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What is Philosophy? Part 3
In this third part of this series we’re going to focus mainly on what a philosopher does, who does philosophy, some of its effects and with who is it to be done with.
It is important to note that this series chooses Socrates as the archetypical philosopher and takes the Socratic tradition to be its intellectual lineage. That is not to turn a blind eye as to the evolution of the concept or the contributions of the Pre-Socratics and other thinkers around the world who clearly made contributions to the discipline we nowadays call philosophy.
However, this choice was made because a number of aspects and practices with respect to the function and role of the philosopher as originally conceived in antiquity started with Socrates and his disciples. Unfortunately over the centuries they have been forgotten or ignored, which prompted even Kant to remark:
“The ancient Greek philosophers, such as Epicurus, Zeno, and Socrates, remained more faithful to the Idea of the philosopher than their modern counterparts have done. “When will you finally begin to live virtuously?” said Plato to an old man who told him he was attending classes on virtue. The point is not always to speculate, but also ultimately to think about applying our knowledge. Today, however, he who lives in conformity with what he teaches is taken for a dreamer.”
Part of this effort is to become more faithful to the idea of the philosopher as it originated in antiquity by recalling and reclaiming forgotten aspects and practices related to it in an attempt to reintegrate them into the practice and role of being a philosopher today.
These aspects and practices have beautifully been collected and presented in the work of Pierre Hadot, mainly in his books What is Ancient Philosophy? and Philosophy as a Way of Life. What I’ve tried to do with this series but more so in this post, is draw from as many of his works as necessary in an attempt to condense and at times supplement what I believe to be the core of his message into as few words as possible. However, I strongly recommend taking the time to read his books in full to derive the full benefit and pleasure of his inimitable style and scholarship.
In the last part of this series we revealed the philosopher as the lover of wisdom. But this wisdom (sophia), as we saw in the first part of this series, had many layers of meaning for the ancient Greeks; and this love (eros), as we saw in the second part, had a special meaning in Plato’s Symposium, one that guides the lover to ever higher objects, transforming one’s existence along the way.
In this third part we’ll be picking up from where we left off, on the relationship between the philosopher and love (eros), to start introducing the theme of what a philosopher does.
Doing Philosophy: A Breakdown
A. Igniting the Love of Wisdom
In a dialogue by Plato that deals with friendship, Lysis, the philosopher is revealed as not only the one who exhibits the love of wisdom, but also the one who ignites it.
In that dialogue Socrates has one of his characteristic discussions, what came to be known as the Socratic method, with Lysis. The result is typical in that it starts with Lysis believing he knows something but in the end realizing that he doesn’t. How does such a process lead to the love of wisdom? As we’ve mentioned in the second part of this series, there are generally two types of people that don’t desire wisdom: those who are truly wise and those who think they are wise:
“So by showing Lysis that he isn’t already wise, by getting him to recognize that he doesn’t know, Socrates sets him on the road to philosophy (cf. Sophist 231b3–8). The elenchus [i.e. the Socratic method] is important to love, then, because it creates a hunger for wisdom — a hunger which it cannot itself assuage.”
However, it is precisely that hunger, that desire which becomes what drives “the engine of philosophical procedure”and gives it the character of a living experience.
B. Facilitating Self-Awareness: Knowing Thyself
But what is it that happens to Lysis as he undergoes questioning by Socrates? In other words, what are some of the effects of philosophical activity on Lysis himself?
“He becomes aware of the contradictions in his discourse, and of his own internal contradictions. He doubts himself; and, like Socrates, he comes to know that he knows nothing. As he does this, however, he assumes a distance with regard to himself. He splits into two parts, one of which henceforth identifies itself with Socrates, in the mutual accord which Socrates demands from his interlocutor at each stage of the discussion. The interlocutor thus acquires awareness and begins to question himself.[…] Socrates’ questions do not lead his interlocutor to know something, or to wind up with conclusions which could be formulated in the form of propositions on a given subject. Rather, it is because the interlocutor discovers the vanity of his knowledge that he will at the same time discover his truth. In other words, by passing from knowledge to himself, he will begin to place himself in question. In the Socratic dialogue, the real question is less what is being talked about than who is doing the talking.”
The modus operandi of Socrates is shifting the emphasis from “having” to “being”:
“The real problem is…not the problem of knowing this or that, but of being in this or that way [as Socrates says in the Apology]: “I have no concern at all for what most people are concerned about: financial affairs, administration of property, appointments to generalships, oratorical triumphs in public, magistracies, coalitions, political factions. I did not take this path…but rather the one where I could do the most good to each one of you in particular, by persuading you to be less concerned with what you have than with what you are; so that you may make yourselves as excellent and as rational as possible.”
Socrates went around Athens helping people become more aware, urging them to know themselves and examine their conscience:
“…the Socratic dialogue turns out to be a kind of communal spiritual exercise. In it, the interlocutors are invited to participate in such inner spiritual exercises as examination of conscience and attention to oneself; in other words, they are urged to comply with the famous dictum, “Know thyself.” Although it is difficult to be sure of the original meaning of this formula, this much is clear: it invites us to establish a relationship of the self to the self, which constitutes the foundation of every spiritual exercise. To know oneself means, among other things, to know oneself qua non-sage: that is, not as a sophos, but as a philo-sophos, someone on the way toward wisdom. Alternatively, it can mean to know oneself in one’s essential being; this entails separating that which we are not from that which we are. Finally, it can mean to know oneself in one’s true moral state: that is, to examine one’s conscience.”
We will return to the idea of spiritual exercises at a later point. For now I want to draw attention to the fact that the process followed in the Socratic dialogue is more formative than informative. But why is that important?
C. Forming rather than Informing
The importance of the emphasis on formation rather than information for philosophers in the Socratic tradition is representative of a change in orientation. This was in part firstly due to their novel take of what doing philosophy meant:
“Doing philosophy no longer meant, as the Sophists had it, acquiring knowledge, know-how, or sophia; it meant questioning ourselves, because we have the feeling that we are not what we ought to be.”
and secondly due to their reinterpretation of knowledge and wisdom based on that take:
“This was a revolution in the concept of knowledge…[in contrast to the Sophists] for Socrates, knowledge was not an ensemble of propositions and formulas which could be written, communicated, or sold ready-made. This is apparent at the beginning of the Symposium. Socrates arrives late because he has been outside meditating, standing motionless and “applying his mind to itself.” When he enters the room, Agathon, who is the host, asks him to come sit next to him, so that “by contact with you…I may profit from this windfall of wisdom which you have just stumbled across.” “How nice it would be;’ replies Socrates, “if wisdom were the kind of thing that could flow from what is more full into what is more empty.” This means that knowledge is not a prefabricated object, or a finished content which can be directly transmitted by writing or by just any discourse.”
