Philosophy as Agon
A Study of Plato's Gorgias and Related Texts
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Metcalf challenges prevailing interpretations according to which the agon (contest or struggle) between the interlocutors in the dialogues is inessential to Plato's philosophical purpose, or simply a reflection of the cultural background of ancient Greek life. Instead, he argues that Plato understands philosophy as essentially agonistic-involving the adversarial engagement of others in dialogue such that one's integrity is put to the test through this engagement, and where the agon is structured so as to draw adversaries together in agreement about the matters at issue, though that agreement is always open to future contest.
Based on a careful reading of the Gorgias and related Socratic dialogues, such as Apology and Theaetetus, Metcalf contends that agon is indispensable to the critique of prevailing opinions, to the transformation of the interlocutor through shame-inducing refutation, and to philosophy as a lifelong training (askesis) of oneself in relation to others.