Socratic Problems

Topics: Plato, Socrates, Philosophy Pages: 2 (577 words) Published: August 14, 2011
Socratic Problem 
The Socratic problem results from the inability to determine what, in the writings of Plato, is an accurate portrayal of Socrates' thought and what is the thought of Plato with Socrates as a literary device. Socrates, often credited with founding western philosophy and who was put to death by the democracy of Athens in May, 399 BC, was Plato's teacher and mentor; Plato, like some of his contemporaries, wrote dialogues about his departed teacher. Most of what we know about Socrates comes from the writings of Plato; however, it is widely believed that only some of Plato's dialogues are verbatim accounts of conversations or unmediated representations of Socrates' thought. Many of the dialogues seem to use Socrates as a device for Plato's thought, and inconsistencies occasionally crop up between Plato and the other accounts of Socrates; for instance, Plato has Socrates constantly denying that he would ever accept money for teaching, while Xenophon's Symposium clearly has Socrates stating that he is paid by students to teach wisdom and this is what he does for a living. Given the apparent evolution of thought in Plato's dialogues from his early years to his middle and later years, it is often believed that the dialogues began to represent less of Socrates and more of Plato as time went on. However, the question of exactly what aspects of Plato's dialogues are representative of Socrates and what are not is far from agreed upon. Karl Popper treats the Socratic problem in his first book of The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945). The German classical scholar Friedrich Schleiermacher made an attempt to solve the "Socratic problem". Schleiermacher maintains that the two dialogues Apology and Crito are purely Socratic, which is to say, rather accurate historical portrayals of the real man, Socrates, and hence history — and not Platonic philosophy at all. All of the other dialogues that Schleiermacher accepted as genuine, he considered to be integrally...
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