Alcibiades: Why the Politically Ambitious cannot be Educated to Philosophic Virtue
In the Alcibiades I dialogue, Socrates attempts to educate the extremely ambitious and beautiful Alcibiades to a life of philosophic virtue. Despite this education, Alcibiades proceeds to a life of infamy and tyrannical aspirations, which prompts one to ask the question: what are the limits of a political individual in a philosophic life, and vice versa? Ultimately, an examination of the Alcibiades I dialogue reveals that political types generally fail as philosophers because they are dependent on the city for enabling their ignorance. Philosophers, by contrast, cannot be political men because they are too focused on the development of the individual as opposed to the growth of the city. It is this emphasis on the individual that leads Socrates to attempt an education of Alcibiades (despite being aware of the dangers such an education may hold for the city)—promising, ambitious individuals ought to be educated in the hopes that they may become the best men, even if such a risk comes at the cost of an entire city.