So if knowledge is not a “prefabricated object” or something that can be “directly transmitted by writing or by just any discourse” then what is it, and what discourse can help us get closer to it?
With respect to the latter question we’ve already mentioned that Socrates’s
“…philosophical method consists not in transmitting knowledge (which would mean responding to his disciples’ questions) but in questioning his disciples, for he himself has nothing to say to them or teach them, so far as the theoretical content of knowledge is concerned.”
However with respect to the former question we can discern that
“…this critique of knowledge, although it seems entirely negative, has a double meaning. On the one hand, it presupposes that knowledge and truth, as we have already seen, cannot be received ready-made, but must be engendered by the individual himself. This is why Socrates says in the Theaetetus that when he talks with other people, he contents himself with the role of midwife. He himself knows nothing and teaches nothing, but is content to ask questions; and it is Socrates’ questions and interrogations which help his interlocutors to give birth to “their” truth.”
This critique of knowledge is what provides the key to Plato’s aversion of written discourse versus that of oral discourse:
“In oral discourse, there is the concrete presence of a living being. There is genuine dialogue, which links two souls together, and an exchange in which, as Plato says, discourse can respond to the questions asked of it and defend itself. Thus, dialogue is personalized: it is addressed to a specific person, and corresponds to his needs and possibilities. Just as, in agriculture, it takes time for a seed to germinate and develop, many conversations are necessary for knowledge to be born in the soul…Dialogue does not transmit ready-made knowledge or information; rather, the interlocutor conquers his knowledge by his own effort. He discovers it by himself, and thinks for himself. Written discourse, by contrast, cannot respond to questions. It is impersonal, and claims immediately to give a knowledge which is ready-made, but lacks the ethical dimension represented by voluntary assent. There is no real knowledge outside the living dialogue.”
Of course this begs the question as to why did Plato write all these dialogues in the first place. One answer is that the dialogues were written as exhortations to philosophy, belonging to the ancient Greek genre of protreptics, aimed at people beyond the confines of the Academy and Athens. Axiothea of Phlius is said to have traveled to join the Academy as one of Plato’s first female students after reading The Republic.
However the other answer suggested by Goldschmidt, a scholar of Plato, was that:
“…the dialogues were written not to “inform” people but to “form” them. Such was the deepest intention of Plato’s philosophy. He did not aim to construct a theoretical system of reality, and then “inform” his readers of it by writing a series of dialogues which methodically set forth this system. Instead, his work consisted in “forming” people – that is to say, in transforming individuals by making them experience, through the example of a dialogue which the reader has the illusion of overhearing, the demands of reason, and eventually the norm of the good.
For Hadot, that’s what helps us understand the primary role of the dialogue:
“From this perspective of formation, the role of the written dialogue consists primarily of learning how to practice the methods of reason, both dialectical and geometric, which will enable the student to master the arts of measure and definition in every domain. This is what Plato hints with regard to the long discussion which he introduces in the Statesman:
– “In classes where people learn to read, when the student is asked which letters go to make up such-and-such a word, do we say that he undertakes this investigation only so that he can be brought to resolve one problem, or in order to make him more apt at solving all possible grammatical questions?”
– “All questions, obviously.”
– “What then shall we say about our investigation on the subject of the ‘statesman’? Has it been undertaken out of interest solely in this topic, or rather so that we may become better dialecticians on all possible subjects?”
– “Here again, obviously, it is so that we may become better dialecticians on all possible subjects.”
– “To find the solution to the problem proposed in the easiest and quickest way possible ought to be only a secondary preoccupation and not a primary goal, if we are to believe reason, which orders us to accord our esteem and the first rank to the method itself.”
Even though acquiring this skill that allowed you to reason on all possible subjects was definitely one of the things philosophers did, Plato was so concerned about the misuse of such a skill that he not only introduced an ethic of dialogue but went as far in his Republic as to suggests that “would-be philosophers should not practice dialectics until they have acquired a certain maturity; once they reach this age, they should study it for five years, from age thirty to thirty-five.”
While “we do not know if Plato applied this rule within his school…dialectical exercises necessarily had a place in the Academy’s curriculum.” and it is to dialectics and the ethics of dialogue that we now turn.
D. Training in Dialectics and the Ethics of Dialogue
The type of discourse that Socrates used and was adopted by his successors like Plato, came to be known as dialectics. Aristotle informs us that the method predates Socrates and originates with the Pre-Socratic philosopher Zeno of Elea
“…Plato’s time, dialectics was a debating technique subject to precise rules. A “thesis” was proposed-an interrogative proposition such as: Can virtue be taught? One of the two interlocutors attacked the thesis; the other defended it. The former attacked by interrogating – that is, he asked the defender skillfully chosen questions with the aim of forcing him to admit the contradictory of the thesis he wanted to defend. The interrogator had no thesis, and this was why Socrates was in the habit of playing that role. As Aristotle says, “Socrates always played the part of the interrogator and never that of the respondent, for he admitted he knew nothing.” Dialectics taught students not only how to attack-that is, how to lead interrogations judiciously-but also how to respond, by avoiding the interrogator’s traps. The discussion of a thesis was to constitute the principal form of teaching until the first century B.C.”
In Plato’s Academy,
“Training in dialectics was absolutely necessary, insofar as Plato’s disciples were destined to play a role in their city. In a civilization where political discourse was central, young people had to be trained to have a perfect mastery of speech and reasoning. Yet, in Plato’s eyes, such mastery was dangerous, for it risked making young people believe that any position could be either defended or attacked. That is why Platonic dialectics was not a purely logical exercise. Instead, it was a spiritual exercise which demanded that the interlocutors undergo an askesis, or self-transformation. It was not a matter of a combat between two individuals, in which the more skillful person imposed his point of view, but a joint effort on the part of two interlocutors in accord with the rational demands of reasonable discourse, or [what the Greeks called] the logos [which we’ll explain more later]. Opposing his method to that of contemporary eristics, which practiced controversy for its own sake, Plato says: “When two friends, like you and me, are in the mood to chat, we have to go about it in a gentler and more dialectical way. By ‘more dialectical,’ I mean not only that we give real responses, but that we base our responses solely on what the interlocutor admits that he himself knows.”
