truth about oneself, Socrates implies, one must be willing to be vulnerable to judgement: not the judgements of those who rely upon conventional measures of political and social success, but another who possesses some degree of self-knowledge. To this extent, it might be possible before death to remove some of the obstacles to self-knowledge. That is, if the myth suggests that status, wealth, honour, and power are ways that we ‘cloak’ ourselves not only from others, but also from ourselves, then by removing these ‘cloaks’ while alive, we might become more aware of our true selves and our own limitations. Such an approach also makes room for a constructive response to the results of past mistakes, or self-wounding.

Plato presents us with the possibility of one who can judge and awaken another while still alive precisely because of his knowledge of his own nakedness: Socrates. In the Apology, Socrates professes knowledge of his own ignorance (Apology 21d). He is aware of the weakness of his own soul as a human being and does not project false strength, as do the politicians, poets, and craftsmen of the Apology, or Callicles, Polus, and Gorgias do in the Gorgias. Within the Gorgias, Socrates claims that he is a man who enjoys being refuted even more than he enjoys refuting (Gorgias 458a). He takes pleasure in the recognition of his own vulnerability, and appreciates whatever judges in his life have found a way to expose his vulnerability and lack to (p.97) him. As such, the character serves as an idealized exemplar of a soul still living who has the capacity to awaken another soul to its true state precisely because he is more naked to himself, so to speak, than most souls. The final section of the Symposium, in which Alcibiades describes his feelings of doubting and questioning the value of his devotion to conventional political goods when in the presence of Socrates, is a well-known case of such an awakening produced by Socrates, even while conceding that it was never sufficient to transform Alcibiades’ life (Symposium 215a–222b). Socrates not only chooses the life of the often-barefoot man unconcerned with clothing, reputation, or wealth. In the Gorgias he even speaks about his own death and the false judgement that he might receive, were he ever to be brought to court: ‘And because I’m not willing to do those clever things you recommend, I won’t know what to say in court. And the same account I applied to Polus comes back to me. For I’ll be judged the way a doctor would be judged by a jury of children if a pastry chef were to bring accusations against him’ (521e). Socrates adds that he would not be surprised if he were put to death, through the false judgements of those who lack the proper means by which to judge.

Socrates anticipates a false judgement of him, one that parallels the first mode of judgement in the myth, based on the outward appearance, rather than the inward truth of his soul, by judges who lack accurate self-knowledge and judge through the cloaks of their own false opinions of themselves and others. Here in the Gorgias, Socrates is prophetic. To some extent, he escapes the ignorance of most souls who know little of themselves or their eventual deaths. This knowing Socrates is, of course, itself a Platonic invention. That is, the Platonic dialogue is itself a μῦθος‎ of sorts, in presenting an idealized Socrates who alludes directly to the cause of his eventual death. As one who is more aware than most of his own finitude, his own ignorance, Socrates at times is able to uncover and uncloak it in others. Uncloaking Callicles to himself is also the purpose of this story, this μῦθος‎.


The myth seeks to awaken Callicles’ moral imagination, or at least the imagination of others present to the conversation, about how to understand human life and justice in terms of a larger whole. The (p.98) story can be understood as an effort to reconfigure Callicles’ view of himself in relation to the world in the light of the context of human vulnerability and mortality, through calling to Callicles’ imagination. Socrates’ appeal to the ‘moral imagination’ works differently from, for example, a logical refutation of a series of premisses, insofar as his story engages our emotions, as well as our intellects. If one looks at the overall shape of the Gorgias, one finds that logical refutations prove to be rather ineffective with Gorgias, Polus, and Callicles alike. When Gorgias is tripped up and claims in turn both that some orators use rhetoric unjustly and that an orator will never want to do what is unjust, Polus interrupts the conversation to tell Socrates that he has only forced Gorgias into a ‘little inconsistency’ and that Socrates cannot really believe what he seems to be arguing. When Socrates shows Callicles that, by his own premisses, doing what’s unjust is more shameful, not only by law, but also by nature, Callicles accuses him of engaging in eristics and ‘making hay out of someone’s tripping on a phrase’ (489c). While it would be easy to assume that Callicles simply does not care for the truth, or is eager to escape verbal defeat for the sake of his reputation, it also seems that Callicles really believes in his stated opinions. A purely rational engagement with the possible inconsistencies within his view is not enough to move Callicles to an entirely different view of the world.11

Most of our moral beliefs engage our souls as a whole, and not only our reason. Shame, for example, can be a powerful motivator. Tarnopolsky offers a thoughtful and careful analysis of two forms of shame in the Gorgias: a view of shame that is solely oriented toward avoiding having one’s self-image punctured, and a receptive form of shame.12 Callicles wishes to avoid criticism of his identity or exposure of his inadequacies. Thus, Socrates’ arguments anger him immensely. However, Socrates’ aim is not discomfort for the sake of destroying Callicles’ image, but rather to show Callicles the limits of his self-image and to move him toward openness to consider significant change in his ethical norms.13 Socrates’ shaming of Callicles takes place out of a respect for Callicles, although Callicles certainly does (p.99) not perceive it that way. Images such as the final myth of the Gorgias engage Callicles’ shame, not only his reason.

