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Comic Socrates?: The Clouds, taste and philosophy

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

Forthcoming
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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>21/10/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Cultural Politics
Publication StatusAccepted/In press
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

In the Clouds, Aristophanes apparently ridicules Socratic philosophy as a useless, essentially passive preoccupation, which, ‘twisted’ in wrong hands, can seriously harm the City. But such an instrumentalist reading of the Clouds (and of philosophy) misses a crucial point regarding the relation between philosophy and comedy. Insofar as philosophy, love of wisdom, is irreducible to wisdom, insofar as, in other words, philosophy is also a matter of taste (a concept which seeks to combine knowledge and pleasure), the Clouds can be read as an ironic-comic defense of philosophy. To discuss this, the paper reads the Clouds in the perspective of free use. This reading makes it possible to articulate two distinct but related senses of perverting philosophy, which are evidenced with material from within the play: the reduction of reason to instrumental reason and/or to State philosophy. To end with, the paper discusses the relationship between comedy and philosophy in more general terms.