Though dialectics was not staged as a confrontation it was still a type of “combat, amicable but real”yet not against one another but as a common undertaking, of willing participants in a climate of gentleness and under the ethics of dialogue that consisted in understanding that:
“A true dialogue is possible only if the interlocutors want to dialogue. Thanks to this agreement between the interlocutors, which is renewed at each stage of the discussion, neither one of the interlocutors imposes his truth upon the other. On the contrary, dialogue teaches them to put themselves in each other’s place and thereby transcend their own point of view. By dint of a sincere effort, the interlocutors discover by themselves, and within themselves, a truth which is independent of them, insofar as they submit to the superior authority of the logos. Here, as in all ancient philosophy, philosophy consists in the movement by which the individual transcends himself toward something which lies beyond him. For Plato, this something was the logos: discourse which implies the demands of rationality and universality. This logos, moreover, did not represent a kind of absolute knowledge; instead, it was equivalent to the agreement which is established between interlocutors who are brought to admit certain positions in common, and by this agreement transcend their particular points of view.”
At this point it may be worth to remember that the love of wisdom properly followed leads from the particular to the universal, so the exercise of Platonic dialectics is essentially an exercise of love, where the interlocutors help one another give birth to truths that go beyond themselves. This was not mere discourse but
“…a “form of life” (to use J. Mittelstrass’ expression) which was practiced by the interlocutors; for insofar as, in the act of dialoguing, they posited themselves as subjects but also transcended themselves, they experienced the logos which transcends them. Moreover, they also experienced that love of the good which is presupposed by every attempt at dialogue. From this perspective, the object of the discussion and its doctrinal content are of secondary importance. What counts is the practice of dialogue, and the transformation which it brings. Sometimes, the function of dialogue can even be to run into aporia [the Greek word for impasse], and thus to reveal the limits of language – its occasional inability to communicate moral and existential experience.
Ultimately, to use the expression of Luc Brisson, what mattered was “learning to live in a philosophical way;” with a common will to carry out disinterested research and in deliberate opposition to sophistic mercantilism. This was already a choice of life. To live in a philosophical way meant, above all, to turn toward intellectual and spiritual life, carrying out a conversion which involved “the whole soul” – which is to say, the whole of moral life. For Plato, science and knowledge are never purely theoretical and abstract knowledge, which could be placed “ready-made” within the soul. When Socrates said that virtue is knowledge, he was not using “knowledge” to mean pure, abstract knowledge of the good. Rather, he meant knowledge which chooses and wants the good, in other words, an inner disposition in which thought, will, and desire are one.
[…] The philosopher’s entire role will therefore consist in permitting his interlocutor to “realize” in the strongest sense of the word, what the true good is and what true value is.”
In the case of Socrates, the choice of the good turned out to be absolute in practice. In this context “we can say that a value is absolute for a person when that person is ready to die for that value. This is Socrates’ attitude concerning “that which is best” – meaning justice, duty, and moral purity. As Socrates repeats several times in the Apology, he prefers death and danger to renouncing his duty and his mission.”
Doing philosophy was therefore not just skillfulness in reasoning but a choice of life. A calling which beckoned for an answer.
E. Answering the Calling of Wisdom: Choice, Commitment and a Way of Life.
The year is 399 B.C. and Socrates is on trial with the charges of corrupting the young and impiety. In the Platonic dialogue about the trial of Socrates, The Apology, Socrates rhetorically asks and then answers the following question:
“Someone might say: “Are you not ashamed, Socrates, to have followed the kind of occupation that has led to your being now in danger of death?” However, I should be right to reply to him: “You are wrong, sir, if you think that a man who is any good at all should take into account the risk of life or death; he should look to this only in his actions, whether what he does is right or wrong, whether he is acting like a good or a bad man.”
Socrates goes on to cite the example of a figure widely acclaimed as a hero in antiquity, that of Achilles, who during the Trojan War knew he was going to die if he avenged his friend’s death by fighting the man who killed him, but decided to do it anyway because he could not stand the idea of living as a coward who did not avenge his friends. Socrates asserts that when ordered to do so by the gods or one’s city one ought to face the risk of death rather than flee in disgrace. By his behavior in battles for Athens in the past, Socrates had already proved his integrity, therefore he didn’t see why the fear of death ought to deter him from continuing the sacred mission through philosophy that was entrusted to him by Apollo through the oracle of Delphi.
Besides, fearing death is based on the assumption that it is something to be feared, and that is pretending to know something you don’t know. In the words of Socrates:
“To fear death, gentlemen, is no other than to think oneself wise when one is not, to think one knows what one does not know. No one knows whether death may not be the greatest of all blessings for a man, yet men fear it as if they knew that it is the greatest of evils. And surely it is the most blameworthy ignorance to believe that one knows what one does not know.”
There is however, something that Socrates does claim to know:
“…that it is wicked and shameful to do wrong, to disobey one’s superior, be he god or man. I will never fear or avoid a possible good rather than a certain evil.”
In one of the few admissions of knowledge by Socrates, the kind of knowledge that is claimed is that of the value of certain moral actions:
“Socrates knows nothing about the value which ought to be attributed to death, because it is not in his power, and because the experience of his own death escapes him by definition. Yet he does know the value of moral action and intention, for they do depend upon his choice, his decision, and his engagement. They therefore have their origin within him. Here again, knowledge is not a series of propositions or an abstract theory, but the certainty of choice, decision, and initiative. Knowledge is not just plain knowing, but knowing-what-ought-to-be-preferred, and hence knowing how to live.”
This is why when pushed by the sophist Hippias to give his opinion on justice Socrates replies by saying: ”I never stop showing what I think is just. If not in words, I show it by my actions.”
The way Socrates died is perhaps the most eloquent demonstration of what he thought justice is. Though he personally disagreed with the charges against him when the city of Athens issued its verdict he did not use this disagreement as an excuse to escape his predicament, even though his friend Crito offered to bribe the guard and secure his escape, Socrates refused because he believed he had a duty to obey the laws of his city:
“In the [dialogue] Crito, these personified “Laws” exhort Socrates not to give in to the temptation to escape from prison and flee far from Athens, by making him understand that his egoistic salvation would be an injustice with regard to Athens. This attitude is not one of conformity, for Xenophon makes Socrates say that it is quite possible to “obey the laws while hoping that they change, just as one serves in war while hoping for peace.”
