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Naming the wise: the 'sophos', the 'philosophos' and the 'sophistes' in Plato

Silva, Trinidad; (2017) Naming the wise: the 'sophos', the 'philosophos' and the 'sophistes' in Plato. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

In the first half of the fourth century BCE, when Plato is writing his dialogues, the titles ‘sophist’ and ‘philosopher’ have no widely-accepted application and, as a result, the use of them for some purposes rather than others is controversial and subject to dispute. In the tradition that follows Plato, ‘philosophy’ becomes a term of art and the philosophos is distinguished from the class of the sophistai and other alleged sophoi such as poets, orators and politicians. Considering Plato is among other competitors for the appropriation and legitimisation of these labels, the present dissertation examines the importance each of these notions have in the Platonic corpus, drawing attention to the way they are (re)defined and appropriated, whether they are novel or distinct. By observing examples in pre-Platonic and Platonic literature, section I of the thesis focuses on sophos/sophia, section II on philosophos/philosophia and section III on sophistēs. The investigation allows us to reassess two problems that have not been fully considered in Platonic scholarship: (i) Plato’s conception of 'sophia' within the Greek tradition of wisdom, and (ii) the identity of and distinction between the philosopher and the sophist in Plato’s dialogues. I intend to consider both Plato’s inheritance from the tradition and Plato’s own contribution to creating an identity for the sophistēs and the philosophos from a deeper understanding of sophos/sophia. The legacy of the precedent tradition is reflected by the presence of the agonistic, authoritative, and moral strands. Plato’s contribution, on the other hand, is reflected by the presence of two elements, namely the principle whereby these titles are meaningful names, and a consistent conceptualisation of them in epistemic terms. I propose that Plato makes use of the meaning of these words by conceiving of them more as descriptors than as titles of authority or reputation. By using ‘real’ definitions, he is allowed to confront the ‘apparent’ with the ‘real sophos’ (Apology), to create a narrative of love for the philosopher (Phaedo, Lysis, Symposium and Republic), and to argue that the sophist ‘seems to know’—hence the name 'sophistēs' (Sophist).

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Naming the wise: the 'sophos', the 'philosophos' and the 'sophistes' in Plato
Event: UCL
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Greek and Latin
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10032794
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