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Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy

Volume 25, Issue 2, Spring 2021

Anne-Marie SchultzOrcid-ID
Pages 401-423

Narrative Tyranny in American Political Discourse and Plato's Republic I
The Possibility of Philosophical and Political Freedom

This paper begins with a brief examination of the contemporary American political landscape.  I describe three recent events that illustrate how attempts to control the narrative about events that transpired threaten to undermine our shared reality.  I then turn to Book I  of Plato’s Republic to explore the potentially tyrannizing effect of  Socrates’s narrative voice.  I focus on his descriptions of Glaucon, Polemarchus and his slave, and Thrasymachus to show how Plato presents Socrates’s narrative activity as a process that controls how the auditor  understands the events that follow.  I then turn to an alternate understanding of  Socratic narrative which extols its philosophically and politically liberatory possibilities.  I use  my own previous work on  Socratic narrative,  Jill Frank’s  Poetic Justice,  and Rebecca’s LeMoine’s Plato’s Cave  as three examples that emphasize the more positive dimensions of  Socratic narrative. Finally, I  end with a brief exploration of Cornel West’s Democracy Matters, and bell hooks’ works on pedagogy to argue for the possibility a Socratically-informed public space for political discourse.

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