“In principle, nothing obliges him to take these laws of the city into consideration. But he obliges himself by occupying a point of view that surpasses his personal interest. Nor is it a question of conforming to laws blindly, but on the contrary, of showing that one can freely give oneself the obligation to obey laws.”
As Merleau-Ponty has emphasized, “Socrates has a way of obeying which is a way of resisting.” He submits to the laws in order to prove, from within the city itself, the truth of his philosophical attitude and the absolute value of moral intention. Hegel was thus wrong to say that “Socrates flees within himself, in order to find the just and good there.” Instead, we shall agree with Merleau-Ponty, who wrote: “He thought that it was impossible to be just by oneself. If one is just all by oneself, one ceases to be just.”
In all Greek history till then, heroes were warriors who died for glory (kleos), but
“Socrates exposed himself to death for the sake of virtue. He preferred to die rather than renounce the demands of his conscience, thus preferring the Good above being, and thought and conscience above the life of his body. This is nothing other than the fundamental philosophical choice.”
and what made Socrates the quintessential philosophical hero.
The call of philosophy demands a choice that affects our whole life, and even if one makes that choice, the path to wisdom is hard, for it requires “a considerable effort, which must be renewed every day.”
“There is…every indication that such wisdom is never acquired once and for all. [One has to remember that] It is not only others that Socrates never stops testing, but also himself. The purity of moral intent must be constantly renewed and reestablished. Self-transformation is never definitive, but demands perpetual reconquest.”
That is why in an interview Hadot agrees that an apt characterization of philosophical practice was the “endless incomplete”; for
“It was impossible to maintain oneself at such heights continuously; this was a conversion that needed always to be reconquered. It was probably because of such difficulties that, as we learn in Damascius’ Life of Isidorus, the philosopher Sallustius used to declare that philosophy was impossible for man. He probably meant by this that philosophers were not capable of remaining philosophers at every instant of their lives. Rather, even though they kept the title of “philosophers,” they would be sure to fall back into the habits of everyday life.”
This is the reason why philosophers over time came up with a variety of spiritual exercises, to strengthen the resolve of their commitment to philosophy and in service to the perpetual reconquest of the fleeting and limited wisdom mortals are capable of.
F. Spiritual Exercises
We have already mentioned that dialectics under the ethics of dialogue as practiced by philosophers in Plato’s Academy was a kind of askesis, the Greek word for exercise or training. However, though this was perhaps the most fundamental exercise, it was hardly the only one practiced by members of philosophical schools during antiquity. Hadot chooses to call all such practices spiritual exercises
I will go through a number of them briefly but this listing definitely does not do them justice and whoever is interested is strongly advised to look up Hadot’s work.
Starting with Plato, it is in the Seventh Letter that we discover that the philosophical life is considered to be a kind of life that requires extensive daily effort. The presence of this effort is what distinguishes real philosophers from those who don’t really do philosophy.
Some of those things that ought to be practiced are: caring more for virtue than pleasure, renouncing the pleasures of the senses, observing a specific diet, living in such a way so as to achieve self-mastery, exercising the superior part of the soul (the intellect) so as to achieve harmony with the universe and the gods, sublimating our feelings of love, meditating on death and maintaining our calm in misfortune without rebelling.
Though we can attempt to realize the meaning of these exercises by looking carefully at the dialogues, we do not find many details on how to perform them. Unfortunately, “no systematic treatise codifying the instructions and techniques for spiritual exercises has come down to us.”. The best we can do is combine anything we find in the dialogues with information about the spiritual exercises from philosophers of other schools in antiquity, like the Stoics and the Epicureans, to arrive at a better understanding of what they are about.
From such a perspective we can discern that:
“In all philosophical schools, the goal pursued in these exercises is self-realization and improvement. All schools agree that man, before his philosophical conversion, is in a state of unhappy disquiet. Consumed by worries, torn by passions, he does not live a genuine life, nor is he truly himself.”
That is why both Stoics and Epicureans saw their philosophies as therapeutic, helping to heal our lives.
“All schools also agree that man can be delivered from this state. He can accede to genuine life, improve himself, transform himself, and attain a state of perfection. It is precisely for this that spiritual exercises are intended. Their goal is a kind of self formation, or paideia, which is to teach us to live, not in conformity with human prejudices and social conventions – for social life is itself a product of the passions – but in conformity with the nature of man, which is none other than reason. Each in its own way, all schools believed in the freedom of the will, thanks to which man has the possibility to modify, improve, and realize himself. Underlying this conviction is the parallelism between physical and spiritual exercises: just as, by dint of repeated physical exercises, athletes give new form and strength to their bodies, so the philosopher develops his strength of soul, modifies his inner climate, transforms his vision of the world, and, finally, his entire being. The analogy seems all the more self-evident in that the gymnasion, the place where physical exercises were practiced, was the same place where philosophy lessons were given; in other words, it was also the place for training in spiritual gymnastics.”
What are some more of these exercises?
“Thanks to Philo of Alexandria…we do possess two lists of spiritual exercises. They do not completely overlap, but they do have the merit of giving us a fairly complete panorama of Stoico-Platonic inspired philosophical therapeutics. One of these lists enumerates the following elements: research (zetesis), thorough investigation (skepsis), reading (anagnosis), listening (akroasis), attention (prosoche), self-mastery (enkrateia), and indifference to indifferent things. The other names successively: reading, meditations (meletai), therapies of the passions, remembrance of good things, self-mastery (enkrateia), and the accomplishment of duties.”
Though the scope of this series does not permit us to go through all of them, we’ll try to cover some.
The primarily Stoic exercise of attention (prosoche):
“is a continuous vigilance and presence of mind, self consciousness which never sleeps, and a constant tension of the spirit. Thanks to this attitude, the philosopher is fully aware of what he does at each instant, and he wills his actions fully.
[…] We could also define this attitude as “concentration on the present moment”: “Everywhere and at all times, it is up to you to rejoice piously at what is occurring at the present moment, to conduct yourself with justice towards the people who are present here and now, and to apply rules of discernment to your present representations, so that nothing slips in that is not objective.”
