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"Alcibiades, do you wish to live having what you now have, or to die immediately, if you are not to be permitted to gain greater?"


SO. So is it possible that you could ever learn or discover something not being willing to learn or inquire yourself?


writing and the harp and wrestling


[writing, house building, ship building?]


ALC. When it is about war, Socrates, or about peace or other affairs of the state.


[better wrestling, gymnastics]

[better lyre playing, music]


SO. You speak well. Come now, also the better in war and in maintaining peace, what do you name this that is better? just as there you said the better was the more musical, and in the other the more gymnastical; try now also here to tell the better.

ALC. But I have no idea at all.

SO. But yet it is disgraceful,


SO. So what then? On which are you counseling the Athenians to war, those doing the unjust or the just?

ALC. This you are asking is tricky; for even if someone decides that it is necessary to war on those doing the just, he would not admit it.

SO. For this is not lawful, as is fitting.


ALC. But don't you believe I could discover it.


SO. So how is it likely that you know the just and the unjust, about which you go astray so and appear not to have learned from anyone nor discovered yourself?

ALC. From what you are saying it is not likely.


SO. Come now, since the same person appears to persuade many and one, practice on me and try to demonstrate how the just sometimes is not advantageous.

ALC. You are insolent, Socrates.


SO. Then it is not in respect to the same thing the rescuing the friends is beautiful and bad?

ALC. It appears not.


SO. Then most opposite to death and cowardice are life and courage?

ALC. Yes.


SO. So if anyone stands up advising either Athenians or Peparethians, thinking he knows the just and the unjust, and says that the just is sometimes bad, would you do anything other than laugh at him, since you also happen to be saying that the same things are just and advantageous?


SO. Then about what you answer with unwilling contradictions, it is clear that you do not know about them.

ALC. It is likely.


SO. So who are the ones making mistakes? For they are not the ones who know.

ALC. Of course not.

SO. And since it is neither the ones who know nor the ones who do not know knowing that they have not known it, are the others left the ones who do not know, but think they know?


SO. Then if you have in mind to be leader of the state, would you believe correctly the contest for you to be leading is against the kings of Lacedaimonia and Persia?


SO. Which are likely to be better by nature, those in noble races or not noble?

ALC. Clearly in the noble.

SO. Then the well born, if they are also well brought up, thus become perfected in virtue?

ALC. By necessity.


ALC. So then what taking care is useful to do, Socrates? Can you prescribe? For more than all what you have said is likely true.


SO. The trustee who is mine is better and wiser than Pericles, who is yours.

ALC. Who is he, Socrates?

SO. God, Alcibiades, who before today has not allowed me to converse with you; and trusting in it I say that your distinction will be through no one other than through me.

ALC. You are playing, Socrates.


SO. But what then? What is present and absent when a state is best and better treated and managed?


ALC. I think I mean friendship and oneness, as when a father and mother are one in loving a son, and brother with brother and wife with husband.

SO. So do you think, Alcibiades, a husband is able to be one with a wife concerning wool-spinning, not being knowledgeable next to her being knowledgeable?


ALC. But it seems to me also according to this friendship arises among them, because they each do their own business.


SO. Then when you take care of what belongs to yourself, you are not taking care of yourself.

ALC. Not at all.


SO. So then you do have, that at least it is the one using the body.

ALC. Yes.

SO. So what else uses it than a soul?


SO. Then this was what we also said a little while earlier, that Socrates is conversing with Alcibiades using argument, not to your face, as likely, but making the arguments to Alcibiades; and this is the soul.

ALC. It seems to me.

SO. Then the one assigning knowing self orders us to gain knowledge of the soul.


SO. Then the money-maker does not even do one's own business.


SO. Then be eager to be most beautiful.


SO. Then if an eye intends to see itself, it must look into an eye by itself, and into that region of the eye, in which the goodness of an eye is innate; and is this sight?


SO. Then it is not the one who has become wealthy who is delivered from being most wretched, but the one who has become sensible.


SO. If you really intend to manage the business of the state correctly and beautifully, you must impart goodness to the citizens.

ALC. For how could that not be?

SO. And could anyone impart something one does not have?

ALC. And how could one?

SO. Then first you must gain goodness for yourself, and for anyone else who intends to rule and take care of oneself and one's belongings not in private only but also a state and the business of the state.


SO. So do you know how you might escape this state you are now in? Let us not put this name on a beautiful man.

ALC. I do.

SO. How?

ALC. If you wish, Socrates.

SO. You don't speak beautifully, Alcibiades.

ALC. But what is useful to say?

SO. That if God wills.


ALC. But it holds thus, and I shall begin from here to take care of justice.

SO. I would like you also to continue; but I am shuddering, not from any mistrust of your nature, but from viewing the strength of the state, lest it prevail over both me and you.


Notes from Michel Foucault. The Hermeneutics of the Subject: Lectures at the College de France 1981-1982. Ed. Frederic Gros. Trans. Graham Burchell. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

"Why take this dialogue as the reference point not only for talking about Plato, but ultimately for a perspective on a whole section of ancient philosophy?" (Foucault 170).

"the great return of Neo-Platonism in ancient culture, thought, and philosophy -- starting from roughly the second century A.D." (Foucault (170).

Proclus (5th Century): "The dialogue is the source of all philosophy, as is also precisely the knowledge of ourselves" (Foucault 171).

For Proclus and Olympiadorus, the Alcibiades "is the summary of Plato's philosophy. Second, it is the first and solemn introduction of the gnothi seauton [know thyself] into philosophy as the essential condition of philosophical practice. And finally, they see in it the first appearance of the divergence of the political and the cathartic" (Foucault 170).

Know yourself politically as citizen of principle and rule (Gorgias, Crito). Know yourself cathartically through purifications that allow you "to have contact with and to recognize the divine element within" (Foucault 173).

"Socrates says: You are ignorant; but you are young and so you have time, not to learn, but to take care of yourself" (Foucault 46).

"put a technology of self to work in order to have access to the truth" (Foucault 47).

  • rites of purification
  • techniques for concentrating the soul
  • techniques of withdrawal
  • practice of endurance

Did Plato not associate with Pythagoreans?

And in learning to care for yourself, you learn to care for others, even to care for the state, to govern.

"The text then naturally divides into two parts, on the basis of two questions. . . . what is this thing . . . [and] What form should this care take" (Foucault 51).