“Exactly as you see me” (Charmides 153b8)

The Function of Narration in Plato's Charmides


  • Noa Ayalon University of Haifa




Plato, Charmide, narrative, sophrosune, virtue, ethics


Plato’s Charmides is a narrated dialogue. In this paper, I will argue that the literary device of narration plays an interesting and resourceful role in advancing the philosophical aims and ideas presented in the text. In particular, it exposes the inner workings of the souls of the dialogue’s characters, thus enabling us, the readers, to judge whether the inner and outer projections of each character cohere. One of the most important definitions of sophrosune suggested in the Charmides is that moderation is self-knowledge, which is expressed in a strong correlation between what one feels and thinks and their actions. I will argue that the narration of the dialogue aids and exemplifies the philosophical lesson it teaches about sophrosune, even if the suggested definition of the virtue is formally rejected.


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Primary Sources:
Plato, Charmides, translated by Rosamond Kent Sprague, in Plato: Complete Works, ed. By John M. Cooper (Hackett, 1997).

Secondary Literature:
Kahn, Charles H., "Plato's Charmides and the proleptic reading of Socratic dialogues", Journal of Philosophy 85 (10), (1988). doi: 10.5840/jphil1988851021 

McKim, Richard, "Socratic Self-Knowledge and 'Knowledge of Knowledge' in Plato's Charmides", Transactions of the American Philological Association, vol. 115 (1985). doi: 10.2307/284190 

McPherran, Mark L., "Socrates and Zalmoxis on Drugs, Charms, and Purification", Apeiron, vol. 37 (2004). doi: 10.1515/apeiron.2004.37.1.11 

Schmid, W. Thomas, "Socratic Dialectic in the Charmides", Does Socrates have a Method?, ed. Gary Alan Scott, Pennsylvania State Press (2002).

Woodruff, Paul, "Socrates and the Irrational", Reason and Religion in Socratic Philosophy, ed. Nicholas D. Smith and Paul B. Woodruff, Oxford: Oxford University Press (2000).




How to Cite

Ayalon, N. (2018). “Exactly as you see me” (Charmides 153b8): The Function of Narration in Plato’s Charmides. Journal of Ancient Philosophy, 12(2), 179-191. https://doi.org/10.11606/issn.1981-9471.v12i2p179-191



Textual Notes