Socrates’ Demonic Sign

Document Type


Presentation Date


Conference Name

Indiana Philosophical Association Fall Meeting

Conference Location

Earlham College, Indiana


In Plato’s texts, and especially in the Apology, the Platonic Socrates refers to a daimonion, or daimonion sēmeion (demonic sign) that appears only to contradict Socrates in some course of action on which he is about to embark. Socrates infers, as well, that its not interfering is a sign that what he is doing is right. I argue that the Socrates’ daimonion is not a divine spirit in its own right, i.e., the Greek daimōn. Daimonion is used in an adjectival or diminutive sense, describing Socrates’ sign; it is a human reflection of a divinity, the divine in the human, the culmination of Socrates’ participation in the reasoning (logismos) of the divine. As a “demonic man”, Socrates maintains a relation to the divine, having become habituated to the same reasoning.



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