Attention to the present moment is, in a sense, the key to spiritual exercises. It frees us from the passions, which are always caused by the past or the future – two areas which do not depend on us. By encouraging concentration on the minuscule present moment, which, in its exiguity, is always bearable and controllable, attention increases our vigilance.”
It is important to note that for the Stoics and the Epicureans the exercise of attention to the present moment, not to mention the purpose of spiritual exercises in general, had different meanings:
“For the [Stoics], it means mental tension and constant wakefulness of the moral conscience; for the [Epicureans], it is…an invitation to relaxation and serenity. Worry, which tears us in the direction of the future, hides from us the incomparable value of the simple fact of existing [as Epicurus notes]: “We are born once, and cannot be born twice, but for all time must be no more. But you, who are not master of tomorrow, postpone your happiness: life is wasted in procrastination and each one of us dies overwhelmed with cares.” This is the doctrine contained in Horace’s famous saying: carpe diem. “Life ebbs as I speak:/so seize each day,/and grant the next no credit.”
For the Epicureans, in the last analysis, pleasure is a spiritual exercise. Not pleasure in the form of mere sensual gratification, but the intellectual pleasure derived from contemplating nature, the thought of pleasures past and present, and lastly the pleasure of friendship.”
Moreover “attention (prosoche) allows us to respond immediately to events, as if they were questions asked of us all of a sudden.”To enable that “we must always have the fundamental principles “at hand” (procheiron)”. This is to be done with memory exercises (what came to be known as mnemonics is routinely mentioned in ancient philosophy) and aided by the creation of brief striking maxims or arguments, that both the Stoics and the Epicureans utilized, to make it easier to remember fundamental philosophical rules for life in times of need. The goal was to “…steep ourselves in the rule of life (kanon), by mentally applying it to all life’s possible different situations, just as we assimilate a grammatical or mathematical rule through practice, by applying it to individual cases.”
This kind of exercise was supposed to be part of our daily schedule:
“First thing in the morning, we should go over in advance what we have to do during the course of the day, and decide on the principles which will guide and inspire our actions. In the evening, we should examine ourselves again, so as to be aware of the faults we have committed or the progress we have made.”
It was “essential that the adepts be supplied with a fundamental principle which is formulable in a few words, and extremely clear and simple, precisely so that it may remain easily accessible to the mind, and be applicable with the sureness and constancy of a reflex. “You must not separate yourself from these general principles; don’t sleep, eat, drink, or converse with other men without them.””
A related kind of meditation also enabled the practitioner to deal with the twists and turns of fortune: “In the exercise called praemeditatio malorum, we are to represent to ourselves poverty, suffering, and death. We must confront life’s difficulties face to face, remembering that they are not evils, since they do not depend on us.”
At this point it might be worth recalling what depends on us for the Stoics and the Epicureans and give a bit more context so as to better understand the use of exercises. For the Stoics:
“The task of philosophy…is to educate people, so that they seek only the goods they are able to obtain, and try to avoid only those evils which it is possible to avoid. In order for something good to be always obtainable, or an evil always avoidable, they must depend exclusively on man’s freedom; but the only things which fulfill these conditions are moral good and evil. They alone depend on us; everything else does not depend on us. Here, “everything else,” which does not depend on us, refers to the necessary linkage of cause and effect, which is not subject to our freedom. It must be indifferent to us: that is, we must not introduce any differences into it, but accept it in its entirety, as willed by fate. This is the domain of nature.”
While for the Epicureans what depends on us is how we’ll manage fear and desire:
“People’s unhappiness, for the Epicureans, comes from the fact that they are afraid of things which are not to be feared, and desire things which it is not necessary to desire, and which are beyond their control. Consequently, their life is consumed in worries over unjustified fears and unsatisfied desires. As a result, they are deprived of the only genuine pleasure there is: the pleasure of existing…Epicurean ethics [consist in] deliverance…from our insatiable desires, by distinguishing between desires which are both natural and necessary, desires which are natural but not necessary, and desires which are neither natural nor necessary. It is enough to satisfy the first category of desires, and give up the last – and eventually the second as well – in order to ensure the absence of worries, and to reveal the sheer joy of existing.”
Therefore what we witness, especially for Stoicism but not limited to it, is that
“…the exercise of meditation is an attempt to control inner discourse, in an effort to render it coherent. The goal is to arrange it around a simple, universal principle: the distinction between what does and does not depend on us, or between freedom and nature. Whoever wishes to make progress strives, by means of dialogue with himself or with others, as well as by writing, to “carry on his reflections in due order” and finally to arrive at a complete transformation of his representations of the world, his inner climate and his outer behavior.”
To give a historical example of a work embodying such exercises we have to look no further than the famous Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. They did not constitute a diary nor an attempt at a novel philosophical treatise but a regiment of Stoic exercises at forming the mind with Stoic precepts, so as transform one’s worldview and prime behavior with the proper principles (mention the Inner Citadel). The numerous treatises by figures like Plutarch and Seneca (with titles such as On Restraining Anger, On Envy and Hatred or On Peace of Mind) are also directly related to spiritual exercises.
In comparing Stoic and Epicurean exercises we notice that the former wants to toughen us to be able to deal with life’s vicissitudes with integrity and calm while the latter wants to train us to relax and find serenity by not chasing the satisfaction of unnecessary desires or fearing what ought not to be feared. Fortunately we do not need to make a choice between them. As Nietzsche reminds us: “The results of all the schools and of all their experiments belong legitimately to us. We will not hesitate to adopt a Stoic formula on the pretext that we have previously profited from Epicurean formulas.”
We’ll conclude the part on spiritual exercises with the ones related to the meditations on death (meletai thanatou).
In a famous passage in the Phaedo Socrates says “that those who go about philosophizing correctly are in training for death”. What does that mean?
It actually has multiple meanings. We’ve already covered one meaning when we talked about how philosophy prepared Socrates to make the ultimate choice and chose what he thought was right over and above his own life.
Another meaning can be that “Training for death is training to die to one’s individuality and passions, in order to look at things from the perspective of universality and objectivity”or in the words of a later philosopher, Spinoza, learning to see the world from the perspective of the eternal (sub specie aeternitatis).
