UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Choruses of virtue : narrative mediation as ethical habituation in Plato’s dialogues White, Lexie


In Book VII of the fifth-century BCE Athenian philosopher, Plato’s, dialogue the Laws, the ‘Athenian Stranger’ claims that lawmakers are producers of the finest and truest tragedy, which true law alone can produce to perfection. This appears to contradict statements elsewhere in Plato’s corpus which suggest that tragedy, especially fifth-century Athenian tragedy, is morally damaging for both its audience and performers. Previous scholarship has attempted to trace the influence of Athenian tragedy on the development of Plato’s philosophy and his use of the dialogue form, but few consider the narrative, socio-political, religious, and pedagogical function of the tragic chorus in connection with Plato’s dialogues. This thesis, employing narratological concepts such as focalization, metalepsis, and time, examines Plato’s use of narrative voice in his dialogues as a pedagogical scaffold and protreptic for the internalization of virtue and pursuit of the philosophical life. Plato’s philosophical narrators are revealed to belong to a Socratic circle and are described as being ‘initiated’ into the mysteries of philosophy in a manner analogous to initiation into Dionysus’ cult, achieved through participation and purification through dance in the tragic chorus. Plato’s appropriation of the tragic dramatic form therefore runs deeper than has been previously maintained and demonstrates the necessity of ethical habituation through mimēsis as a precursor to the achievement of eudaimonia or human flourishing.

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