Performances of philosophy in ancient greece and in modernity: Suddenly a philosopher enters the stage

Ira Avneri, Freddie Rokem

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This chapter discusses the initial formation of the interactions between the discursive practices of theater and philosophy in Classical Athens, a dialogue as well as an agôn in which both discourses have also integrated features of the other. These tensions are exemplified by two paradigmatic cases: Sophocles’ Oedipus, the philosophically inclined dramatic character, and Plato’s Socrates, the performative philosopher. Both figures are paradoxical expressions of a uniquely tragic spirit, combining triumph and downfall, which was cultivated during a short period in ancient Greek culture. After examining Socrates’ performativity as depicted in the Symposium - focusing on his delayed entrance into Agathon’s house, where a banquet is taking place to celebrate the host’s victory in the tragedy competition - the article presents some central aspects of the Socratic/Platonic legacy of philosophical performativity as they reappear in the work of Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht. Socrates’ extended standstills, an integral aspect of his philosophizing, are matched by Benjamin’s ‘Dialectics at a Standstill’, while in The Messingkauf Dialogues, Brecht demonstrates what happens when a philosopher enters the theater-stage after the evening’s performance is over, to conduct a discussion on the materiality of the theater with those who work there.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Performance Philosophy
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781000056891
ISBN (Print)9781138495623
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020


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