This paper explores Lucian's presentation of the philosopher as a creator of discourse. In particular, the paper argues that the lack of control over the discourse, once it is passed on, is at the core of Lucian's treatment of philosophers. An analysis of this eminently Platonic problem allows the interpretation both to go beyond the simplistic view that Lucian has no real philosophical interest at all but merely follows the Second Sophistic trend of subordinating philosophy to rhetoric, and to qualify the idea that the dissolution of the authorial voice represents a sense of rupture experienced on the margins of the Roman empire. More importantly, this approach opens up new possibilities to understand two portraits of philosophers in Lucian's oeuvre that stand out for their positive character, Nigrinus and Demonax. While the latter work depicts a philosopher who uses words sparingly, but ideally enables a cognitive progress in the interlocutor, the former—a portrait of a “Platonist”—stages the breakdown of philosophical teaching by focusing on the impact of the philosopher's discourse on an underprepared student. The paper argues that Lucian, while posing as a reader of Plato in shaping his characters, raises the question of whether Plato himself succeeded as a philosophical writer, or whether in Lucian's eyes Plato's success as a writer was perhaps also his failure as a philosopher. But rather than shaping his own texts in opposition to philosophy, Lucian, like Plato, explores untrodden literary ways of addressing the most fundamental of philosophical problems, namely philosophy's expression in language.
Research Article| October 01 2010
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Karin Schlapbach; The logoi of Philosophers in Lucian of Samosata. Classical Antiquity 1 October 2010; 29 (2): 250–277. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/CA.2010.29.2.250
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