Plato's Animals: Gadflies, Horses, Swans, and Other Philosophical Beasts (Studies in Continental Thought)
Plato's Animals examines the crucial role played by animal images, metaphors, allusions, and analogies in Plato's Dialogues. These fourteen lively essays demonstrate that the gadflies, snakes, stingrays, swans, dogs, horses, and other animals that populate Plato's work are not just rhetorical embellishments. Animals are central to Plato's understanding of the hierarchy between animals, humans, and gods and are crucial to his ideas about education, sexuality, politics, aesthetics, the afterlife, the nature of the soul, and philosophy itself. The volume includes a comprehensive annotated index to Plato’s bestiary in both Greek and English.
Gibbs 517 (515). 74. Gibbs 520 (108). 75. Gibbs 515 (240). 76. “Zeus and the Ant,” Gibbs 514 (311). It is worth including it here in its entirety given the resemblances it bears to the versions of this myth found in Plato’s Protagoras (320c–322d) and alluded to in the Philebus (16c–e): “They say that in the beginning, when the animals were being formed, they received their endowments from Zeus. To some he gave strength, and to some speed, and to others wings. Man, however, was still naked so
lifelong sleep by turning them through questioning away from the pursuit of material gain and toward the acquisition of virtue. Though he believes this stinging or goading to be a unique service to the city, he is well aware that the city may not see it the same way and so may swat him down in order to get back to its everyday business, that is, from Socrates’s perspective, in order to fall back into its mindless slumber. It all seems fairly straightforward and transparent, even if, upon
noteworthy that Socrates does not oppose the image of himself as a gadfly to the image of the city as a horse tout court. As Justina Gregory has demonstrated, horses enjoyed a largely positive assessment in Attic culture, literature, and semiotics, conveying, among other qualities, “pent-up strength and vigor” (197).3 It is for this reason that, when he likens the city to a large and sleepy horse, Socrates claims that his concern is over the city’s lethargy, not its equinity. What comes to the
Socrates further down a path he is hesitant to take, a path that requires him to articulate the nature of the Good Itself and education in gymnastics, mathematics, and ultimately dialectic. Along this road Socrates is reticent to take, the scent of dogs is in the air, pointing in the direction of the longer road to which Socrates gestures. For in the final step of his account of the education that would be necessary for the guardians to become philosophers, Socrates comes to the highest study:
Ibid., 4. 8. If Xenophon’s Symposium is to be believed, Socrates himself anticipated the suggestion that smell might be a sense of philosophical discernment. That dialogue takes place at the house of Callias, where Socrates and others gathered to celebrate the victory of Autolycus at the pancratium. Autolycus, a young man with whom Callias was in love, was accompanied by his father, Lycon. Their names evoke the Greek, λύκος, wolf. Surrounded in this way by wolves, they turn their attention to