Poetics before Plato: Interpretation and Authority in Early Greek Theories of Poetry

By Grace M. Ledbetter | Go to book overview

Chapter Five
Toward a Model of Socratic Interpretation

WE HAVE SEEN how the Ion challenges the Homeric conception of the poet as possessor and conveyer of divine knowledge, and how the Apology portrays Socrates as subverter of the poets' own authority in matters of interpretation. In the Apology, Socrates concurs with the traditional presumption that poetry encodes god-sent wisdom at the same time he disputes the tradition that credits that wisdom to poets. Socrates implies that the qualified interpreter, unlike the poet, can extract poetry's wisdom, but the Apology does not illustrate this hermeneutical enterprise with a specific example in which we may glimpse Socrates demonstrating his method of eliciting the meaning of some particular work of poetry. The one illustration of Socratic interpretation that the Apology does provide adapts Socratic hermeneutics to interpret nothing less than the Delphic oracle. As I shall show, Socrates' interpretation of the oracle illustrates the Socratic approach to interpreting a divinely inspired text. First, however, I shall turn to the Protagoras, where Socrates supplies an extended interpretation of a wellknown poem by Simonides.1 Unfortunately, Socrates' dialectical position in the Protagoras complicates the task of reading his interpretation as an illustration of Socratic poetics. His reading of Simonides' poem parodies sophistic methods of literary criticism so extravagantly that we may be tempted to dismiss it as mere pastiche. Doing so would prevent us from seeing that, in Socrates' caricature of sophistical methods of literary criticism and in his ridicule of their faulty hermeneutical assumptions, the Protagoras should be taken to illustrate the contrasting method and opposed assumptions of Socratic interpretation.

To be sure, Socrates' performance as a critic is deeply ironic. Commentators have been correct in their widely shared view that the episode attacks sophistical interpretive practices with an attempt to outdo the sophists at their own game. The interpretation Socrates presents is strained, anachro-

1 As we shall see, Socrates' position here, as in the Apology and Ion, remains firmly distinct
from Plato's well-known critique of the poets. The Protagorais views are not informed by
the Republic's ethical and metaphysical arguments against the value of poetry (the occurance
of μιμείσθαι at 348a3 notwithstanding [see Carson 1992, p. 111]). This may be taken to sup-
ply an additional argument for including the Protagoras among either the early or transitional
dialogues. See T. Irwin, Plato's Moral Theory (Oxford, 1977), p. 292. On the chronology of
the Platonic dialogues in general, see L. Brandwood, “Stylometry and chronology,” in R.
Kraut, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Plato (Cambridge, 1992), pp. 90–120.

-99-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Poetics before Plato: Interpretation and Authority in Early Greek Theories of Poetry
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Abbreviations xi
  • Introduction - Poetry, Knowledge, and Interpretation 1
  • Chapter One - Supernatural Knowledge in Homeric Poetics 9
  • Chapter Two - Hesiod's Naturalism 40
  • Chapter Three - Pindar: the Poet as Interpreter 62
  • Chapter Four - Socratic Poetics 78
  • Chapter Five - Toward a Model of Socratic Interpretation 99
  • Bibliographic References 119
  • Index 125
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
/ 128

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.