Plato and the Body

Reconsidering Socratic Asceticism

By Coleen P. Zoller

Subjects: Plato, Body, The, Ancient Greek Philosophy, History Of Philosophy, Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Ancient Greek Philosophy
Hardcover : 9781438470818, 268 pages, August 2018
Paperback : 9781438470825, 268 pages, July 2019

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Table of contents


1. Interpreting Asceticism in Plato

2. Moderation and Training for Death in the Phaedo

3. Beauty, Education, and Erotic Ascent in the Symposium and Phaedrus

4. Health, Justice, and Peace in the Republic and Gorgias

5. Interpretative Possibilities for the Late Dialogues

Works Cited

Offers an innovative reading of Plato, analyzing his metaphysical, ethical, and political commitments in connection with feminist critiques.


For centuries, it has been the prevailing view that in prioritizing the soul, Plato ignores or even abhors the body; however, in Plato and the Body Coleen P. Zoller argues that Plato does value the body and the role it plays in philosophical life, focusing on Plato's use of Socrates as an exemplar. Zoller reveals a more refined conception of the ascetic lifestyle epitomized by Socrates in Plato's Phaedo, Symposium, Phaedrus, Gorgias, and Republic. Her interpretation illuminates why those who want to be wise and good have reason to be curious about and love the natural world and the bodies in it, and has implications for how we understand Plato's metaphysical and political commitments. This book shows the relevance of this broader understanding of Plato for work on a variety of relevant contemporary issues, including sexual morality, poverty, wealth inequality, and peace.

Coleen P. Zoller is Professor of Philosophy at Susquehanna University.


"This book is a careful and detailed reading of Plato's attitude to the body and the moderate and wisdom-driven ascetism that emanates from the figure of Socrates. It does much to question a widely accepted interpretation that misses crucial aspects of Plato's thought. More importantly, it suggests Plato's continued relevance to contemporary issues of critical relevance." — Temenos Academy Review

"…Zoller's book should be commended as an impressive endeavor to show just how much Plato's Socrates was deeply committed to the beauty of nature and the value of embodiment." — Journal of the History of Philosophy

"Zoller gives us a new way of going forward in Plato studies. Her reading of the Platonic conception of embodiment frees it from the negative associations of the past. Plato and the Body will radically shift the scholarly conversation. The book is truly an exhilarating read." — Anne-Marie Schultz, author of Plato's Socrates as Narrator: A Philosophical Muse