ἐπιλήθομαι (epilelesthai) and λήθη (lethe)
On Plato’s philosophy of forgetting
Scholars H. N. Fowler, R. Waterfield, J. McDowell, D. Davidson and J. M. Cooper translate both ἐπιλήθομαι (epilelesthai) and λήθη (lethe) into “forgetting”. Yet it is problematic, as they designate two different meanings of forgetting Only J. C. B. Gosling, in his translation of Philebus, translates λήθηinto “oblivion” and ἐπιλήθομαι into forgetting respectively. However, he does not explain why the difference matters. This paper aims at explaining the ambiguous meaning of forgetting in Meno, Phaedo, Theaetetus and Philebus. The one hand, ἐπιλήθομαι (epilelesthai) means the loss of memory in our ordinary life. On the other hand, λήθη (lethe) means the loss of memory before-life or before we are born. I conclude by drawing attention to Paul Ricoeur’s critical examination of Plato’s philosophy of forgetting that he fails to provide an effective resolution to the ordinary forgetting as an attack on the reliability of memory.
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