Socrates Mystagogos : Initiation into inquiry book cover
1st Edition

Socrates Mystagogos
Initiation into inquiry

ISBN 9781315609812
Published October 14, 2016 by Routledge
200 Pages

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Book Description

For Socrates, philosophy is not like Christian conversion from error to truth, but rather it is like the pagan process whereby a young man is initiated into cult mysteries by a more experienced man - the mystagogos - who prepares him and leads him to the sacred precinct. In Greek cult religion, the mystagogos prepared the initiate for the esoteric mysteries revealed by the hierophant. Socrates treats traditional wisdom with scepticism, and this makes him appear ridiculous or dangerous in the eyes of cultural conservatives. Nevertheless, his scepticism is not radical: custom is not something on which we must turn our backs if we are to pursue the truth. Socrates assumes an epistemology and employs a method by which he induces his companions to begin the critical and self-critical process of philosophical inquiry, not ignoring conventional wisdom, but thinking through and reinterpreting it as they make constructive progress towards the truth. He provides conclusive and convincing arguments in support of controversial answers to some of the most important moral questions he poses.

Table of Contents



Chapter 1: Socratic Skepticism


Section 1: Subversive and Unversive Transgression in Comedy

Section 2: Unversive Transgression in Greek Cult Festivals

Section 3: Aristophanic Conservatism, Socratic Liberalism

Section 4: The Causality of Humor

Section 5: Introducing Socrates Mystagogos


Chapter 2: Socratic Epistemology


Section 1: "The Socratic Fallacy" Refuted

Section 2: "The Socratic Fallacy" Revived

Section 3: Socratic Dogmatism

Section 4: Socratic Refutation

Section 5: Socratic "Folk Epistemology"

Section 6: Refutation, Induction, and the Use of Examples

Section 7: "The Socratic Fallacy," Again


Chapter 3: Socratic Method


Section 1: "The Problem" of the Socratic Method

Section 2: Why Socrates’ Refutations are Reasonable

Section 3: Interpretive Misconceptions

Section 4: What Guarantee does Socrates have that he is right?


Chapter 4: Socratic Piety


Section 1: Socrates the Anti-Authoritarian?

Section 2: Two Theories of Civil Disobedience

Section 3: Politico-Epistemic Humility in the Apology

Section 4: Politico-Epistemic Humility in the Crito



Section 1: Socrates Mystagogos

Section 2: Socrates and Martin Luther King

List of References

General Index

Index Locorum

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Don Adams received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Reed College and from there went directly to Cornell University, where he studied with Terence Irwin, Gail Fine, and Norman Kretzmann. His Ph.D. dissertation was a comparative study of love and friendship in the moral theories of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas. He has taught logic and the history of European philosophy - especially ancient Greek philosophy - at about half a dozen colleges and universities across the United States. He is currently Professor of Philosophy at Central Connecticut State University.


"How should we think about what Socrates is doing when he engages this or that youth in conversation? Don Adams’ book offers an answer to this question, inspired by an ancient Greek religious ritual: Socrates is on a mystagogic mission to sting his interlocutor into an epistemological state of inquiry ... Socrates Mystagogos: Initiation into Inquiry is a thought-provoking defense of Socratic practice that will be of interest to a mixed, if not quite well-defined, scholarly audience."

- Andreas Avgousti, Columbia University, USA, in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 2017