Socrates’ Last Gesture. Modesty and Enigma

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The scene of Socrates’ death relates to us the philosopher’s last words, expressed in the famous and enigmatic sentence “we owe a cock to Asclepius. Make this offering to him and do not forget.” Before and after these words, however, Socrates makes and repeats a gesture that is overshadowed in the particular narrative structure of the Phaedo: he covers his face. This is a gesture of modesty, in which we can see the ambiguity and ambivalence of an idea that stands half way between polarly characterized semantic fields. In fact, the meaning of the idea of modesty extends from the initial anthropological field (nature/culture) to a psychological and social significance (society/individual) until it becomes the ontological background (qualified secret/unqualified secret) against which we can post-subjectively comprehend the problem of individual identity and the more general question of being. Therefore, if we bring Socrates’ gesture to a proximity with the mysterious figure of Melville’s Bartelby, we can grasp, in the comprehension of modesty, the meaning of the enigma as a selective and non-intellectual or cognitive experience of the meaning of the meaningless, that is, of the capacity of the individual to bear the burden of non-sense.

Socrates’ Last Gesture. Modesty and Enigma

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