Different schools interpreted the meditations on death in their own way. For the Epicureans it provided a valuable tool in being able to realize the infinite value of the present moment. For the Stoics meditating on death provided an opportunity to “eliminate all the value-judgments which we bring to bear upon those things which do not depend upon us, and which therefore have no moral value. The phenomena of nature and the events of the world, once they are stripped of all the adjectives – “terrifying,” “frightening,” “dangerous,” “hideous,” “repulsive” – which humankind, in its blind anthropomorphism, applies to them, appear in their nudity and all their savage beauty. All reality is then perceived from the perspective of universal Nature, as within the flow of eternal metamorphoses of which our individual life and death are only the tiniest waves.” Death was to be held with indifference for it does not depend on us.
This shift of perspective from the particular to the universal, from the part to the whole was inherited from the Platonic tradition. As we read in Plato’s Republic:
“a soul…must constantly strive to embrace the universal totality of things divine and human…that soul to which pertain grandeur of thought and the contemplation of the totality of time and of being, do you think that it can consider human life to be a matter of great importance? Hence such a man will not suppose death to be terrible.”
The Neo-Platonists took this ascent from the particular to the universal present in the meditations on death many steps further than Plato. They agreed with Plato, that the philosopher ought to ascend towards a view of the good that is “absolute, pure, unmixed, not polluted by human flesh or colors or any other great nonsense of mortality”, thus it is no surprise to read in the Enneads of Plotinus that:
“If you do not yet see your own beauty, do as the sculptor does with a statue which must become beautiful: he removes one part, scrapes another, makes one area smooth, and cleans the other, until he causes the beautiful face in the statue to appear. In the same way, you too must remove everything that is superfluous, straighten that which is crooked, and purify all that is dark until you make it brilliant. Never stop sculpting your own statue, until the divine splendor of virtue shines in you…If you have become this…and have nothing alien inside you mixed with yourself…when you see that you have become this…concentrate your gaze and see. For it is only an eye such as this that can look on the great Beauty.”
However, in contrast to Plato who believed the philosopher can only approximate the good but can never fully reach it, the Neo-Platonists believed that with proper exercise and while going through gradual stages, you first conquer the fear of death by realizing the immortality of the soul through removing what is foreign to it:
“If one wants to know the nature of a thing, one must examine it in its pure state, since every addition to a thing is an obstacle to the knowledge of that thing. When you examine it, then, remove from it everything that is not itself; better still remove all your stains from yourself and examine yourself; and you will have faith in your immortality.”
then you reach the point where the meditation on death affords you the realization of non-duality:
“You were already the All, but because something else besides the All came to be added on to you, you have become less than the All, by the very fact of this addition. For the addition did not come about from being – what could be added to the All? – but rather from not-being. When one becomes “someone” out of not-being, one is no longer the All, until one leaves the not-being behind. Moreover, you increase yourself when you reject everything other than the All, and when you have rejected it, the All will be present to you…The All had no need to come in order to be present. If it is not present, the reason is that it is you who have distanced yourself from it. “Distancing yourself” does not mean leaving it to go someplace else – for it would be there, too. Rather, it means turning away from the All, despite the fact that it is there.”
Hadot aptly remarks that
“Here we can see how the the demonstration of the soul’s immateriality has been transformed into experience. Only he who liberates himself and purifies himself from the passions, which conceal the true reality of the soul, can understand that the soul is immaterial and immortal. Here knowledge is a spiritual exercise.”
Finally, the Neo-Platonic end goal in our training for death is none other than the death of our individuality, or to borrow a more modern term, what could be described as an instance of ego deathwhich coincides with total identification to what Plotinus calls the One. But what is the One? Edward Moore in his article on Plotinus explains:
“The ‘concept’ of the One is not, properly speaking, a concept at all, since it is never explicitly defined by Plotinus, yet it is nevertheless the foundation and grandest expression of his philosophy. Plotinus does make it clear that no words can do justice to the power of the One; even the name, ‘the One,’ is inadequate, for naming already implies discursive knowledge, and since discursive knowledge divides or separates its objects in order to make them intelligible, the One cannot be known through the process of discursive reasoning (Ennead VI.9.4). Knowledge of the One is achieved through the experience of its ‘power’ (dunamis) and its nature, which is to provide a ‘foundation’ (arkhe) and location (topos) for all existents (VI.9.6). The ‘power’ of the One is not a power in the sense of physical or even mental action; the power of the One, as Plotinus speaks of it, is to be understood as the only adequate description of the ‘manifestation’ of a supreme principle that, by its very nature, transcends all predication and discursive understanding. This ‘power,’ then, is capable of being experienced, or known, only through contemplation (theoria), or the purely intellectual ‘vision’ of the source of all things.”
This why, according to Hadot,
“In the case of the One, Plotinus makes a clear distinction between, on the one hand, “instruction,” which speaks about its object in an exterior way, and, on the other, the “path,” which truly leads to concrete knowledge of the Good: “We are instructed about it by analogies, negations, and the knowledge of things which come from it…we are led towards it by purifications, virtues, inner settings in order, and ascents into the intelligible world.” Plotinus’ writings are full of passages describing such spiritual exercises, the goal of which was not merely to know the Good, but to become identical with it, in a complete annihilation of individuality. To achieve this goal, he tells us, we must avoid thinking of any determinate form, strip the soul of all particular shape, and set aside all things other than the One. It is then that, in a fleeting blaze of light, there takes place the metamorphosis of the self:
“Then the seer no longer sees his object, for in that instant he no longer distinguishes himself from it; he no longer has the impression of two separate things, but he has, in a sense, become another. He is no longer himself, nor does he belong to himself, but he is one with the One, as the centre of one circle coincides with the centre of another.”
Before I end this subsection I want to write a few things about what this section makes abundantly clear. Philosophers in antiquity were not just scholars. To teach philosophy without including the transformative dimension of spiritual exercises is to turn it into merely a discipline for mental fitness just like the practice of Yoga is sometimes taught in a way that degrades it to mere physical fitness when its original goal was spiritual liberation (moksha). I hope that from this admittedly brief presentation of spiritual exercises in philosophy you,
“…may get some idea of the change in perspective that may occur in our reading and interpretation of the philosophical works of antiquity when we consider them from the point of view of the practice of spiritual exercises. Philosophy then appears in its original aspect: not as a theoretical construct, but as a method for training people to live and to look at the world in a new way. It is an attempt to transform mankind.”
The effects of these efforts at transformation on the city of Athens, its people and the world are what we’ll cover next.
