published on March 9, 2017
What’s Next in Plato’s Clitophon?
Self-Knowledge, Instrumentality, and Means without End
The Clitophon has posed a riddle to its readers: Why does Socrates not respond to the criticisms levelled against him? A careful reading of the dialogue shows that Clitophon’s criticism of Socrates already contains its own rebuttal. It is not, as many have suggested, certain beliefs of Clitophon’s that make a Socratic response impossible. Rather, Socrates’s silence is itself the response, intended to force Clitophon to turn back to what has already been said. It is Clitophon’ lack of self-knowledge, or better his self-oblivion, his failure to see his own soul as implicated in the logos, that propels him always to seek out what’s next in the logos without any reflection on what has already been said.