Phaedrus

On the Relationship of Socrates and Plato College

From historical sources it is known that Socrates was Plato’s teacher and that Socrates was Plato’s elder by at least a few decades. Other than this, things become far less clear when examining the relationship between these two founders of western philosophy. Since Socrates never wrote down anything, scholars have become totally reliant on the works of his students to figure out who he was and what his philosophical ideas were. In Phaedrus, Plato presents a Socrates who says that writing is “inhuman, pretending to establish outside the mind what in reality can be only in the mind” (Phaedrus 275a). Socrates was a master of oral speech and this was evidently his preferred method of engaging his interlocutors and teaching his students. However, when comparing the works of those who mention Socrates contradictions arise and these works disagree in places. Kierkegaard believes that Xenophon is unreliable because he is shallow, Plato is unreliable because he tries to idealize his teacher, and Aristophanes is too heavily influenced by his nature as a comic playwright.

Despite these inconsistences it is important to look at the works of these three individuals because it is the only way of beginning to understand Socrates. Due to the...

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