In addition, Socrates’ turn to the use of images, such as a leaky jar or a κίναιδος‎, and Callicles’ similar offering of the image of a corpse, are attempts to reframe the world views of one another by re-contextualizing part within a whole. For example, hearing of a just soul as akin to a corpse, for example, might cause fear or anxiety of a wasted life that never really lived. Instead of only picturing a soul that restrains its appetites, Callicles’ image reframes the ‘moderate’ soul as one who has never lived fully, insofar as this soul seems to be a milder version of a corpse who no longer desires anything at all. As part of the presumed unpleasantness of anticipating death is the loss of desire and fulfilment, Callicles leads his listeners to picture the just soul as one that is ‘dying prematurely’, so to speak. The effect of such an image includes an emotional response to the thought of losing oneself in death, and not only an intellectual one.

Similarly, Socrates’ use of his own images in response to Callicles’ image of the corpse also allows us to think differently about the context of Callicles’ claims about the appetitive life.14 Socrates responds to Callicles’ claim that the best life is one in which one’s appetites are enlarged and left undisciplined, so that they might be filled over and over again (491e–493d). In return, Socrates offers the image of a leaky jar, fed by a leaky sieve, as a good image of Callicles’ ideal soul. Socrates takes up and reincorporates Callicles’ image of endless ‘emptying and filling’, which might have a certain appetitive appeal, in terms of a defective nature. It reframes the reason behind the unjust man’s need for constant ‘refilling’: the soul of large and endless appetites is defective. While Callicles wishes to draw a sharp line between νόμος‎ and φύσις‎, Socrates’ image of the leaky jar presents the difficulty with such absolute separation by tying the νόμος‎ and the φύσις‎ of the unjust man back together again. A leaky jar is judged as not useful and therefore bad because of its failure to fulfil nature: it fails to perform its task because it fails to be itself, that is, it has a nature to contain and to hold, and fails to live up to that standard. (p.100) The soul, too, has a function or purpose, and to be itself in an ordered manner, it must contain its appetites; but this same ability to fulfil its nature (in part through ordered containment) is also what makes it socially useful. Socrates has already argued for the importance of a nature that acts in accordance with νόμος‎, but the argument fails to persuade Callicles at the level of abstraction. Imagery, however, engages the imaginations of those who listen, as we might feel a natural distaste if we have encountered, for example, a leaky jar in a cabinet of food, or spoiled food inside such a jar. The image draws together a considered rational assessment with a proper appetitive distaste for injustice.

The myth of judgement adds further to the recontextualizing of the unjust man’s soul in a larger, cosmic context. Callicles speaks of the ability to indulge in pleasure as the mark of the free man, and sees the world of politics as the largest context of human affairs. In contrast, Socrates presents the larger cosmic picture as one in which the unjust man is scourged and unfree, subject to punishment by another whose judgement is born out of that wider context. Earlier, Socrates had also compared the unjust man to a κίναιδος‎. For the Athenians, a κίναιδος‎ was understood as one who, on an Ancient Greek understanding of male sexuality, has feminized himself through allowing himself to be penetrated.15 A typical punishment was to lose one’s rights as a citizen, for example, the right to vote in the Assembly. Here, Socrates re-asserts a link between licentiousness and a lack of freedom through appeal to the example of a disempowered man. Thus, he draws upon Callicles’ own respect for free democratic leaders, and suggests an inconsistency between Callicles’ hedonism and view of free citizenship.16

The myth of judgement also emphasizes the unjust soul as one that lacks freedom. In claiming that the soul permanently takes on the marks of its past unjust actions—just as the body does if the latter is wounded, whipped, or scarred—Socrates re-unifies νόμος‎ and φύσις‎:

And I think that the same thing, therefore, holds true also for the soul, Callicles. All that’s in the body is evident after it has been stripped naked of the body, both things that are natural to it and things that have happened to (p.101) it, things that the person came to have in his soul as the result of each objective. (524d)

Socrates goes on to say that each of the souls’ actions has been ‘stamped’ upon his soul. A character, a χαρακτήρ‎, is literally an impression: these souls are ‘impressed’ with their own deeds. But the scarred soul of the myth of judgement is not one harmed by others; instead, he finds that he is scarred as the result of his own actions. Socrates’ myth asks Callicles to imagine the possibility that he, too, if uncovered, would be unfree not only as the result of others’ judgements (i.e. a νόμος‎ for which Callicles has displayed a kind of contempt), but also as result of discovering his own self-inflicted wounds. In other words, eventually Callicles will have to face his own judgement of himself in his real condition.

