|Lucian Freud, Naked Portrait|
"Alcibiades is about to begin his public and political life. He wishes to speak before the people and be all-powerful in the city. He is not satisfied with his traditional status, with the privileges of his birth and heritage. He wishes to gain personal power over all others both inside and outside the city. At this point of intersection and transformation, Socrates intervenes and declares his love for Alcibiades. Alcibiades can no longer be the beloved; he must become a lover. He must become active in the political and the love game. Thus, there is a dialect between political and erotic discourse. Alcibiades makes his transition in specific ways in both politics and love.
An ambivalence is evident in Alcibiade's political and erotic vocabulary. During his adolescence Alcibiades was desirable and had many admirers, but now that his beard is growing, his lovers disappear. Earlier, he had rejected them all in the bloom of his beauty becuase he wanted to be dominant, not dominated. He did not wish to be dominated by youth, but now he wants to dominate others. This is the moment Socrates appears, and he succeeds where others have failed: He will make Alcibiades submit, but in a different sense. They make a pact - Alcibiades will submit to his lover. Socrates, not in a physical but in a spiritual sense. The intersection of political ambition and philosophical love is "taking care of oneself".
2. In that relationship, why should Alcibiades be concerned with himself, and why is Socrates concerned with that concern of Alcibiades? Socrates asks Alcibiades about his personal capacity and the nature of his ambition. Does he know he meaning of the rule of law, of justice or concord?
Paolo Gioli, Commutazioni Con Mutazione, 1969
Alcibiades clearly knows nothing. Socrates calls upon him to compare his education with that of the Persian and Spartan kings, his rivals. Spartan and Persian princes have teachers in Wisdom, Justice, Temperance, and Courage. By comparison, Alcibiades' education is like that of an old, ignorant slave. He doesn't know these things so he can't apply himself to knowledge. But, says Socrates, it's not too late. To help him gain the upper hand - to acquire techne - Alcibiades must apply himself, he must take care of himself. But Alcibiades doesn't know to what he must apply himself. What is this knowledge he seeks? He is embarrassed and confused. Socrates calls upon him to take heart.
In 127d of the Alcibiades we find the first appearance of the phrase, epimelesthai sautou. Concern for the self always refers to an active political and erotic state. Epimelesthai expresses something much more serious than the simple fact of paying attention. It involves various things: taking pains with one's holdings and one's health. It is always a real activity and not just attitude. It is used in reference to the activity of a farmer tending his fields, his cattle, and his house, or to the job of the king in taking care of his city and citizens, or to the worship of ancestors or gods, or as a medical term to signify the fact of caring. It is highly significant that the concern for the self in Alcibiades I is directly related to a defective pedagogy, one which concerns political ambition and a specific moment of life.
3. The rest of the text is devoted to an analysis of this notion of epimelesthai, "taking pains with oneself". It is divided into two questions: What is this self of which one has to take care. and of what does that care consist?
[From: Martin, L.H. et al (1988) Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault. London: Tavistock. pp.16-49.]