Socrates and Plato


socrates, plato, philosophy, legacy


Within a decade after Socrates' death his followers were already battling over the rights to his spiritual legacy. Antisthenes and Aeschines, Euclides and Aristippus suffered literary oblivion; but the works of Plato and Xe- nophon survived to give, if not utterly different, at least contrasting pictures of their master. In modern times Xenophon has suffered badly from the revelation that he gleaned material from other writers.' Plato offers us two quite different portraits of Socrates the philosopher, that of the early dialogues and that of the middle dialogues. Scholars almost universally recognize the Socrates of the middle dialogues as a mouthpiece for Plato. This leaves the possibility that the Socrates of the early dialogues is a faithful representation of the historical Socrates. The view that he is I shall call the Early Dialogue Theory (EDT). Beginning arguably with Aristotle and revived by Friedrich Schleiermacher,2 EDT counts among its adherents some of the leading scholars of ancient philosophy, including Paul Natorp, Wincenty Lutoslawski, Heinrich Maier, Constantin Ritter, W.D. Ross, Richard Robinson, J.E. Raven, W.K.C. Guthrie, Norman Gulley, and Gregory Vlastos.3 Much recent work on Socrates and Plato has gone on under the banner of EDT.4 There are, of course, significant differences of interpretation among adherents of this tradition; but on the exegetical principles they accept there is considerable agreement. EDT is, I believe, correct.

Original Publication Citation

"Socrates and Plato,"Phronesis 37 (1992): 141-65.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


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University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor