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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter March 10, 2008

Some Remarks about a Meeting between Socrates and an Indian (Aristoxenus' fragment 53)

Joachim Lacrosse
From the journal


This article aims at discussing the origin of an Indian argument quoted by a member of the Peripatetic school at the end of the 4th Century BC. Aristoxenus' 53rd fragment tells the surprising story of a (fictitious) meeting between Socrates and an Indian in Athens. Challenging Socrates and his definition of philosophy as investigations about human life, the Indian argues that it is not possible for anyone to understand human matters (τὰ ἀνθρώπɛıα κατıδɛĩν) without considering divine ones (ἀγνοοντά γɛ τὰ θɛĩα). This argument, even though it clearly belongs to internal Greek philosophical debates, echoes the genuine and typically Indian axiom that knowledge of the human self is knowledge of God and vice-versa, which is one of the major commonplaces in traditional Brahmanic thought. By discussing successively the historical context of the fragment, some related Platonic passages and some Indian parallels on the issue, the article shows that Aristoxenus' fragment is one of the first and only texts, historically, in which a typical Greek philosophical argument is challenged by an authentic Indian proposition translated into an argument based on Greek conceptual categories.

Published Online: 2008-03-10
Published in Print: 2007-11-20

© Walter de Gruyter

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