61st Thomasfest lecture examines inner self, struggle

While it is now in its 61st year, the longest-runninng annual activity on campus, this year’s Thomasfest Lecture explored a question thousands of years old: How do we identify our inner selves to resolve our internal struggles and contradictions?

This question stood at the center of Tuesday evening’s lecture in Kennedy Auditorium entitled “The Self in Itself” presented by Greek philosophy expert Professor Michael Davis of Sarah Lawrence College.

The lecture featured a discussion of an oft-forgotten work by Plato, “Alcibiades I.” In this dialogue, a young Socrates attempts to mentor the ambitious young Athenian statesman named Alcibiades on the place of justice in governance and in war.

Socrates seeks to win the favor of Alcibiades by engaging him in a discussion of “the self in itself,” a line in the dialogue from which Davis’ lecture draws its title.

Davis drew the attention of those assembled to a set of three puzzles drawn out from both the text of and history surrounding “Alcibiades I”: Why is it no longer a source of serious scholarly attention, what is the nature of Socrates’ failure in convincing the young Alcibiades of the importance of justice and why does Plato introduce the concept of the “self” in the form of a grammatical ambiguity in the original Greek?

Through a studious — and at times, eclectic — reading of the text in both English and its original ancient Greek, Davis walked the audience through the slippery nature of the “self” that Socrates and his interlocutor seek to resolve.

This revealed the troubled nature of Alcibiades’ own internal psychology and its relationship to his desire for continental conquest.

Davis demonstrated the complexities of drawing a comprehensive notion of the self from the opinions of others and society at large.

By: Ryan Kambich | Opinions & Editorials Editor