By what is the soul nourished? - On the art of the physician of souls in Plato’s Protagoras

In Olof Pettersson & Vigdis Songe-Møller (eds.), Plato’s Protagoras: Essays on the Confrontation of Philosophy and Sophistry. Springer. pp. 79-97 (2017)
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Abstract

This article explores the motif of psychic nourishment in Plato’s Protagoras. It does so by analyzing what consequences Socrates’ claim that only a physician of souls will be able adequately to assess the quality of such nourishment has for the argument of the dialogue. To this purpose, the first section of the article offers a detailed analysis of Socrates’ initial conversation with Hippocrates, highlighting and interpreting the various uses of medical metaphors. Building on this, this section argues that the warning Socrates utters against sophistry is much more complex than commonly assumed, and further that Socrates demonstrates his own skill as a physician of souls during this conversation. The second part analyzes the first half of Socrates’ discussion with Protagoras, arguing that Socrates here demonstrates another aspect of his expertise as a physician of souls by making Protagoras participate, although against his will, in bringing the unhealthy character of his teachings to light.

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