The Philosopher and the Farmer: Spatial metaphor in Three Conversations in Euripides, Plato, and Xenophon

Herbert, Sarah, Classics - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Myers, Karen, Department of Classics, University of Virginia

In this dissertation, I examine the conversation between the farmer and the philosopher, a trope used to explore the relationship of philosophy to practical action and rhetoric throughout a long sequence of ancient works that include Euripides’ Antiope, Plato’s Gorgias, Xenophon’s Oeconomicus, Cicero’s de Oratore, and Vergil’s Georgics. My dissertation looks at the first three of these works, each of which offers a different view of that relationship. In Euripides’ Antiope, philosophy initially looks above or beyond merely practical concerns; however, the philosopher is ultimately made to abandon his philosophizing in favor of practical action, an outcome that will lead to later tragedy. In Plato’s Gorgias, which extensively references Euripides’ play, philosophy also has a superior perspective that looks above or beyond the mere earthly concerns of the practical man to the welfare of the soul; there is tragedy here as well, but only for the man who fails to adopt the philosophical perspective. In Xenophon’s Oeconomicus, however, there is no talk of philosophical perspectives that are metaphorically above or beyond those of practical action and discourse. Instead, philosophy is the complement of practical action, in large part because the philosopher is the one who can show the practical man how metaphor and imagery (especially spatial metaphor and imagery) shape our concepts and our world—and can potentially reshape them and the life we choose to live.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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