Volume 3, 1998
Responding to Socrates’ Pedagogical Provocation
In this paper I examine the text of the Symposium to illustrate two non-philosophical responses to Socrates’ pedagogical provocation. While Apollodorus and Aristodemus, two Socratic disciples, demonstrate their erotic commitment to Socrates, they do not practice philosophy. They manifest their non-philosophical behavior in two ways. First, they idolize and imitate Socrates. Second, they constantly tell stories about Socrates. In the first section I analyze Aristodemus’ and Apollodorus’ emotional attachment to Socrates. While both disciples are genuinely protective of Socrates, their behavior often precludes the practice of philosophy. In the second section, I examine the nuances of the narrative frame of the Symposium. Apollodorus and Aristodemus both express their commitment to Socrates by telling stories about him. While their stories do preserve knowledge about Socrates, they are unpersuasive spokespersons for the philosophical life. They remain mired in their personal love for Socrates. In the third section, I interpret Plato’s rhetorical use of anonymity as a strategy designed to mitigate against the dangers of discipleship.