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PICHANICK, Alan. The Koinon Agathon of Plato’s Charmides. arete [online]. 2022, vol.34, n.spe, pp.45-57. ISSN 1016-913X.

Given the number of references to koinōnia in Plato’s dialogues, it is striking that the phrase “common good” (koinon agathon) is used only once - at Charmides 166d. Socrates asks his interlocutor Critias a question, “Do you not think it is for the common good, almost (schedon), of all men, that how all the beings (tōn ontōn) are should be discovered?” The question emerges after Critias has claimed that sōphrosynē is self-knowledge, which he then specifies as a “knowledge of all other knowledges and of itself”. In this paper, I argue that it is no accident that Socrates mentions the “common good” at precisely this moment in his discussion with Critias. The notion of sōphrosynē that Critias defends is incoherent owing to what Critias claims to be its distinguishing feature - its reflexivity. Because of its total reflexivity, it points to no end beyond itself and thereby it is neither capable of disclosing “the beings” nor of being connected to any good outside of itself. The common good Socrates mentions here is therefore essentially related to an acknowledgment of ignorance that motivates one to wonder (thauma) at a good beyond one’s love of one’s own things. I thus suggest an explanation for the curious addition of “almost” (schedon) in Socrates’ remark here: Critias himself shows that unless he (or his young cousin Charmides) can admit ignorance and experience such wonder, then he is constitutionally not included in this common good.

Keywords : sōphrosynē; Critias; Charmides; wonder; common good.

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