The subject of the article is Patočka’s distinction between Socrates and Plato. In two texts written in the 1930’s (Platonism and Politics and Plato and Popularisation), Patočka declares his allegiance to Platonism as the true philosophy, although he does not yet distinguish betwen Plato and Socrates. These texts of Patočka’s are concerned with an attempt to discover a „philosophy of praxis“, which would free itself from modern intellectualism as well as from the understanding of man as homo faber. In the second half of the forties Patočka develops a distinction between Socrates and Plato in which, initially, in the voluminous study Eternity and Historicity and in the lecture Socrates, he clearly takes Socrates’ side. Socrates, for Patočka, now presents the quintessential philosophical life and thus provides the basis for a „philosophy of praxis“ (humanism), which Patočka had been seeking in Platonism in his articles of the thirties. Plato for Patočka now poses a threat not unlike modern intellectualism: this is because Good for him exists in itself, regardless of man and his moral endeavour. Patočka’s philosophical programme consists in attempts to repeat the basic philosophical questions. Socrates poses the question of human „good“. In order that we may repeat it, in its whole intensity, we must purge it of Plato’s account. Socrates was, in Patočka’s view, capable of raising the question of „true human being“. Insistence on this question is „care for the soul“ and the soul is the single authority on which this question is based. Plato, in Patočka’s view, poses the question of „the true basis of everything“. Socrates’ anthropological concepts gain, in Plato’s work, cosmological significance. A relation to the whole of the world is, however, for Patočka an integral part of the spiritual life, and from this perspective Socrates’ philosophy is shown to be inadequate. Socrates is not capable, in reality, of addressing the question of the whole world. Socrates’ relation to the world is not led by a conscious question, but by a „divine voice“ (daimonion). For Patočka, however, reliance on divine help was an abdication of a philosophical position. As a result, Patočka in Negative Platonism returns to Platonism, so that he might extract its philosophical will and develop it further in a purified form.
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