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DOI 10.12887/28-2015-2-110-10



Jolanta ŚWIDEREK – A Wise Man, a Madman, an Ignorant Person, and a Fool: The Socratic Conception of Madness in the Light of the Writings of Xenophon


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The article, based on the writings of Xenophon, presents the Socratic conception of madness against the background of religious and Hippocratic approach. The philosopher characterizes madness with reference to wisdom, ignorance and stupidity. He portrays madness as a state in which the mind, which possesses practical knowledge needed for doing good, is limited by emotions and lust. Therefore, a madman deliberately chooses evil. Wisdom is a state in which the unlimited mind, which possesses practical knowledge needed for doing good, is unlimited by emotions and lust. Therefore a wise man deliberately chooses good. The philosopher described ignorance as a greater or lesser lack of essential knowledge for doing good. An ignorant person chooses evil unintentionally, whereas a madman chooses evil

purposefully. In this approach, a madman is different from a wise man in that he lacks temperance (enkrateia), while it is knowledge that distinguishes him from an ignorant person. Another state of mind selected by our philosopher is stupidity characterized by the lack of knowledge mentioned above and the lack of temperance. What links a madman in the religious approach with the Socratic ignorant person and a fool is the fact that they both lack the awareness, which plays a crucial role in making decisions when evaluating a given situation. According to the philosopher, it was the particular person that was responsible for madness, ignorance, stupidity and wisdom; the gaining of the suitable knowledge as well as the gaining of enkrateia depended entirely upon him, just like in the Hippocratic approach in which it was the particular person that was responsible for causing a disease as well as the recovery.

Keywords: madness, ignorance, wisdom, Socrates, Xenophon

Contact: Zakład Historii Starożytnej i Średniowiecznej, Instytut Filozofii, Wydział Filozofii i Socjologii, Uniwersytet Marii Curie-Skłodowskiej,
pl. Marii Curie- Skłodowskiej 4, 20-031 Lublin, Poland
E-mail: jolanta.swiderek@poczta.umcs.lublin.pl



Pliki do pobrania:

» 110_Swiderek.pdf


  1. ISSN 0860-8024
  2. The Republic of Poland Ministry of Science and Higher Education Value: 20.00
  3. Quarterly “Ethos” is indexed by the following databases: EBSCO, CEEOL, Index Copernicus (ICV 2017: 55.26), Philosopher’s Index, ERIH Plus.
  4. DOI Prefix 10.12887