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Frontiers of Philosophy in China

Front. Philos. China    2019, Vol. 14 Issue (1) : 94-110
Drunkenness as a Communal Practice: Platonic and Peripatetic Perspectives
Jan Szaif()
Department of Philosophy, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA
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Greek philosophers in general share a strong commitment to a life of reason and excellence. It is therefore surprising to see some of them argue in defense of symposiastic drunkenness. This essay investigates several such arguments. Its main source texts are books I and II of Plato’s Laws and a passage in the excerpts on Peripatetic ethics in the doxography of Arius Didymus. The arguments are analyzed and situated in a broader cultural and philosophical context. The Peripatetic passage approves of drunkenness as an aspect of certain established forms of communal activity, with the caveat that the virtuous person will not desire drunkenness for its own sake. While it is clear that the Peripatetic author grounds the need for communal activities in our social nature, he fails to justify the existence of communal activities that lead to drunkenness. Plato’s arguments, by contrast, sketch out and justify a new, non-traditional framework for certain highly regulated forms of communal drunkenness. His first main argument relates to the goal of testing and nursing self-control through exposure to wine, while the second is based on the idea that the rejuvenating force of wine renders mature men again susceptible to the formative influence of song and dance as vehicles of good ethical qualities.

Keywords virtue      wine      drunkenness      music      truth     
Issue Date: 16 April 2019
 Cite this article:   
Jan Szaif. Drunkenness as a Communal Practice: Platonic and Peripatetic Perspectives[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2019, 14(1): 94-110.
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