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Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy

Volume 21, Issue 1, Fall 2016

Alan Pichanick
Pages 47-66
DOI: 10.5840/epoche201681665

Sôphrosunê, Socratic Therapy, and Platonic Drama in Plato’s Charmides

Plato’s Charmides suggests that there are really four notions that are deeply connected with one another, and in order to understand sôphrosunê we need to get a proper hold on them and their relation: these four notions are Knowledge of Ignorance, Self-Knowledge, Knowledge of the Good, and Knowledge of the Whole. My aim is to explore these four notions in two stages. First, I will try to explain Socrates’s notion of knowledge of ignorance, so that the nature and coherence of this Socratic idea will come into focus, and shed some light on its connection to self-knowledge and knowledge of the good. Second, I will turn to explain what I call the origin (archê) or even “truth” of Socrates’s conception of sôphrosunê by examining the idea of the physician of the soul in Plato’s Charmides and Plato’s use of the dialogue form, and thereby make a connection to knowledge of the whole. I will show that seeing sôphrosunê as “whole-mindedness,” connects to Socrates’s description of our in-between state as human beings, and that the study of this “in-between-ness,” is the supremely insightful glimpse into Socrates and his philosophical activity (perhaps the very definition of it).