Alexey Zhavoronkov 1
  • 1 Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Goncharnaya str., 12/1, Moscow, 109240, Russian Federation

The Philosopher and the State: Hannah Arendt on the Philosophy of Socrates

2017, vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 303–318 [issue contents]
My paper provides a critical analysis of the epistemic, moral, social, and political implications of Arendt’s view of the Socratic method. In both her earlier (1954) and later (1974) lectures on Socrates, Arendt depicts him as a thinker who overcomes the gap between the contemplative life of a philosopher and the life of an active citizen. Arendt contrasts the Socratic dialog of equal opinions which takes place between friends with the Platonic monologue of a teacher delivering the truth to his students. Despite some significant flaws in her opposition of Socrates and Plato, her view proves to be a useful leitmotif connecting her lectures with several of her main works, those of “The Human Condition”, “On Revolution”, and “Eichmann in Jerusalem.” Arendt uses her picture of Socrates as a supporting argument in her analysis of the public role of opinion, of the distinctive traits of the inner dialog, and of the connection between thinking and action. Although Arendt does not give a direct answer to the question of the usefulness of Socrates’ actions for Athens and remains sceptical regarding the possibility of philosophical thinkers to influence the social life, she provides valid arguments in favor of the necessity of the Socratic method in the case of a crisis of collective values. Her conclusions allow us to use her interpretation in modern debates on conservatism, on the re-evaluation of differences between the private and the public sphere, and on the public role of opinion in light of the development of new forms of communication.
Citation: Zhavoronkov A. (2017) Filosof i gosudarstvo: Khanna Arendt o filosofii Sokrata [The Philosopher and the State: Hannah Arendt on the Philosophy of Socrates]. The Russian Sociological Review, vol. 16, no 3, pp. 303-318 (in Russian)
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