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A Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science

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Volume 51, Issue 4


Spiritual Pregnancy in Plato’s Theaetetus

Dylan B. Futter
Published Online: 2018-09-28 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/apeiron-2017-0051


Socrates’ midwife metaphor in Theaetetus depends logically on the concept of male spiritual pregnancy. Male spiritual pregnancy is typically understood as a process in which a young man develops in his mind a theory or idea; a spiritual child is, on this view, a theory; and spiritual childbirth is the painful movement of a developed theory from the mind into the speech-world. Although this account of spiritual pregnancy and maieutics is widely accepted in the scholarship, it cannot be upheld. The intelligibility of Socrates’ midwife metaphor requires the recognition of two different kinds of pregnancy, the false and the true. The first and false kind is roughly as the standard interpretation says that it is: a theory germinating in the mind; but Theaetetus’s true spiritual child is not a theory of knowledge—it is wisdom in his soul; true spiritual pregnancy is the actualisation of the soul’s potential for wisdom.

Keywords: Socrates; midwife metaphor; Plato; Theaetetus; Socratic method


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About the article

Published Online: 2018-09-28

Published in Print: 2018-10-25

Citation Information: Apeiron, Volume 51, Issue 4, Pages 483–514, ISSN (Online) 2156-7093, ISSN (Print) 0003-6390, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/apeiron-2017-0051.

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