Category Archives: Socrates (470 – 399 bce)

Socrates and Alcibiades: Plato’s Drama of Political Ambition and Philosophy (2017)

Socrates and Alcibiades: Plato's Drama of Political Ambition and Philosophy

by Ariel Helfer

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“In the classical world, political ambition posed an intractable problem. Ancient Greek democracies fostered in their most promising youths a tension-ridden combination of the desire for personal glory and deep-seated public-spiritedness in hopes of producing brilliant and capable statesmen. But as much as active civic engagement was considered among the highest goods by the Greek nobility, the attempt to harness the love of glory to the good of the city inevitably produced notoriously ambitious figures whose zeal for political power and prestige was so great that it outstripped their intention to win honor through praiseworthy deeds. No figure better exemplifies the risks and rewards of ancient political ambition than Alcibiades, an intelligent, charming, and attractive statesman who grew up during the Golden Age of Athens and went on to become an infamous demagogue and traitor to the city during the Peloponnesian War.”


“This book is an engaging, wittily written analysis of the conversations between Alcibiades and Socrates. Ariel Helfer captures well the challenges and difficulties of a Socratic education, and in the process, he also brings out important questions about the desire to do good, political power, dependence on the divine, and the meaning of fame.”—Arlene Saxonhouse

“Socrates and Alcibiades is unusually clear, powerfully argued, and intelligent. It makes a convincing case that, in witnessing Socrates’ attempts to educate young Alcibiades, we are witnessing the first manifestations of what has come to be called Socratic political philosophy. The book is essential reading for scholars of Socrates and Plato, especially their moral and political thought, and for those interested in the understudied and under-theorized phenomenon of political ambition.”—Robert C. Bartlett

Sophistry and Political Philosophy: Protagoras’ Challenge to Socrates (2016)

Sophistry and Political Philosophy: Protagoras' Challenge to Socratesby Robert C. Bartlett

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“One of the central challenges to contemporary political philosophy is the apparent impossibility of arriving at any commonly agreed upon “truths.” As Nietzsche observed in his Will to Power, the currents of relativism that have come to characterize modern thought can be said to have been born with ancient sophistry. If we seek to understand the strengths and weaknesses of contemporary radical relativism, we must therefore look first to the sophists of antiquity—the most famous and challenging of whom is Protagoras.

With Sophistry and Political Philosophy, Robert C. Bartlett provides the first close reading of Plato’s two-part presentation of Protagoras. In the “Protagoras,” Plato sets out the sophist’s moral and political teachings, while the “Theaetetus,” offers a distillation of his theoretical and epistemological arguments. Taken together, the two dialogues demonstrate that Protagoras is attracted to one aspect of conventional morality—the nobility of courage, which in turn is connected to piety. This insight leads Bartlett to a consideration of the similarities and differences in the relationship of political philosophy and sophistry to pious faith. Bartlett’s superb exegesis offers a significant tool for understanding the history of philosophy, but, in tracing Socrates’s response to Protagoras’ teachings, Bartlett also builds toward a richer understanding of both ancient sophistry and what Socrates meant by ‘political philosophy.'”

Xenophon: Memorabilia, Oeconomicus, Symposium, Apology (2013)

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"Xenophon (ca. 430 to ca. 354 BCE), a member of a wealthy but politically quietist Athenian family and an admirer of Socrates, left Athens in 401 BCE to serve as a mercenary commander for Cyrus the Younger of Persia, then joined the staff of King Agesilaus II of Sparta before settling in Elis and, in the aftermath of the battle of Leuctra in 371 BCE, retiring to Corinth. His historical and biographical works, Socratic dialogues and reminiscences, and short treatises on hunting, horsemanship, economics, and the Spartan constitution are richly informative about his own life and times.

This volume collects Xenophon's portrayals of his associate, Socrates. In Memorabilia (or Memoirs of Socrates) and in Oeconomicus, a dialogue about household management, we see the philosopher through Xenophon's eyes. Here, as in the accompanying Symposium, we also obtain insight on life in Athens. The volume concludes with Xenophon's Apology, an interesting complement to Plato's account of Socrates' defense at his trial."

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Socratic Philosophy and Its Others (2013)

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Strange Fellows, by Christopher Dustin and Denise Schaeffer

Part I: Friendship, Resistance, and the Question of the Good

Chapter 1: Why Socrates and Thrasymachus Become Friends, by Catherine Zuckert
Chapter 2: The Daimonic Soul: On Plato’s Theages, by Michael Davis and Gwenda-lin Kaur Grewal

Part II: Philosophy and Sophistry: The Limits of ‘Logos’

Chapter 3: Philosophy and Sophistry in Plato’s ‘Euthydemus’, by Mary P. Nichols and Denise Schaeffer
Chapter 4: Socrates Talking to Himself? On the ‘Greater Hippias’, by Christopher A. Colmo
Chapter 5: The Sophist Hippias and the Problem of Polytropia, by David Corey
Chapter 6: On Wolves and Dogs: The Eleatic Stranger’s Socratic Turn in the ‘Sophist’, by Matthew Dinan

Part III: Imagery, Tragedy, and Tyranny

Chapter 7: Philosophers as Painters: On the Corruptibility of the Philosophic Nature in Plato’s ‘Republic’, by Christopher A. Dustin
Chapter 8: Plato’s ‘Apology’ as Tragedy, by Jacob Howland
Chapter 9: Sophist and Philosopher in Plato’s Sophist, by Evanthia Speliotis
Chapter 10: Socrates’ Odyssean Return: On Plato’s Charmides, by Ronna Burger

Part IV: Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Dialogue

Chapter 11: Philosophy, Rhetoric, and the Question of Harmony in Plato’s ‘Phaedrus’, by Denise Schaeffer
Chapter 12: Philosophy in the Perfect Tense: On Plato’s ‘Lovers’, by Michael Davis

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