Thursday, 7 February 2019

Jane Heath: Paideia and Politeia: Clement of Alexandria and Plato’s Republic

The significance of Plato for Clement of Alexandria has long been recognised, particularly in scholarship on Clement’s systematic theology. The present short communication shifts attention from intellectual doctrine to embodied formation. It argues that the extant works in Clement’s multi-volume project in Christian formation – Protrepticus, Paedagogus, Stromateis– provide a paideiathat creatively reworks the structure of education in Plato’s Republic. Like Plato, Clement begins by reforming the imagination through a renewal of traditional myths and imagery; like Plato, he shifts attention from Homer and tragedy to a different ‘song’, which he (unlike Plato) discovers in the scriptures ( Resp.II-III); like Plato, he then seeks to persuade his readers that they are children of one divine mother who nourishes them, but for him, this is mother church, not mother earth ( cf. Resp.III.414e). As in Plato’s Republic,he arrays images of bad behaviour in the ‘politeia’, which function as examples that are to be rejected (Paed.II-III cf. Resp.VIII-IX). In this way, he hints that the proper ethical model is more simple and pure, but less easy to imitate. Like Plato, he characterises the activity of giving an account of the perfect human being in terms of constructing an anthropomorphic statue (e.g. Str.VI.xviii.168.4 cf. Resp.IV.420c).This account of Clement’s relationship to Plato’s Republicdraws attention to neglected socio-political and aesthetic themes in Clement’s ethics, and underscores the importance of the theology of the image in Christian ideas for embodied renewal of Greek philosophical formation.

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