The Effects of Philosophy
We’ve already covered quite a few of the effects of philosophy. Philosophy leads to a hunger for wisdom, increasing self-awareness and knowledge of ourselves, forming individuals rather than informing them. It helps in acquiring mastery of speech and reasoning through training in dialectics while enabling an existential choice and commitment to a way of life that through philosophical exercises philosophers attempt to live with integrity and courage, an attempt that potentially amounts to a personal transformation.
However, I feel the need to mention, once more, that just as it wasn’t possible to include everything with respect to what philosophers have done over the centuries so it was equally impossible to include all the different effects philosophies had on people, culture, institutions and civic life. Needless to say any particular omissions are not intended to downplay the importance neither of the philosophers nor of the effects omitted.
However, given the focus on the Socratic tradition I will limit myself to a brief description of the effects Socratic activity had on Athens, its people and the world.
A. Socratic activity and its effects on Athens and its people.
Philosophical activity of the Socratic variety produced a range of responses in the city of Athens. As we’ve mentioned already philosophical dialogues were not impersonal and general but personal and particular. As a result at times the same Socratic method produced opposite results in different people. Consider for instance two individuals from antiquity, Nicias and Alcibiades, and how they describe the effect Socrates had on them. Let’s start with what Nicias says about interacting with Socrates:
“Don’t you know that whoever approaches Socrates closely and begins a dialogue with him, even if he begins by talking about something entirely different, nevertheless finds himself forcibly carried around in a circle by this discourse, until he gets to the point of having to give an account of himself as much with regard to the way he is living now, as to the way he has lived his past existence. When that point is reached, Socrates doesn’t let you leave until he has submitted all that to the test of his control, well and thoroughly…It is a pleasure for me to keep company with him. I see no harm in being reminded that I have acted or am acting in a way that is not good. He who does not run away from this will necessarily be more prudent in the rest of his life”
Here we see once more a theme we’ve already covered, that with Socrates, “The point was thus no so much to question the apparent knowledge we think we have, as to question ourselves and the values which guide our own lives”. Contrast this with the response of Alcibiades:
“According to Alcibiades, Socrates’ philosophical discourse bites the heart like a viper, and provokes in the soul a state of philosophical possession, delirium, and drunkenness; in other words, the listener’s soul is completely bowled over…Alcibiades says again and again that Socrates’ incantations have a disturbing effect on him: “I was in such a state that it did not seem possible to live while behaving as I was behaving…He forces me to admit to myself that I do not take care for myself:’…It is not that Socrates is more eloquent or more brilliant than others. On the contrary, says Alcibiades, one’s first impression is that his discourses seem utterly ridiculous…Alcibiades, for his part, tried to resist his influence. He felt nothing but shame before Socrates, and in order to escape his attraction, he sometimes wished for his death.”
Passages like these make the eventual fate of Socrates become less surprising. For,
“Like a gadfly;’ Socrates harassed his interlocutors with questions which placed them in question, and obliged them to pay attention to themselves and to take care of themselves [as he says in the Apology]: “…Dear friend, you are an Athenian, citizen of a city greater and more famous than any other for its science and its power, and you do not blush at the fact that you give care to your fortune, in order to increase it as much as possible, and to your reputation and your honors; but when it comes to your thought, to your truth, to your soul, which you ought to be improving, you have no care for it, and you don’t think of it!”
Socrates was in effect the moral conscience of Athens. His tireless exhortations to philosophy through countless conversations in the Athenian agora revealed the hypocrisy and ignorance of his fellow citizens in the hopes of turning them towards virtue. Socrates paid the ultimate price in the service of something he gave to the Athenians for free: philosophy. Yet this contributed to an intellectual climate which made Athens “the school of Hellas”producing a variety of renowned disciples that with their students ended up revolutionizing human understanding, as Isocrates puts it while addressing his fellow Athenians, the students of Athens “have become the teachers of the rest of the world; and she has brought it about that the name “Hellenes” suggests no longer a race but an intelligence, and that the title “Hellenes” is applied rather to those who share our culture than to those who share a common blood”. Though the Athens of Socrates was the mother of philosophy her children belonged to the entire world.
B. The effect of philosophy on the world
The philosophical legacy of the Socratic tradition, especially as embodied in Plato and Aristotle, was nothing short of historic.
The English mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead in his magnum opus, Process and Reality, offered a timeless remark with respect to that legacy:
“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato. I do not mean the systematic scheme of thought which scholars have doubtfully extracted from his writings. I allude to the wealth of general ideas scattered through them. His personal endowments, his wide opportunities for experience at a great period of civilization, his inheritance of an intellectual tradition not yet stiffened by excessive systematization, have made his writing an inexhaustible mine of suggestion.”
Plato’s most famous student, Aristotle, didn’t do bad either. Encyclopedia Britannica calls him “the first genuine scientist in history”the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy puts him in “one of the four or five most important philosophers of any time or place” while the subsection on his influence in Wikipedia writes that:
“More than 2300 years after his death, Aristotle remains one of the most influential people who ever lived. He contributed to almost every field of human knowledge then in existence, and he was the founder of many new fields. According to the philosopher Bryan Magee, “it is doubtful whether any human being has ever known as much as he did”. Among countless other achievements, Aristotle was the founder of formal logic, pioneered the study of zoology, and left every future scientist and philosopher in his debt through his contributions to the scientific method”
Aside from their personal achievements Plato and Aristotle founded schools that lasted several centuries, the Academy arguably being considered “the first higher learning institution in the Western world”.
You’d be hard pressed to find many renowned philosophers or thinkers, especially in the Western tradition, who did not in some way refer, criticise, support or draw inspiration from the contributions of the great philosophical schools of antiquity generated by the Socratic tradition. Thus calculating their effect throughout history is surely beyond the scope of this series.
Now that we’ve covered what a philosopher does and the effects of philosophy, we may now turn to the final section which deals with who does philosophy and who is it to be done with.
Who does Philosophy and with who is it done with?
