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The Sacrifice of Socrates

Wm. Blake Tyrrell

Publication Year: 2012

When Athenians suffered the shame of having lost a war from their own greed and foolishness, around 404 BCE the public’s blame was directed at Socrates, a man whose unique appearance and behavior, as well as his disapproval of the democracy, made him a ready target. Socrates was subsequently put on trial and sentenced to death. However, as René Girard has pointed out, no individual can be held responsible for a communal crisis. Plato’s Apology depicts Socrates as both the bane and the cure of Greek society, while his Crito shows a sacrificial Socrates, what some might consider a pharmakos figure, the human drug through whom Plato can dispense his philosophical remedies. With tremendous insight and satisfying complexity, this book analyzes classical texts through the lens of Girard’s mimetic mechanism.

Published by: Michigan State University Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

In the late 1980s Larry Joe Bennett and I began researching the Socrates of Plato’s Apology of Socrates as a pharmakos figure. Encountering resistance to our nonhistorical approach, we turned to Aristophanes’ Knights, whose underlying structure...

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p. xi

Squire Sancho may “make out a bloke on a donkey, brown like mine, with something shiny on his head,” but his master espies the enchanted helmet of the Moorish king Mambrino and has to have it for his own.1 With it, Don Quixote can become a knight...

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Chapter 1. Mimesis, Conflict, and Crisis

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pp. 1-40

In the Greek contest system, all men share, relative to their social position, the roles of subject and model, for all desire to possess all the goods of society for themselves, and anyone can be an object of envy. One aristocrat differs little from another, and they all...

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Chapter 2. Plato’s Victimary Culture

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pp. 41-72

Religious activities were embedded in every aspect of a Greek’s life. Children across Hellas had watched and participated in sacrificial processions as long as they could remember. Processions that led a victim to the god’s altar happened every day. Few thought...

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Chapter 3. Aristophanes’ Ready Victim

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pp. 73-90

When the Athenians returned to their city aft er the retreat of the Persians in 479 bce to find its walls, temples, and buildings razed, they wanted what any Greek would want: walls. Not all desire is mimetic.1 A hungry or thirsty person is not imitating the desire of another for food or drink. Th us protected by...

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Chapter 4. Foundation Murder

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pp. 91-150

Like other Greeks, Athenians valorized themselves through the τιμή paid them by others. Timê, the value placed upon or respect given to someone, is usually translated as “honor.” The more a man was valued because of his deeds in the fighting, the more he was honored by the community with gift s and prizes of...


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pp. 151-174


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pp. 175-184


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pp. 185-189

E-ISBN-13: 9781609173388
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611860542

Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 811400635
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Sacrifice of Socrates

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Subject Headings

  • Socrates.
  • Plato.
  • Girard, René, 1923-.
  • Athens (Greece) -- History -- Thirty Tyrants, 404-403 B.C.
  • Greece -- History -- Peloponnesian War, 431-404 B.C.
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