Alcibiade e il morso di Socrate: un caso di coscienza

Fulvia De Luise


Alcibiades and Socrates’ Bite: the Shame and the Conscience

This reflection has got two focuses, which correspond to two different objects of investigation. The first one concerns Alcibiades, the Platonic character who gives a puzzling representation of his relationship with Socrates in the latter part of the Symposium (215a-216c): he describes the particular state of consciousness the philosopher has determined in him (with a “viper bite” effect) and the painful experience of the shame he says he is always feeling, whenever he happens to be face-to-face with Socrates. The second one concerns the role that the experience of shame can play in building a personal identity: the report intends to revisit the by now classical opposition between «shame culture» and «guilty culture», posing some questions about the grasp of these patterns on the moral culture of a complex society such as the fifth-century Athens and Plato’s position in this context. A specific hypothesis concerns the strategy built by Plato in the Symposium in order to reformulate the aristocratic ethics - of Homeric matrix -, which still pushes the educated citizens of the Age of Pericles to give extraordinary importance to the gaze of others, from which they get the image of themselves. The story of Alcibiades seems to show the opportunity of giving a different trend to the processes of consciousness in which the self-image is formed. In fact, a new and better way of self-building emerges, but as a misunderstood opportunity, from Socratic paideia: accepting to live, in a conscious and active way, the painful experience of inner division. The feeling of shame seems playing a key role in Alcibiades’ tale, which can be used as a phenomenological source. The arguments put forward by Bernard Williams in Shame and Necessity (1993) will be used to enter a further reflection on the possibility of a good social use of the “system of shame”.


Fulvia; De Luise; Socrate; Alcibiades; Bernard Williams

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