Philo of Alexandria’s Use of Sleep and Dreaming as Epistemological Metaphors in Relation to Joseph

Dreams are used figuratively throughout Greek literature to refer to something fleeting and/or unreal. In Plato, this metaphorical language is specifically used to describe an epistemological distinction: the one who has false knowledge or opinion is said to be dreaming while the one who has true knowledge is said to be awake. These figures are also central to Philo of Alexandria's philosophical language in De somniis 1-2 and De Iosepho. Although scholars have documented these epistemological metaphors in Plato and related treatments of the concept of sleep in Heraclitus, it has not been discussed in any detail in relation to Philo's treatment of Joseph in these two treatises. In De somniis 1-2, Philo primarily emphasizes his role as a dreamer and thus one incapable of true knowledge. In De Iosepho, Joseph is a dream interpreter who is not only awake but also capable of interpreting the figurative dream of life to which most people are subject. Although some scholars have considered these treatises contradictory in terms of their treatments of Joseph, an analysis of Philo's figurative use of sleep and dreaming reveals that they are a part of a coherent exegetical framework
Keywords dreams   metaphor   Plato   epistemology   Heraclitus   sleep   Philo of Alexandria
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DOI 10.1163/187254711X589741
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