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Socratic dialogue

Socratic dialogue (Ancient Greek: Σωκρατικὸς λόγος) is a genre of literary prose developed in Greece at the turn of the fourth
century BC. It is preserved in the works of Plato and Xenophon. The discussion of moral and philosophical problems between
two or more characters in a dialogue is an illustration of one version of the Socratic method. The dialogues are either dramatic or
narrative and Socrates is often the main participant.

Platonic dialogues
Other ancient authors
Medieval and early modern dialogues
Contemporary dialogues
See also

Platonic dialogues
Most of the Socratic dialogues referred to today are those of Plato. Platonic dialogues defined the literary genre subsequent
philosophers used.

Plato wrote approximately 30 dialogues, in most of which Socrates is the main character. Strictly speaking, the term refers to
works in which Socrates is a character. As a genre, however, other texts are included; Plato's Laws and Xenophon's Hiero are
Socratic dialogues in which a wise man other than Socrates leads the discussion (the Athenian Stranger and Simonides,
respectively). The protagonist of each dialogue, both in Plato's and Xenophon's work, usually is Socrates who by means of a kind
of interrogation tries to find out more about the other person's understanding of moral issues. In the dialogues Socrates presents
himself as a simple man who confesses that he has little knowledge. With this ironic approach he manages to confuse the other
who boasts that he is an expert in the domain they discuss. The outcome of the dialogue is that Socrates demonstrates that the
other person's views are inconsistent. In this way Socrates tries to show the way to real wisdom. One of his most famous
statements in that regard is "The unexamined life is not worth living." This philosophical questioning is known as the Socratic
method. In some dialogues Plato's main character is not Socrates but someone from outside of Athens. In Xenophon's Hiero a
certain Simonides plays this role when Socrates is not the protagonist.

Generally, the works which are most often assigned to Plato's early years are all considered to be Socratic dialogues (written from
399 to 387). Many of his Middle dialogues (written from 387 to 361, after the establishment of his Academy), and later dialogues
(written in the period between 361 and his death in 347) incorporate Socrates' character and are often included here as well.[1]
However, this interpretation of the corpus is not universally accepted.[2] The time that Plato began to write his works and the date
of composition of his last work are not known and what adds to the complexity is that even the ancient sources do not know the
order of the works or the dialogues.[3]

First Alcibiades Euthyphro Phaedo

Second Alcibiades Gorgias Phaedrus
Apology Hippias Major Philebus
Charmides Hippias Minor Republic
Clitophon Ion Sophist
Cratylus Laches Statesman
Critias Lysis Symposium
Crito Meno Theaetetus
Epinomis Parmenides Timaeus
Euthydemus Protagoras

Other ancient authors

Alexamenus of Teos

According to a fragment of Aristotle, the first author of Socratic dialogue was Alexamenus of Teos, but we do
not know anything else about him, whether Socrates appeared in his works, or how accurate Aristotle was in
his antagonistic judgement about him.


Aristotle himself is reputed to have written Socratic dialogues. No manuscripts, however, are extant.
Aeschines of Sphettos
Phaedo of Elis
Euclid of Megara
Simon the Shoemaker

Simon's writings are considered the first Socratic dialogues.[4]


De re publica a similar dialogue in Latin on philosophical and rhetorical themes.

Medieval and early modern dialogues

Socratic dialogue remained a popular format for expressing arguments and drawing literary portraits of those who espouse them.
Some of these dialogues employ Socrates as a character, but many employ the philosophical style similar to Plato while
substituting a different character to lead the discussion.


Boethius' most famous book The Consolation of Philosophy is a Socratic dialogue in which Lady Philosophy
interrogates Boethius

Augustine's Confessions has been called a Socratic dialogue between Augustine the author and Augustine
the narrator.[5]
Anselm of Canterbury

Anselm's Cur Deus Homo is a Socratic dialogue between Anselm and a monk named Boso.
Contemporary dialogues
Owen Barfield

Barfield's Worlds Apart is a dialogue in the Socratic tradition analyzing the problem of specialization in
modern society and universities.[6]
André Gide

Gide's Corydon is a series of 4 Socratic dialogues which aims to convince the reader of the normality and
utility of homosexuality in society.[7]
Peter Kreeft

This academic philosopher has published a series of Socratic dialogues in which Socrates questions famous
thinkers from the distant and near past. The first of the series was Between Heaven and Hell, a dialogue
between C. S. Lewis, Aldous Huxley, and J. F. Kennedy.[8] He also authored a book of Socratic logic.[9]
Keith Buhler (

Buhler is an academic philosopher who published a Socratic dialogue in which Seraphim Rose plays the
socratic questioner. He dialogues with a group of theology students on the Protestant doctrine of Sola
Gerd Achenbach and philosophical counseling

Achenbach has refreshed the socratic tradition with his own blend of philosophical counseling. So did Michel
Weber with his Chromatiques Center ( in Belgium.
Ian Thomas Malone

Malone has published a series of contemporary Socratic dialogues titled Five College Dialogues.[11] Five
College Dialogues is intended to be a comedic resource for college students with a graduate student named
George Tecce taking the role of Socrates.
Robin Skynner and John Cleese

In the 1980s and 1990s a British psychologist and the well-known comedian collaborated on two books,
Families and How to Survive Them (1984) and Life and How to Survive It (1993), in which whey take the
Socratic dialogue approach to questions of families and life.[12][13]

See also
List of speakers in Plato's dialogues
Socratici viri

1. Plato & Socrates, The Relationship Between Socrates and Plato, (
2. Smith, Nicholas; Brickhouse, Thomas (2002). The Trial and Execution of Socrates : Sources and Controversies.
New York: Oxford University press. p. 24. ISBN 9780195119800.
3. Fine, Gail (2011). The Oxford handbook of Plato. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 76,77. ISBN 0199769192.
4. Diogenes Laërtius, Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, ii.123
5. McMahon, Robert. "Augustine's Confessions and Voegelin's Philosophy" (
icles.aspx?article=808&theme=home&page=3&loc=b&type=ctbf). First Things. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
6. Barfield, Owen. "Worlds Apart" (
7. Gide, Andre. Corydon.
8. Kreeft, Peter. "Between Heaven and Hell" (
9. Kreeft, Peter. Socratic Logic: A Logic Text using Socratic Method, Platonic Questions, and Aristotelian Principles
10. Buhler, Keith. "Sola Scriptura: A Dialogue" (
75270860/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1354884842&sr=1-1). CreateSpace Independent Publishing.
Retrieved 5 December 2012.
11. Malone, Ian Thomas. "Five College Dialogues" (
12. Sullivan, Jane (2 November 2018). "Turning Pages: the Literary Life of Monty Python" (
ntertainment/books/turning-pages-the-literary-life-of-monty-python-20181025-h1739w.html). The Sydney Morning
Herald. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
13. Skynner, Robin. 'Life and how to survive it (
ts)'. RSA Journal Vol. 141, No. 5440 (June 1993), pp. 461-471

Jowett, B. (1911). The Dialogues of Plato: Translated into English, with analyses and Introductions Vol.I. Charles
Scribner's Sons, New York

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This page was last edited on 6 May 2019, at 12:50 (UTC).

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