With respect to who does philosophy, the answer has already been given in both the previous part of this series and the sections above. Those who do philosophy are not motivated by a desire to make money by providing ready-made formulas they parade as knowledge but by a love for wisdom; a hunger for knowledge, beauty and the good. They love wisdom enough to make their lives be dedicated to the hard and uncertain quest of getting nearer to it, at times giving their very lives willingly in service to that calling. It is those who engage in a continuous effort to renew their resolve through spiritual exercises, questioning themselves, engaging in the slow, and sometimes painful, birthing process of their wisdom borne through dialogue under the constraints of the ethics of dialogue, revealing their own ignorance, and transforming themselves so as to reflect in thought and action the good, the just, the true and the beautiful. It is those who do not impose their views but engage only people who want to be engaged and care for the virtue of their city and fellow humans.
But who do you do philosophy with?
Looking at Socrates, we read that he conducted philosophical conversations as much with ordinary people as he did with intellectuals and artists, citizens or strangers, irrespective of wealth or age.
Plato in his Academy welcomed people of all kinds, not just from Athens but from a variety of cities, including two non-Athenian women, Axiothea of Phlius and Lastheneia of Mantinea, something extremely progressive at a time when women did not have equal rights with men.
Though philosophy can be done with everyone it is done best with those we love, those with who we fall in eros with, as we read in the Symposium. Others can enjoy the works of love but the benefits that the activity itself confers is reserved for lovers, those whom the gods and daimones favor with that divine state. That is why we find Socrates in a dialogue telling Demodocus that it is not up to him whether Theages will benefit from becoming his pupil.
However, in Greek there are multiple words for the different kinds of love. We’ve already seen the importance of eros for philosophy. Equally important is the notion of philia, the love associated with friendship, that in ancient times extended “not just to friends but also to family members, business associates, and one’s country at large.”
We see evidence of that in Xenophon’s recollections of Socrates. In a dialogue Socrates has with Antiphon, we discover that one thing beauty and wisdom have in common is that there is a noble and a shameful way to respond to them. Just as it is shameful to offer one’s beauty for money so it is with wisdom. The noble way of responding to beauty or wisdom in another is friendship. For Socrates the philosophers were the lovers of wisdom whereas the sophists were those who prostituted it.
It is the spirit of friendship that underlies the ethics of dialogue. Whether in Plato’s Academy or the school of the Epicureans friendship “was the privileged path toward and means for the transformation of one’s self.” In fact,
“In Epicurean communities friendship also had its spiritual exercises, carried out in a joyous, relaxed atmosphere. These include the public confession of one’s faults; mutual correction, carried out in a fraternal spirit; and examining one’s conscience. Above all, friendship itself was, as it were, the spiritual exercise par excellence: “Each person was to tend towards creating the atmosphere in which hearts could flourish. The main goal was to be happy, and mutual affection and the confidence with which they relied upon each other contributed more than anything else to this happiness.”
So, philosophy may be done with everyone but it is best done with lovers and friends.
We’ve covered who does philosophy, with who is it to be done with, what we learn from a philosopher and how, what are some of the effects of philosophy and what a philosopher does.
But where does one do philosophy?
That question will be addressed in the next part of this series.
Kant, Lectures on the Philosophical Encyclopedia, as quoted in P. Hadot, What is Ancient Philosophy?, p.xiii, Harvard University Press, 2004.
Reeve, C. D. C., “Plato on Friendship and Eros”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL: http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2011/entries/plato-friendship/
Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, vol.2, Book 9, 25, p.435, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press.
Plato, The Apology, 28b-c, in Plato: Complete Works, ed. by Cooper & Hutchinson, Hackett Publishing, 1997.
Plato, The Apology, 28c-d, in Plato: Complete Works, ed. by Cooper & Hutchinson, Hackett Publishing, 1997.
Plato, The Apology, 28d-29, in Plato: Complete Works, ed. by Cooper & Hutchinson, Hackett Publishing, 1997.
Recall that in the first part of this series we mentioned why Socrates believed his philosophical activity to be sacred when he was first introduced.
Plato, The Apology, 29a-c, in Plato: Complete Works, ed. by Cooper & Hutchinson, Hackett Publishing, 1997.
Plato, The Apology, 29b-c, in Plato: Complete Works, ed. by Cooper & Hutchinson, Hackett Publishing, 1997.
P. Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life, the rationale for using that choice of words can be found in p.81-82, Blackwell, 1995.
F. Nietzsche, Posthumous Fragments, Autumn 1881, as quoted by P. Hadot, What is Ancient Philosophy?, p.xviii, Harvard University Press, 2004.
Plato, Phaedo, 67e-68, in Plato: Complete Works, ed. by Cooper & Hutchinson, Hackett Publishing, 1997.
Plato, Republic, 486a, in Plato: Complete Works, ed. by Cooper & Hutchinson, Hackett Publishing, 1997.
Plato, Symposium, 211e, in Plato: Complete Works, ed. by Cooper & Hutchinson, Hackett Publishing, 1997.
From the Enneads of Plotinus as quoted in P. Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life, p.99, Blackwell, 1995. Given these passages a potentially interesting critical comparison would be between the Buddhist notion of Buddha-nature and concepts like the “All” or “One” (which we say more about just a bit later) in Plotinus.
E. Moore, “Plotinus”, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, as accessed Nov.29, 2015, URL: http://www.iep.utm.edu/plotinus/
P. Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life, p.101, Blackwell, 1995. The final quote Hadot mentions is from the Enneads of Plotinus.
Plato, Laches, 197e6. as quoted by P. Hadot, What is Ancient Philosophy?, p.28, Harvard University Press, 2004.
P. Hadot, What is Ancient Philosophy?, p.28, Harvard University Press, 2004. The quote from Plato is from The Apology, 29d-e.
The Greeks themselves called their land “Hellas” and themselves “Hellenes”. The quote is from Pericles, Funeral Oration, as quoted by Thucydides, in his History of the Peloponnesian War, Book 2, XL.4-XLI.5, p. 331, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, 1919.
Isocrates, Panegyricus, from Isocrates, vol. 1, 48-51, p.149, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, 1928.
A.N. Whitehead, Process and Reality, p.39, 2nd edition, Free Press, 1979.
Encyclopædia Britannica, The Britannica Guide to the 100 Most Influential Scientists, p.12, Running Press, 2008.
T.H. Irwin, “Aristotle”, in Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. E. Craig, Routledge, 1998.
Plato, The Apology, 30a-33b, in Plato: Complete Works, ed. by Cooper & Hutchinson, Hackett Publishing, 1997.
Helm, Bennett, “Friendship”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL: http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2013/entries/friendship/
Xenophon, Memorabilia, Book 6, 10-14, p.73-75, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, 1923.