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Abstract | The Anaxagorean-Socratic Moment in the History of the Philosophos

The half-dozen fifth-century attestations to the word philosophos (and its cognates), from Eastern and Western Greece, do not promise the term’s longevity. But it did live on, crystallizing in Athens the discipline called philosophia around it. I argue for a late-fifth century conduit for the name’s preservation and success. Anaxagoras and his associates appear to have been called philosophoi by their Athenian contemporaries, probably for their intellectual and practical affinity to Empedocles. Their fame grew as they were judged cynically to advocate impiety in rhetorically and politically effective ways. Plato and Xenophon present Socrates as conflated with Anaxagoreans and thus stuck with the appellation philosophos. They failed in their efforts to dissociate Socrates from philosophia. But Plato at least – with Thucydides, Isocrates, and others – softened that failure by wringing a charitable reconstruction from the earlier usages.

About Christopher Moore

Christopher Moore (PhD University of Minnesota) is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Classics at The Pennsylvania State University. His dissertation, “Socratic Persuasion,” addressed Socrates’ self-presentation in the language of democracy, oratory, and seduction, and argued for an analysis of persuasion that weakens the charges against it of epistemic poverty. He has published a range of articles on the Socratic circle, the Platonic dialogues, and ancient Greek moral vocabulary. A book, Socrates and Self-Knowledge, will come out with Cambridge UP in 2015; it describes the relationship between the Delphic gnôthi sauton and Socratic philosophy. He is now finishing an edited collection on the Socratic literature from the fifth-century BC through late antiquity and co-authoring a translation of and commentary on Plato’s Charmides. His CHS book project describes the coining of and earliest debates about the word philosophos.

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