An Atopic Socrates: Engaging Socrates' Strangeness

42 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 2 Sep 2009

See all articles by Joel Alden Schlosser

Joel Alden Schlosser

Bryn Mawr College - Department of Political Science

Date Written: 2009


In this essay, I argue that the fullest account of Socrates’ inexplicable coherence lies in Socrates’ strangeness, his atopia, which unites these different figures of Socrates even while this strangeness does not “amount” to a definitive product or sum. I further suggest that this strangeness exists on multiple registers: in terms of Socrates’ physical presence and dislocations of the status quo of Athenian political culture as well as his disturbing quality of asking unexpected and seemingly absurd questions. In other words, Socrates’ strangeness can help us consider what Socrates means and what “coherence” can come from such a fragmented and multifaceted figure. In my final section, I advance examples of movements today that exemplify what bringing Socrates to bear on our political lives might resemble when one also respects and takes inspiration from Socrates’ strangeness. This manifests concrete implications of “engaging Socrates” today.

Keywords: Socrates, Plato, Athens, Democracy, Democratic Theory, Political Culture, Ancient Political Theory

Suggested Citation

Schlosser, Joel Alden, An Atopic Socrates: Engaging Socrates' Strangeness (2009). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN:

Joel Alden Schlosser (Contact Author)

Bryn Mawr College - Department of Political Science ( email )

101 North Merion Avenue
Dalton Hall - First Floor
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010-2899
United States

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