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Socrates’ Daimonion

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Probably the fullest description of Socrates’ daimonion is in Plato’s Apology 31c, where Socrates says:

I have a divine sign [daimonion] from the god which… began when I was a child. It is a voice, and whenever it speaks it turns me away from something I am about to do, but it never turns me towards anything. This is what has prevented me from taking part in public affairs, and I think it was quite right to prevent me. Be sure, gentlemen of the jury, I should have died long ago otherwise.

One reason that Socrates’ daimonion is important is because in Republic 496, Socrates suggests that it enabled him to become a true philosopher. This is puzzling but is made even more so by the fact that the daimonion does not offer any reasons, but only deters from this or that action. And yet notwithstanding, Socrates, the great rationalist, submits to it. The problem then is squaring Socrates’ overriding commitment to having reasons and his willingness to follow religiously his daimonion.


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Correspondence to David Berman .

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Berman, D. (2014). Socrates’ Daimonion. In: Leeming, D.A. (eds) Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion. Springer, Boston, MA.

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