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The experience of philosophical discipleship in Late Antiquity

Chair: Donka Markus (markusdd@umich.edu)

The focus of this panel is on the individual and subjective experience of discipleship rather than on the relations between city and school as in E. Watts (2006). Epictetus charted two approaches to discipleship: one of surrender for the purpose of spiritual growth and the other – conceptual for the display of learning:

"Do I go to my teacher, like one who goes to consult an oracle, prepared to obey? Or do I too, like a sniffling child, go to school to learn only the history of philosophy and to understand the books which I did not understand before, and, if chance offers, to explain them to others?" (Epictetus, Discourses 2.21.10, tr. W. A. Oldfather)

Did these two paths mutually exclude each other or were they integrated into a unified experience? Socrates consulted the Delphic oracle: did the philosopher in late antiquity become an oracular figure himself? Are there aspects of discipleship that were unique to late antiquity? Are there traits that pervaded the tradition from the beginning to its end? How were master-disciple relationships articulated? What were the fissures between ideal and reality? What were the overlaps and differences between the Christian monastic ideal and the ideal of philosophical discipleship? Are there any useful ways to compare the late antique experience of discipleship with master-disciple relations in other times and cultures?

This panel seeks to build upon the already rich scholarship on this topic and to deepen our understanding of the dynamics of teacher-disciple relations in the philosophical schools of Late Antiquity.