We might return to the Philoctetes for a moment and recall Odysseus’ insistence that persuasion (even false persuasion) is the best route for resolving problems. When Neoptolemus hesitates to lie to Philoctetes, preferring even to capture him in battle with an open purpose over deceitful capture in words, Odysseus tells him, ‘I was young, too, once and then I had a tongue very inactive and a doing hand. Now as I go forth to the test, I see that everywhere among the race of men it is the tongue that wins and not the deeds’ (Philoctetes 96–9). Here Odysseus refers to judgements as being made primarily in reference to words and not deeds.

Socrates’ vision in the myth of judgement stands in direct opposition to that of Odysseus. While he is famously a lover of λόγοι‎ and teller of μῦθοι‎, Socrates’ myth of the judgement is finally focused on deeds and not words. It is not the words, but the actions of the person that leave a mark on his own soul. In the myth, the judges silently look at the soul, who it has become through its activity in the world. No λόγος‎ or speech is offered on behalf of the soul being judged. In the Gorgias, after Callicles has claimed that Socrates had better exercise care in how he speaks, or else he might be dragged away to be judged and find himself without means to defend himself, Socrates admits that this is true, but it is not what most concerns him. Indeed, if Socrates were to be judged as the man in the myth is judged, he would not even be asked to speak. Instead the truth of his soul would show forth, when uncovered, his past deeds. The myth renders concrete the meaning of ἀλεθεία‎ (truth) as an ‘uncovering’, in the soul’s being uncovered for judgement.

(p.102) The myth also suggests a reason for why one might judge another unjustly: the judges, while still alive, lack a sense of their own vulnerability and nakedness. That is, they do not see Socrates first as another soul, akin to their own, destined for death. Socrates’ main fear is not a fear of death, but instead of living badly, i.e. being an unjust man—as we see in the Apology when he compares himself to Achilles and argues that he has cared only for justice and not for the length of his own life (Apology 28d–e). To this extent, Socrates might appear to be invulnerable in his utter confidence in the courtroom. However, Plato’s Socrates spent so much of his time among non-philosophers, even those destined for the history books as unjust men (think of Charmides and Critias). He had a deep understanding and appreciation of the vulnerability of human nature to injustice, as well as to judgement. Like the judges of the myth, he was well suited to question and to seek to expose others’ inadequacies to themselves, even while alive.

To this extent, I would argue that Socrates’ myth is an expansion of his earlier claim to Callicles that a good political leader must not only imitate, but also be like, those whom he leads (510d). A good judge is one who is aware of his own limit and vulnerability as a human being. Just as the judges can only judge other souls in a state of nakedness and exposure, Socrates can assess others well because he keeps in mind his own vulnerability and exposure to danger. This is part of what Socrates intends to communicate when he states that he is the only one who puts his hand to the political art (521d). Socrates is not a politician in the conventional sense, but he displays a remarkable ability to understand the human soul and all of its shortcomings, and in that sense is a deeply political man.

We might then also see the myth of judgement as a direct reply to Callicles’ assertion that philosophy is a useless and apolitical enterprise, for Callicles says to Socrates that he feels a brotherly feeling for Socrates, as Zethus did for Amphion, and so warns him that too much philosophy distracts from the real work of human life. Callicles cautions him:

As it is, if someone got hold of you or anyone else like you and took you off to prison on the charge that you’re doing something unjust when in fact you aren’t, you can know that you wouldn’t have any use for yourself. You’d get dizzy, your mouth would hang open and you wouldn’t know what to say. You’d come up for trial and face some no good wretch of an accuser and be put to death, if death is what he’d want to condemn you to. (Gorgias 486a)

(p.103) Plato, of course, writes this after Socrates’ trial and death, and so might be understood as offering one possible criticism of Socrates’ philosophical practice, as an activity that made him too vulnerable, open to the unjust manipulation of others, and unprepared to defend himself.17 Callicles’ criticism of philosophy is not without merit: Socrates’ practice and especially his unwillingness to be more ‘politic’ in his speaking to others renders him vulnerable to the judgement of the city.

