Carla Francalanci

Carla Francalanci

Title : Love, speech and charm in the Charmides: reading the dialogue through emotions


Plato’s Charmides can be seen as paradigmatic in several aspects, when one investigates how emotions are present and what is their role in the dialogues. The environment of this dialogue is clearly erotic, with the beauty of the young Charmides and the attraction of Socrates by him serving as a frame for the development of the theme, the search for temperance. Temperance in its turn appears through this erotic framing in a double register: both as a theme sought by the interlocutors and in action, through Socrates’ need to contain his infatuation and also through Critias’ need to contain his desire for distinction (philotimía – 162c) before the youngster, with whom he is equally in love, in order to carry on the discussion. Moreover, in the dialogue between Socrates and Critias, love leaves the context of the desire for the youngster to play a new but not less important role: the love of truth stated by Socrates at the base of the discussion confers a new meaning to the interlocution, allowing the philosopher to operate the shift from an eristic environment, in which the debaters are opponents and which inevitably ends in a separation between winner and loser, to the friendly and gathering background proposed by Socrates, where those who argue are engaged in a common search, and should bring the discussion to a close, even if it is an aporetic one, as friends.

My aim in this paper is to perform a reading of the Charmides through the emotions present in this dialogue, in order to highlight the different roles they play, both explicitly in the construction of dialogue and in a more subtle one, the role of conductors or generators of the friendly dialogical environment that allows Socrates to carry out his proposal for a philosophical activity. Therefore, the main points I want to emphasize are: there is a polysemy of love present in the Charmides; Each of the ways in which this feeling presents itself contributes as much to the explicit realization of philosophy as to expose as an image the main theme of the dialogue, temperance; Love, in the sense of philía, constitutes the friendly atmosphere which, by engaging the interlocutors together in the quest for determining what temperance is, allows philosophy to distinguish itself as a new position of speech which opposes the eristic praxis.

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