Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Philosophy, Science and the Sciences

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Department of Philosophy | Philosophy, Science and the Sciences | Events | Guest talk: A Doctor’s Folly: Diagnosing the Speech of Eryximachus (Franco Trivigno, Oslo)

Guest talk: A Doctor’s Folly: Diagnosing the Speech of Eryximachus (Franco Trivigno, Oslo)

  • When Jul 13, 2015 from 01:00 to 04:00 (Europe/Berlin / UTC200)
  • Where Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Hannoversche Str. 6, room 3.03
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Franco Trivigno is a faculty member of the Department of Philosophy, Classics, History or Arts and Ideas at the University of Oslo.

Abstract: Scholarly opinion is sharply divided concerning the value and interest of the speech of Eryximachus in Plato’s Symposium. Until Edelstein’s vociferous challenge to the position in 1945, there was a consensus in the literature that the speech was meant by Plato to be a comedic send-up of Eryximachus, exposing him as a pretentious and self-absorbed pedant. Since then, various scholars (most prominently, Konstan and Young-Bruehl 1982; Rowe 1999; McPherran 2006) have worked to rehabilitate the speech and, with it, its speaker, as the serious expression of an interesting and valued medical expert—medicine is, after all, a paradigmatic techne for Plato (see e.g. Grg. 456a-c, 459a-460a, 521e-522a). The passages in which Eryximachus appears in the dialogue have thus been variously interpreted as having been penned either with satirical malice or with admiration and respect. In general, I agree with Levin that the ‘rehabilitators’ have gone too far and thus failed to see the agonistic elements in the speech; however, Levin, whose exclusive concern is the development of Plato’s thought about medicine, does not address the comic elements of the speech and rejects the parody reading. In this paper, I present a partial defense of the older consensus that the speech is satirical. This defense is only partial, because it recognizes that neither all aspects of the speech nor all aspects of the presentation of Eryximachus are intended to mock or criticize him.