La kalokagathia in Senofonte: un’eccellenza eminentemente socratica


  • Alessandro Stavru Università di Verona



kalokagathia, philia, enkrateia, autarkeia, excellence, Socrates, reciprocity


Kalokagathiais a core concept of Greek culture, which is usually associated with the professional excellence of an individual in a given field of activity or work. It acquires a markedly moral and aesthetic value thanks to Xenophon, for whom it is neither an innate nor an acquired virtue, but the ability to achieve virtue through consistent moral training. It is for Xenophon a specifically Socratic virtue, as the number and significance of occurrences of kalokagathiain his Socratic works (compared to the non-Socratic works) clearly shows. Here the term has eight different meanings–whereby thekaloikagathoiare strictu sensuonly the Socratics, i.e. the group of companions who gather around the kaloskagathospar excellence Socrates (Mem. 1.2.48). Kalokagathiais linked to self-control (enkrateia), thus entailing freedom from exterior values (Mem.1.5.1). Xenophon’s Socrates is not kaloskagathosbecause he is excellent in doing or knowing something, but because he aims at making his interlocutors “better” (beltion) through philosophical intercourse, thus leading them to akalokagathiawhich departs from traditional “excellence” (Mem. 2.1.1-7). Hence the friendship and the political benefits that derive from Socrates’s kalokagathia: being a kaloskagathosentails establishing relationships grounded on reciprocity, which are all aimed at the well-being of the city (Mem. 2.6.14-29). In my paper, I explore these facets of kalokagathia, focusing on the connections with other ethical concepts that are important for Xenophon (esp. enkrateia,autarkeiaandphilia).


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