Philosophy as Agôn

Paper Text – $34.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3797-4

Cloth Text – $99.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3798-1

E-book – $34.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3799-8
Publication Date
October 2018
Page Count
240 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

Philosophy as Agôn

A Study of Plato’s Gorgias and Related Texts
Robert Metcalf

In Philosophy as Agôn: A Study of Plato's Gorgias and Related Texts, Robert Metcalf offers a fresh interpretation of Plato's dialogues as dramatic texts whose philosophy is not so much a matter of doctrine as it is a dynamic, nondogmatic, and open-ended practice of engaging others in agonistic dialogue.

Metcalf challenges prevailing interpretations according to which the agôn (contest or struggle) between the interlocutors in the dialogues is inessential to Plato's philosophical purpose, or simply a reflection of the cultural background of ancient Greek life. Instead, he argues that Plato understands philosophy as essentially agonistic—involving the adversarial engagement of others in dialogue such that one's integrity is put to the test through this engagement, and where the agôn is structured so as to draw adversaries together in agreement about the matters at issue, though that agreement is always open to future contest.

Based on a careful reading of the Gorgias and related Socratic dialogues, such as Apology and Theaetetus, Metcalf contends that agôn is indispensable to the critique of prevailing opinions, to the transformation of the interlocutor through shame-inducing refutation, and to philosophy as a lifelong training (askêsis) of oneself in relation to others.
About the Author

ROBERT METCALF is a professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado, Denver.

"This book greatly enriches our understanding of the Socratic elenchus, especially in relation to philosophy as a way of living. It will be insightful for scholars interested in the Gorgias, but also in the interplay between reason and emotion in the dialogues. I highly recommend this book." —Marina Berzins McCoy, author of Plato on the Rhetoric of Philosophers and Sophists

"Clearly, a lot of ink has been spilt by scholars about Socratic method and the particular dialogues taken up in Metcalf's monograph, but what he has to offer is both new and persuasive. The philosophical and scholarly work that Metcalf does in his introduction is more than many scholars manage in an entire monograph. Refreshingly fruitful and brilliant." —Jill Gordon, author of Plato's Erotic World: From Cosmic Origins to Human Death