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This article argues that Aristophanes' Clouds treats Socrates as distinctly interested in promoting self-knowledge of the sort related to self-improvement. Section I shows that Aristophanes links the precept 'Greek passage' ('know yourself') with Socrates. Section II outlines the meaning of that precept for Socrates. Section III describes Socrates' conversational method in the Clouds as aimed at therapeutic self-revelation. Section IV identifies the patron Cloud deities of Socrates' school as also concerned to bring people to a therapeutic self-understanding, albeit in a different register from that of Socrates. Section V discusses a sequence of jokes connected to 'stripping' that give a concrete image to the search for self-knowledge. Both the action of the Clouds and the tales of cloak-stripping provide models for understanding self-knowledge in a Socratic key. Section VI argues that Socrates' other interest in the phrontistērion, myth-rationalization, is consistent with the promotion of self-knowledge. Section VII supports the claim that Plato's Phaedrus alludes constantly to the Clouds, and because the Phaedrus pays careful attention to self-knowledge, Plato must think that the Clouds does too. It notes in particular that we can explain the Platonic Socrates' famous self-knowledge-related curiosity about his similarity to Typhon (230a) as Plato's allusion to Aristophanes, an allusion made apt by Aristophanes' coordination of Socrates with self-knowledge. Section VIII concludes the paper.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)534-551
Number of pages18
JournalClassical Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Classics
  • History
  • Philosophy
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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