But the Apology makes clear that Socrates’ work is not to defend himself at all costs, but rather to work for the care of souls. Socrates even speaks of the importance of maintaining an epistemic vulnerability. He claims that the one practice that he loves more than refuting another is to be refuted himself. The reason he offers is that it is ‘a greater good to be rid of the greatest evil from oneself than to rid someone else of it’ (458a). Callicles is disturbed by such an idea, as when he objects to Socrates’ refutation of Polus with the exclamation that if Socrates is right that it is better to suffer an injustice than to commit one, then all of the world will be ‘overturned’ (ἀνατετραμμένος‎; 481c). Gorgias, too, sees rhetoric as the source of freedom for the city and for those within a city who practise rhetoric, and again this is related back to a sense of safety found in careful control and planning of words and speeches. But Socrates sees λόγος‎ not always as the source of comfort but sometimes also of discomfort. He does not use words to flatter others, but often to upset or to overturn their ideas, and to push them to greater self-knowledge, especially knowledge of their limits.18 Fussi helpfully connects vulnerability in this myth also to another basic form of epistemic vulnerability: the recognition that truth is independent of the thinker. (p.104) I cannot entirely create my own truth, nor even can a community create its own truth, without eventually bumping up against something that reminds me that some aspect of my ‘truth’ is a mere construction. Of course, such events occur often as experience widens, which is why we often find our understandings of the world overturned, shattered, upset, and must reconfigure them: because there is a truth that reminds us that we have not created it. We cannot long force the world into categories that we alone create so long as there are others in the world with whom we willingly interact. As Fussi says, those trapped in the age of Cronos are ‘prey to appearance’ because ‘truth like death, is beyond their control’.19 We need others to help us to find the truth, but they are not its creators, but more like witnesses who assist us.20 To this extent, we are all vulnerable to the truth, and vulnerable to the difficulties that accompany our own gradual realization of our limitedness when the truth bumps up against our own constructed understandings of what we think is, or ought to be.

The myth, in other words, begins with the idea that human woundedness, or openness to wound, is one of the most basic facts or truths about our own existence. These things, Socrates says, although a myth, are also true (523a). These are facts: the human being is a mortal, is going to die, will be stripped of clothing and status and security. All of these parts of the myth are ‘facts’, but for Socrates, there is something more important than even this: the ultimate vulnerability is that we can harm ourselves through our own unjust actions. Such actions have significance for the whole community, for they become an example to others, either of how to be or how not to be. Others will judge and evaluate us by our actions. Socrates, then, also objects to Callicles’ denigration of νόμος‎ (law or custom) as mere convention, for according to Socrates, even what a soul does to itself is already inextricably interwoven with the life of the larger community, who witness something which a person stands for. In other words, even my own vulnerability is already a political fact, as well as an individual one.

(p.105) III

The political problem of woundedness also arises more problematically in the Republic, when Socrates argues that a perfectly just city will not offer medical treatment to those who are chronically ill, if they are beyond cure. Certainly, such a view is opposed to the kind of outlook presented in the Philoctetes, where Philoctetes’ abandonment as a result of his wounds is problematized and criticized. In the Republic, Socrates especially cautions against the treatment of illness when such treatment becomes the primary activity of one’s life. He cites the case of Herodicus, a gymnastics master who was so ill that he treated a chronic illness with a regimen of gymnastics and medicine that left him no time for any other treatment. Socrates suggests that for the sake of the city, no person should be given such leisure to treat an illness, for the function of the human being in this city in speech is to perform his task for the good of the larger community:

[Asclepius] knew that for all men obedient to good laws a certain job has been assigned to each in the city at which he is compelled to work, and no one has the leisure to be sick throughout his life and treat himself. It’s laughable that we recognize this for the craftsmen, while for the rich and reputed happy we don’t. (406c)21

He then goes on to suggest that not only the ordinary carpenter, but also the guardian or leader who becomes chronically ill, must not be treated if treatment cannot restore him to health. For Socrates, the perpetually ill man would find ‘no profit’ in going on living (407a).

Socrates’ words here seem harshly insensitive to the plight of the ill, not only in overlooking the suffering of illness and fear of death. The good of the individual here seems to exist only insofar as he benefits the community. Through work, a person gains value in the community, but activities outside of these contributions of ‘one man, one job’ on the Republic’s model of justice seem to be of insignificant consideration. Such a view of the city has rightly been questioned and criticized for its lack of care for the human individual. Yet, Socrates’ indifference here to the ill stands in sharp contrast to his care and (p.106) continued ‘treatment’ of persons such as Charmides, Critias, Callicles, or Alcibiades who struggled with health of the soul. Indeed, strong parallels between philosophy and medicine further problematize the Republic’s denial of treatment of the ill and whether such a view can legitimately be ascribed to Plato.

