Aristophanic Themes in Plato’s Republic
Cover of issue 41.1
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Aristophanic Themes in Plato’s Republic: A Post-Voegelinian Reading. (2017). The Political Science Reviewer, 41(1), 1-32.


In Plato’s Philebus, Socrates surprises us when he mentions, as if in passing, “all the tragedy and comedy of life” Of life itself. If the philosophical life is the examined life, one might assume that reflection on the comic aspects of life would have its proper place in philosophy. And if an examined life would be incomplete without a way of expressing itself, one might also assume that the Socratic dialogue is Plato’s unique attempt to develop a fitting literary form. The Symposium ends anticlimactically with Socrates trying to persuade Agathon and Aristophanes, both tired and drunk, that “the same man should know how to write comedy and tragedy.” In other words, that “a skilled tragedian is also a comedian”—a statement that is not a prefiguring of Shakespeare or Beckett, of course, but rather a hint Plato gives us about the nature of his art. It is conventional for scholars to note that these passages are called into question by the agreement reached in the Republic between Adeimantus and Socrates that the same person cannot be a skilled imitator in both tragedy and comedy, but I see no reason why the argument should not run the other way: the Symposiumand Philebus might call arguments in the Republic into question. Adeimantus is a sober fellow, after all, and a bit too precise. It might even have been his habit to leave the theatre before the satyr play came on. 

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