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date: 13 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter considers the following question: If Plato is our main source of knowledge about Socrates, how can we tell when Plato’s “Socrates” speaks for Socrates and when he speaks for Plato? Among the 30 or so dialogues traditionally attributed to Plato, there is a group of 11 or 12 that share certain features setting them apart from the rest. In these dialogues, which are considerably shorter than the others, Socrates always has the role of questioner. Many scholars agree that these shorter dialogues were intended to portray the characteristic views and arguments of the historical Socrates; for this reason, these dialogues are also called “Socratic.” In fact, a number of scholars believe that these dialogues contain a Socratic “theory” of the virtues: a unified, systematic account of their nature and value. According to this view, one of Plato’s intentions in writing these dialogues was to set out this systematic account of the virtues, and to defend it with arguments used by Socrates. However, there are problems with this view. The chapter suggests that while these dialogues are “Socratic” in the sense that they focus on the views and style of discussion of the historical Socrates, they were not intended to give a unified Socratic theory of the virtues—for the good reason that Socrates in all likelihood did not have a unified theory of the virtues.

Keywords: Plato, dialogues, Socrates, virtues, philosophy, Socratic

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