Michael Frede, in his book Essays in Ancient Greek Philosophy, argues for the deep interconnections between ancient philosophy and ancient medicine. He notes that the author of the Decorum, a treatise on Hippocratic medicine, thought philosophy should be part of medicine, and medicine a part of philosophy. Such an understanding of the connection between philosophy and medicine ranged far beyond the concern that doctors be aware of ethical issues, or become interested in matters of bioethics as theory. The interconnectedness of the two enterprises rests on their common understanding of the significance of knowledge and its limits. Both were concerned with giving an account of nature, especially its most complex features, as seen in the human body.22 Various competing theories of medicine abounded, with those who emphasized the practical value of trial and error, and those who emphasized theory.23 However, both philosophy and medicine purported to offer overarching understandings of the ‘good life’, often each taking up similar problems, but in the light of a different fundamental τέλος‎. For example, both physicians and philosophers were concerned with the moderation of the passions, with the health of soul and/or body as a proper balancing of its elements, and finding practices or regimens that might bring the practitioner to a better state.24 The physician, as much as the philosopher, might be concerned with the nature of the soul, whose problems could also be addressed by a medicinal regime. It would be a mistake, for example, to suggest that the philosopher tends to the soul, while the doctor to the body, in the Greek mindset more generally. Instead, both medicine and philosophy sought to look to the well-being of the whole of the person, and even to the relationship between body and soul.

(p.107) Brill has argued that the medical imagery in the Republic extensively informs the language of its argument.25 Medical terms are used to describe epistemological states and ethical and political concerns, especially insofar as medical language is used to distinguish the health of the philosopher from the diseased soul of the tyrant. Even metaphysical passages in the Republic contain medicinal language. For example, the language of the divided line concerning the visible and intelligible realms closely parallels passages in the Hippocratic corpus that note two ways of diagnosing: through the disease being visible to the doctor, or through the doctor’s seeking an intelligible cause for what is not directly visible.26

Philosophy and medicine are both also concerned with relationships; in the case of medicine, a relationship between doctor and patient that extends far beyond the treatment of a disease to the treatment of the person. Hippocrates’ treatises on medicine, while theoretical at moments, are also deeply attentive to the care of the person. Hippocrates offers a philosophical component to medicine. Conversely, philosophy could be understood as a kind of θεραπεία‎ for the soul. Nussbaum has treated this concept of the philosopher as a kind of caring and compassionate physician in her work The Therapy of Desire. For Nussbaum, the philosopher does not concern himself solely with the intellectual difficulties of his interlocutor, but also with their emotional lives: what they love, fear, and desire. Since beliefs are closely linked to our affective lives, reshaping one’s beliefs also reshapes our desires.27

While Nussbaum’s own emphasis is on later Hellenistic philosophy, Socrates also might be an exemplar of a caregiver for the soul. Indeed, in the Charmides, Socrates even compares himself to a doctor practising Zalmoxian medicine when he offers to treat Charmides’ headache.28 Not only the contemporary psychologists, but also ancient (p.108) practitioners were aware that in cases of mental disturbance, talk and ‘philosophical therapy’ of a certain kind might benefit the patient.29 Both philosophy and medicine require a certain kind of engagement with the other as vulnerable—whether physically wounded or wounded in soul—as well as acknowledging one’s own limits, for example, the doctor’s limits as healer. As Brill notes, Hippocratic medicine ‘requires both investment and detachment’.30 The healer must be invested in the care of his patient, but also detached enough to make a critically informed diagnosis. Socrates, too, possesses such a combination of care and detachment in his attitude toward his interlocutors. Both qualities are needed, insofar as he has limits in his roles as questioner, midwife, and even friend.

We also find physical vulnerability at the heart of many scenes in the Platonic dialogues. Alcibiades will be poisoned. Socrates’ body will gradually become numbed as he drinks the hemlock. Theaetetus in that dialogue’s prologue is being carried away on a stretcher from injury in the battlefield to Athens so that he may fulfil his wish to die in his home city. Philosophy ignores the body at its peril, just as an understanding of medicine that overlooked questions of meaning would be incomplete. When we hear Socrates in the Republic speak of justice as the harmony of the soul, it is not a far cry from the Hippocratic theory of humours, which stated that health was to be found in the balance of all the interior elements of the human body. In the Timaeus, Critias even describes all soul sickness in terms of bodily imbalance: after describing the nature of some bodily disorders, he moves on to the nature of disorders of the soul:

The disorders of the soul, which depend upon the body, originate as follows. We must acknowledge disease of the mind to be a want of intelligence; and of this there are two kinds; to wit, madness and ignorance. In whatever state a man experiences either of them, that state may be called disease; and excessive pains and pleasures are justly to be regarded as the greatest diseases to which the soul is liable. … He who has the seed about the spinal marrow too plentiful and overflowing, like a tree overladen with fruit, has many throes, and also obtains many pleasures in his desires and their offspring, and (p.109) is for the most part of his life deranged, because his pleasures and pains are so very great; his soul is rendered foolish and disordered by his body; yet he is regarded not as one diseased, but as one who is voluntarily bad, which is a mistake. (Timaeus 86b–c)31

In approaching the question of medicine, Hippocrates was well known for searching for causes of disorders as fundamental to the medical practice; he is often remembered for his theoretical bent in medicine. However, as his essay ‘On Injuries of the Head’ demonstrates, Hippocratic medicine starts with the particular patient. Notwithstanding the ways in which a Hippocratic treatise is a general treatise on rules and even causes that can be applied in order to understand many cases, his first words are about consideration of the particular other before the physician: ‘Men’s heads are by no means all like to one another, nor are the sutures of the head of all men constructed in the same form.’32 A physician cannot look at the wounds of all identically, for not only the wounds themselves, but the underlying state of the physical body that the patient brings along with the wound varies from person to person. Hippocrates says, ‘In the first place, one must examine the wounded person (10)’, and this principle, that the person is first, and the wound or the condition is later, runs throughout his work. The Hippocratic injunction to ‘do no harm’ implicitly recognizes the limits of the physician in treating a patient.

Hippocrates also emphasizes that the doctor must recognize his own limits. Hippocrates cautions that many supposed cures for head wounds cause more harm than doing nothing at all. He warns:

In a wound of the head, you must not apply anything liquid, not even wine, but as little as possible, nor a cataplasm, nor conduct the treatment with tents, nor apply a bandage to an ulcer on the head, unless it be situated on the forehead, in the part which is bare of hairs, or about the eyebrow and eye, for wounds occurring there require cataplasms and bandages more than upon any other part of the head. (‘Injuries’ 13)

Underlying this understanding of non-intervention in certain cases is the belief in the idea that a body is often better situated to restore itself to health than is the doctor. Hippocratic medicine relies upon the idea (p.110) of health as an imbalance that the body seeks to naturally restore when out of balance; at best, a doctor is the facilitator of the process that allows this natural healing to take place. Many of the procedures that Hippocrates outlines in his work are to remove dead skin, scrape at infected bone, or take apart that which would threaten healing, but his work is not to cause the healing itself. Rather, his actions simply leave the room for the body to heal what ails it, through a closing of the wound, and restoration of balance to the humours.

A similar kind of concern for persons in their particularity is present in Socrates’ interactions with his interlocutors. For example, Socrates is harsh with Callicles in his arrogance, more playful with his friends in the party-like atmosphere of the Symposium, and someone who ‘bites at’ Alcibiades like a snake (in Alcibiades’ view) in an attempt to awaken him from his political slumber of soul. He does not apply a universal method to all souls at all times; as Gary Scott has recently suggested, μέθοδος‎ in the dialogues is more likely to mean ‘way’ or ‘path’ than a precise method.33

Medicine, too, cared for the soul, along with the body. As Bartos has argued, throughout the Hippocratic corpus, the body and soul are treated as part of a single, indissoluble unity, and not as two distinct kinds of substances. Body and soul alike are part of a deeper unity of the human being who is the patient, and so there could be no false separation of treating the person’s body but not his soul. Even when we ordinarily talk about our physical experiences of suffering, we speak of ourselves as intimately connected to those experiences. I do not say, if I really hurt, ‘My body has this pain,’ but rather, ‘I am in pain.’ On the Hippocratic model, too, the physician, must treat the person, not only his body, as a unified whole, understanding both body and soul to be manifestations of a unity that in a state of health reflects balance and wholeness. Democritus extended this idea of unity of body and soul even further when he argued that it is better to treat the soul, the psyche, than the body: ‘It is fitting for people to take account of the soul rather than the body. For perfection of the soul puts right the bad state of the dwelling, but strength of the dwelling without thought (λογίσμος‎) does not make the soul any better.’34 As Bartos explains, since a housekeeper cares for his house (p.111) but not vice versa, care of the soul has positive consequences for the well-being of both body and soul. Democritus saw speech and reasoning as the best way of driving out suffering from a soul, a parallel to the Socratic practice of dialogue as a kind of θεραπεία‎.

To this extent, medicine is an excellent place where we can look at the intersections of theory and practice, in the context of woundedness. For Socrates, to speak is already a kind of practice, a practice of caring for the soul, and so also for the whole of the human being, body and soul. Because the soul, as the source of the person’s choices and actions, is primary, there can be no treatment of certain kinds of wounds or diseases without the patient’s cooperation, and so without attending to his soul. Even Gorgias admits this is so, when he argues that he is better suited to persuade a patient to take his medicine or to undergo painful surgery than his brother the doctor, for he can motivate action with persuasive devices in a way that the doctor’s technical art cannot. Thus, philosophy as a θεραπεία‎ finds its roots in the earlier practices of the rhetoricians and even sophists, although with a different purpose in mind.

In many dialogues, the Platonic view seems to be sceptical as to whether such a transformation is always possible through λόγος‎. Notably, Socrates is not successful in his changing Charmides, even after he promises to try to heal him, and Charmides agrees. The end of the dialogue features thinly veiled jokes about a ‘plot’ of force against Socrates, an apparent allusion to Charmides and Critias’ participation as especially notorious members of the Thirty Tyrants in the oligarchic revolution and overthrow of Athenian democracy (Charmides 176c–d). Callicles is not converted to the practice of virtue as far as we know, despite Socrates’ concerted efforts. Still, we can understand Socrates’ philosophy to be a form of θεραπεία‎, albeit one that is not always successful with its patients, any more than a doctor’s treatments can guarantee the health of his. Indeed, Socrates cannot guarantee a successful outcome in his interlocutor. To possess self-knowledge in understanding his limits as healer is part of his art.35 Because he recognizes his own limits in affecting his interlocutors, Socrates refuses to be called a teacher.

(p.112) Here we might find an avenue for questioning Nussbaum’s claim that Plato seeks the perfectionism of the city and of the human person through philosophy. To be sure, Plato suggests that the ordinary ways of the many can be mistaken, especially in their understanding of whether the lives they advocate, for example, of bodily pleasure or political power alone, can really make us happy. The Republic’s claim that the chronically ill ought not be treated remains morally problematic. However, this is not to suggest an overarching theory for the perfectibility of human nature. If anything, Plato emphasizes that Socrates is limited, so limited that even at the end of his long and apparently just life, he can still say that his greatest wisdom is that he knows nothing. He is also limited as a practitioner of λόγος‎, limited in what he can and cannot say to convert others to this life of virtue and a more expansive understanding of human wholeness than that found in the ideas of a Callicles.

Not all wounds are curable. In such a case, the doctor nonetheless has a role in responding to his patient’s woundedness. Hippocrates somewhat cryptically remarks, ‘When a person has sustained a mortal wound on the head, which cannot be cured, nor his life preserved, you may form an opinion of his approaching dissolution, and foretell what is to happen from the following symptoms which such a person experiences’ (emphasis mine, 19). In the myth of judgement at the end of the Gorgias, Socrates seems also to provide such an opinion about Callicles—not even because he is confident that such an opinion will change the outcome, but because he is responsible to state the truth about his patient’s condition. Socrates’ own θεραπεία‎ has limits with a soul that is already scarred and that refuses to look at its own state with candour.

In the Theaetetus, Socrates identifies himself as another kind of medical practitioner, this time not the physician of the Charmides, but instead as a midwife. The image of a midwife presents a rather comical picture of a Socrates, who describes himself like a woman who is barren but fruitful in his ability to help others to give birth. He describes himself also as a matchmaker who can bring together the best so that their children might flourish, alluding to his uncanny ability to find the right figure, whether it be Homer, Protagoras, Sappho, or others who provide the ‘seed’ for his interlocutor to give birth to his own, new idea. The midwife’s task is even humbler than that of the physician; while the physician seeks to heal the soul through diagnosis and treatment according to his art, the midwife (p.113) places trust in the human being’s own innate generative abilities. The midwife is only there to assist, and to help determine if this is a real birth, or only a false one.36

While Socrates is not always a model of gentleness in disposition, we can nonetheless say that his speech at least includes an understanding of the human being as vulnerable, fallible, yet also responsible. One must, of course, acknowledge Socrates’ seemingly inhuman episodes of walking in the snow barefoot; being the only one who does not cry at his own death scene; his immovability to Alcibiades; and his annoying, gadfly-like questioning of his fellow citizens and even friends. But perhaps his friends were attracted to him, and could tolerate the more challenging aspects of Socrates’ personality because they knew that Socrates knew what the human being was like underneath the clothing of social status, wealth, and crafty speech, and yet, never shirked that nakedness. As one who knew of his own limitedness, he knew how to speak to others in theirs. In this way, Socrates exercised his own form of the political art.


(1) Martha Nussbaum, The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy, rev. edn. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 122–35.

(2) Nussbaum, The Fragility of Goodness, 132.

(3) Charles Griswold, too, interprets the Republic to be opposed to a kind of care for the ordinary in favour of a longing for something not simply better, but best. See Griswold, ‘Longing for the Best: Plato on Reconciliation with Imperfection’, Arion 11 (2003), 101–36.

(4) See, notably, David Roochnik’s work Beautiful City: The Dialectical Character of Plato’s Republic (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003) and The Tragedy of Reason: Toward a Platonic Conception of Logos (London: Routledge, 1991).

(5) See my earlier work on distinguishing between the rhetoric of sophistry and Platonic philosophy in Marina McCoy, Plato on the Rhetoric of Philosophers and Sophists (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

(6) See Andrea Nightingale, Genres in Dialogue: Plato and the Construct of Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

(7) Translations of the Gorgias throughout this chapter are from Plato, Gorgias, trans. Donald Zeyl (Cambridge, Mass.: Hackett, 1986).

(8) Kathryn A. Morgan, Myth and Philosophy from the Presocratics to Plato (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 6.

