Plato's Conception of Divination
Landry, Aaron James
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I take one of the goals of Plato’s dialogues is to stake out a territory for philosophy. In order to do this, Plato evaluates and critiques other, more established, disciplines like rhetoric, the sophistic movement, poetry, and finally, divination. The last, in particular, has been neglected even though it arises in nearly all stages of Plato’s writing. Accordingly, in my dissertation, I interrogate the ways in which Plato embodies Greek norms about divination, but I also investigate how he transforms it, once he subject it to philosophical evaluation. Plato never denies the authenticity of divination, but he does curtail its scope. He considers it a craft, but he also claims that the best seers are those who are divinely inspired. I analyze this puzzle, together with connection between divination and madness. Finally, I examine whether Plato's distinction between technical and possession divination is too polarizing. My principal evidence is Diotima in Plato's Symposium; she is a superlative seer who discursively engages with Socrates about the nature of Eros, even though she should not be able to do so according to Plato's own distinction. In the end, I hope that this dissertation underscores the increasingly accepted contention of Plato's pervasive religiosity.