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Plato’s Phaedo: The Initiation of a Philosopher

October 4, 2016 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

Portrait image of David Ebrey seated in a crowd with a microphone speaking and gesturing (wearing a black shirt)

Monday Seminar:

David Ebrey

Solmsen Fellow (2016-2017)

Philosophy, Northwestern University


Plato’s Phaedo is one of his literary and philosophical masterpieces, set on the last day of Socrates’ life. How should we understand Socrates’ reference to Pythagorean and Orphic religious views in the dialogue? Is this a separate feature of dialogue, independent of the detailed philosophical arguments? Instead of being religious window-dressing, I argue that Socrates gives these views precise accounts and an important role in the arguments, appropriating and transforming Pythagorean and Orphic views to present a radical new account of the soul, the good life, and the nature of reality. This reading allows us to see how the different elements of the dialogue fit together to form a cohesive philosophical vision.


David Ebrey (Ph.D., UCLA) works on ancient Greek philosophy, primarily on Plato and Aristotle. So far his research on Plato has focused on Socratic inquiry, the value of knowledge, moral education, and Platonic forms. His research on Aristotle has focused on matter in Aristotle’s natural philosophy and syllogisms in his logic. He has published in journals such as Journal of the History of Philosophy, Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie, and British Journal of the History of Philosophy, and he has edited a volume, Theory and Practice in Aristotle’s Natural Science (Cambridge, 2015). He has received a Mellon Postdoc (2007-2009), Alice Kaplan Humanities Institute Fellowship (2011-2012), and a Spencer Foundation Grant (2012-2013). He was a visiting fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge in 2013. He is currently working on a book on Plato’s Phaedo.


October 4, 2016
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
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University Club, Room 212
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States