Pharmakon : Plato, Drug Culture, and Identity in Ancient Athens

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Pharmakon traces the emergence of an ethical discourse in ancient Greece, one centered on states of psychological ecstasy. In the dialogues of Plato, philosophy is itself characterized as a pharmakon, one superior to a large number of rival occupations, each of which laid claim to their powers being derived from, connected with, or likened to, a pharmakon. Accessible yet erudite, Pharmakon is one of the most comprehensive examinations of the place of intoxicants in ancient thought yet more

Product details

  • Paperback | 358 pages
  • 149.86 x 223.52 x 30.48mm | 544.31g
  • Lexington Books
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 0739146874
  • 9780739146873
  • 1,235,896

Review quote

Beginning from the most thorough review of classical intoxicants, Rinella applies his findings in detail to many Platonic texts. His results certainly have great significance for students of Plato, but also for the history of medicine and of classical civilization generally. It is a truly impressive accomplishment. -- Anthony Preus, Binghamton University Rinella's discussion of the nature and prevalence of drugs in the Classical Age of Athens is an essential context for a major theme in the Platonic dialogues and provides a valuable background for any student of the great philosopher's works. As Rinella astutely demonstrates, Plato appears to have been the first to address the problem of drug induced ecstasy as dangerous to the well-ordered functioning of society, leading to potentially criminal behavior and non-rational modes of thought, and the philosopher's solution to the problem as the 'noble lie' still survives in our current drug policy. -- Carl A. P. Ruck, Boston University There is serious scholarship across a range of disciplines, which demands that this be considered a contribution both to history and to studies of society. There is of course a political agenda, an agenda supported with reference to such figures as Derrida and Foucault, but it is muted and mostly kept well in the background. Certain features of Athenian society make this contribution especially welcome. The Greek symposium is currently receiving considerable attention, an institution where wine, itself rich in other intoxicating impurities, was employed to the point of loss of control...He helps us to look at Plato in a fresh new way, even though such perspectives can only capture part of the picture. Few will think that the pleas for a more relaxed attitude to recreational drug use depend on the clarity of his case on every point along his journey. And here too some will feel more relaxed about his conclusions than others. But as with Plato, the text is supposed to be a catalyst to debate, not the final word. The Social History of Alcohol and Drugs [T]his is a vitally important pharmacography. Not only does it shed light on today's 'drugs problem' via the very roots of Western literary and philosophic thought, it does not do the disservice of assumption to the ancient Greeks, and boldy addresses them on their own terms. It is a treasure trove of investigations that, no doubt, will help cast new light on an a multitude of concerns surrounding the human use of that great ambiguity - the drug/pharmakon. Psychedelic Press UK Michael Rinella's Pharmakon: Plato, Drug Culture, and Identity in Ancient Athens ...draws upon an impressively diverse array of sources, from literary and historical texts to pottery and other fragments of material culture to recent studies in molecular archaeology...Overall [the book] advances a provocative set of claims [providing] a helpful introduction to the core sources that represent early drug culture. Rinella's treatment of these sources shows how very different discourses were afoot than those so prevalent today. New Political Scienceshow more

About Michael A. Rinella

Michael A. Rinella holds a Ph.D. in political science from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, University at Albany, SUNY, and he is currently the National Endowment for the Humanities Distinguished Visiting Professor, Philosophy, at the State University of New York, more

Table of contents

Introduction - The Pharmakon, Ecstasy, and Identity Part I. Plato and the Politics of Intoxication Chapter 1: Wine and the Symposion Chapter 2: The Symposion and the Question of Stasis Chapter 3: Plato's Reformulation of the Symposion Part II: The Pharmakon and the Defense of Socrates Chapter 4: Drugs, Epic Poetry, and Religion Chapter 5: Socrates Accused Chapter 6: Socrates Rehabilitated Part III. Plato through the Prism of the Pharmakon Chapter 7: Medicine, Drugs, and Somatic Regimen Chapter 8: Magic, Drugs, and Noetic Regimen Chapter 9: Speech, Drugs, and Discursive Regimen Chapter 10: Philosophy's Pharmacy Afterword: Towards a New Ethics of the Pharmakonshow more

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