The ambiguity of Plato's Menexenus: a school manifesto

Author: Storti, Tito
Source document: Graeco-Latina Brunensia. 2021, vol. 26, iss. 1, pp. 191-209
Extent
191-209
  • ISSN
    1803-7402 (print)
    2336-4424 (online)
Type: Article
Language
English
Abstract(s)
No general agreement has yet been reached about the meaning and purpose of Plato's Menexenus. Two mutually exclusive readings have generally been given: Socrates' funeral oration could be either a parody and a satire of Athens' funeral speeches or an example of better, idealistic, maybe even philosophically grounded rhetoric. However, the problem does not only come from the dichotomy present in most scholars' works. It lies, instead, in the ambiguity of the text itself. This paper aims to clarify the serious implications that parody can have. Exemplarity and parody, irony and seriousness should not be considered as mutually exclusive because an imitation that seriously demonstrates how easy it is to write a good epitaph can be understood as a form of parody. In fact, Plato's Menexenus seems to be a school manifesto: it recalls Callicles' charges against the educational value of philosophical practices (Grg. 484c-485d). Therefore, it may be directed against Isocrates' conception of rhetoric as related to education and politics. The mention of the Peace of Antalcidas (245c) will then prove the topical and thus political character of this work.
Document
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