(9) See Iliad XV. 187ff.

(10) Alessandra Fussi, ‘The Myth of the Last Judgment in the Gorgias’, Review of Metaphysics 5 (3) (2001), 534–5.

(11) See my more extensive argument for this point in McCoy, Rhetoric of Philosophers and Sophists, chapter 4.

(12) Christina Tarnopolsky, Prudes, Perverts, and Tyrants: Plato’s Gorgias and the Art of Shame (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), especially 18–21.

(13) Tarnopolsky, Prudes, Perverts, 19.

(14) Whether the final narrative is effective with Callicles is unknown, as we do not hear Callicles’ own response. However, Morgan thoughtfully suggests that Callicles’ expressed disdain for μῦθος‎ earlier in the dialogues diminishes his respect for this mode of discourse as well. See Morgan, Myth and Philosophy, 190–1. Still, the use of imagery and myth remains important for Plato’s own audience.

(15) See John Winkler, ‘Laying Down the Law: The Oversight of Men’s Sexual Behavior in Classical Athens’, in Froma Zeitlin, John J. Winkler, and David Halperin (eds.), Before Sexuality (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), 171–201.

(16) See also Tarnopolsky, Prudes, Perverts, 84.

(17) For example, James Arieti, ‘Plato’s Philosophical Antiope: The Gorgias in Plato’s Dialogues’, in Gerald Press (ed.), Plato’s Dialogues: New Studies and Interpretations (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1993), 197–214.

(18) Tarnopolsky has recently argued that the nature of judgement in the myth parallels Socratic elenchus in a number of ways. For example, Socrates’ demand to Polus that he alone defend his view, and not call on the testimony of others (Gorgias 472c), is akin to the just man standing alone in judgement. The feelings of the wounded man under judgement parallel the experience of being shamed by Socrates. See Tarnpolsky, Prudes, Perverts, 120–6. Morgan also argues that when Socrates moves between different types of discourse, he problematizes the use of any one, thus in his rhetorical style demonstrating a critical dimension; see Morgan, Myth and Philosophy, 15–45. See also McCoy, Philosophers and Sophists, on Socrates’ rhetoric with Callicles in the Gorgias, especially 107–9.

(19) Fussi, ‘The Myth of the Last Judgment’, 536.

(20) Fussi, ‘The Myth of the Last Judgment’, 537.

(21) Bloom’s translation of the Republic is used throughout this chapter. See Plato’s Republic trans. Allan Bloom, 2nd edn. (New York: Basic Books, 1991).

(22) See chapter 12 of Michael Frede, Essays in Ancient Philosophy (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 227.

(23) Frede, Essays in Ancient Philosophy, 235–8.

(24) See Pierre Pellegrin, ‘Ancient Medicine and its Contribution to the Philosophical Tradition’, in Mary Louise Gill and Pierre Pellegrin (eds.), A Companion to Ancient Philosophy (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006).

(25) Sarah Brill, ‘Diagnosis and the Divided Line: Pharmacological Concerns in Plato’s Republic’, Epoché 9 (2) (2005), 297–315.

(26) For the full argument, see Brill, ‘Diagnosis and the Divided Line’, 302–9.

(27) Martha Nussbaum, The Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994).

(28) Elsewhere, I argue that the ‘incantation’ that Socrates provides to Charmides is found in his philosophical questioning of Charmides’ beliefs. See Marina McCoy, ‘Philosophy, Elenchus, and Charmides’s Definitions of Sophrosune’, Arethusa 38 (2005), 133–59. An extensive analysis of the links between medicine and philosophy in the Charmides can be found in Francis P. Coolidge, Jr., ‘The Relation of Philosophy to Sophrosune: Zalmoxian Medicine in Plato’s Charmides’, Ancient Philosophy 13 (1) (1993), 23–36.

(29) Frede, Essays in Ancient Greek Philosophy, 227.

(31) Plato, Timaeus, trans. Benjamin Jowett (Mineola, NY: Dover, n.d.).

(32) Hippocrates, ‘On Injuries of the Head’, trans. Francis Adams, ebooks@Adelaide, 2007 〈http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hippocrates/head〉.

(33) See Introduction to Gary Scott (ed.), Philosophy in Dialogue: Plato’s Many Devices (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 2007).

(34) Hynek Bartos, ‘Varieties of the Ancient Greek Body–Soul Distinction’, Rhizai 3 (1) (2006), 72.

(35) Brill makes the point in relation to medicine that restraint and decision not to treat when a patient cannot be aided are constitutive of the doctor’s art in a way that is not true for other τέχναι‎ such as carpentry. Brill, ‘Medical Moderation’, 11.

(36) For an excellent account of Socratic midwifery, see Scott Hemmenway, ‘Philosophical Apology in the Theaetetus’, Interpretation 17 (1990), 323–46.