Plato’s Philosophical Mimesis: On the Pedagogical and Protreptic Value of Imperfection

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This article addresses two often perplexing traits in Plato’s philosophical style: first, the fact that Plato’s writings are mimetic, despite the strong criticisms of mimesis we find therein; second, the fact that this mimesis not only features the constitutive defects inherent to any mimesis, but Plato actually increases its imperfection by adding other manifest defects. Based on epistemological and psychological views taken from the Platonic corpus (especially the soul’s tripartition), I show how Plato’s philosophical mimesis uses defectiveness or imperfection to overcome the limitations of mimesis identified in the Republic. To explain this, I argue that Plato’s philosophical mimesis should be primarily conceived as an imitation of people or conversations in which views or arguments are conveyed, but rather as an imitation of the act or practice of philosophical inquiry, and that by rendering this act visible to the reader, the Platonic corpus can better teach how to perform it and better turn readers to a life determined by its performance. This is not without risks because, as a type of mimesis, philosophical mimesis can still lead to misunderstandings or affect the soul in a negative way. However, the quantitative, qualitative and tonal defects Plato introduces in his mimesis of philosophical inquiry cause astonishment and therefore have a provocative effect that helps to reduce those risks and enhance the corpus’ pedagogic and protreptic potential. Consequently, Plato’s philosophical mimesis explores the benefits of mimesis and is in strong contrast with artistic or dramatic mimesis as is understood in Republic X.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-125
Number of pages23
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Philosophical inquiry
  • Astonishment
  • Training
  • Philosophical life
  • Gaps
  • Fallacy
  • Irony


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