BMCR 2019.06.32

Plato and Xenophon: Comparative Studies. Mnemosyne Supplements 417

, , , Plato and Xenophon: Comparative Studies. Mnemosyne Supplements 417. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2018. xvi, 670. ISBN 9789004369016. €154.00.

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This volume is a landmark of how far the new wave in Socratic studies has traveled. At the same time, it presents an opportunity to assess how much of the remaining so-called Socratic problem resists dissolution. This will be a collection of interest to all scholars working in Socratic studies and a necessary addition to any research library.

The papers collected here originate from a conference at Bar Ilan University in June 2014, and are divided into four groups: Methods, Ethics, From Friendship to Politics, and History. There are also two introductory essays. The first, by conference organizer and co-editor Gabriel Danzig, seeks to give an introduction to the comparative study of Plato and Xenophon. The second, by co-editor David Johnson, includes concise summaries of each of the papers. Also included are an Index of Passages and a General Index. The volume is very well produced; and the publisher’s few typographical errors do not obscure the sense of the text.

Space does not permit detailed consideration of each contribution. Suffice it to say that their quality is generally high. All are well informed by relevant scholarship, and there are separate and extensive bibliographies at the conclusion of each. Of rather more value here, I believe, will be to give some overview of several related issues that run through the papers: the origins and current state of scholarship on the “Socratic problem,” namely what we can ever know of the historical Socrates; the relation of this problem to developmentalist and ingressive approaches to the works of Plato; the recent renaissance in Xenophon scholarship in the last several decades; and methodological concerns that arise in the comparative approach especially to reading Plato and Xenophon against one another.1

In his “Introduction to the Comparative Study of Plato and Xenophon,” Danzig credits the work of Louis-André Dorion as the inspiration for the conference, most immediately the 2000-2001 publication with Michele Bandini of Xenophon’s Memorabilia in the Budé series.2 In his introduction to the first of those volumes, Dorion argued at length for the need finally to recognize the “Socratic problem” as a false issue; the need to set it aside in order to rehabilitate the work of Xenophon; and the implications of such a rehabilitation for Socratic studies.3 In the present volume, Dorion rehearses this argument in the first of his two contributions, “Comparative Exegesis and the Socratic Problem,” in which he credits the pioneering work of Paul Vander Waerdt in the early 1990’s for having moved him to adopt the comparative approach that led him beyond the Memorabilia to a number of important papers collected in 2013 as L’Autre Socrate, études sur les écrites socratiques de Xénophon. 4 In the variety and quality of the contributions, the present volume amply demonstrates the value of once again taking Xenophon seriously as a philosophical thinker without need of apology, as well as the merits of a comparative approach to the study of the Socratic literature. Likewise, I believe Dorion has been vindicated in his judgment that the “Socratic problem” is a false one, even while he himself admits (p. 67) that his work has yet to bring “a definitive end to the Socratic problem.”

The “Socratic problem” or “Socratic question” begins in the 18th century, with the publication of Historia critica philosophiae (1742-1744) by Jakob Brucker, who raises the issue of which of the major witnesses—Xenophon or Plato —provides the more trustworthy account of Socrates’ philosophy, where philosophy is understood to be a body of propositional teachings that are built-up rationally and systematically. Brucker judges Xenophon the more accurate, as he finds Plato’s work rather to be a syncretism of Socrates and Pythagorean, Eleatic, and Heraclitean thought.5 Some two decades after Brucker, Jean-Jacques Garnier (1761) dissented from this view because of what he saw as Xenophon’s exaggerated apologetic purpose; but the most forceful reversal comes with Friedrich Schleiermacher’s 1815 essay “Ueber den Werth des Sokrates als Philosophen.”

Xenophon, of course, had enjoyed a great reputation as a writer and philosopher until that time. He is the first of the Socratics to whom Diogenes Laertius turns after the life of Socrates; and Diogenes recounts that he was know as the “Attic Muse” for the sweetness of his diction. As a political theorist, his influence is seen prominently in Machiavelli; and he remains of interest still among the founders of the American republic of the United States, only a generation earlier than Schleiermacher’s essay. For his part, Schleiermacher complains that Xenophon cannot be trusted as a witness to the historical Socrates because he was incapable of comprehending Socrates’ philosophy, and second because the Socrates depicted by Xenophon would have attracted neither the interest of Plato nor the censure of the Athenians. This dismissal of Xenophon’s philosophical acumen continues right up through the work of Gregory Vlastos and Charles Kahn scant decades ago.6

As Dorion notes, the work of Karl Joël (starting with Der echte und der xenophontische Sokrates, in 1895) and Olaf Gigon ( Socrates, sein Bild in Dichtung und Geschichte, of 1947) had already provided the basis for dissolving the Socratic problem by recognizing the essentially fictional nature of the “Socratic discourses.” In view of this, one may wonder why it is Dorion’s arguments have not been entirely persuasive, so that even David Johnson, one of the co-editors of the collection under review, tries to salvage the inquiry into the historical Socrates with his suggestion of an essential harmony among the witnesses in his contribution “Xenophon’s Intertextual Socrates.”

The resources for understanding the resilience of this issue are partly supplied by two of the contributions, Christopher Moore’s “Xenophon on ‘Philosophy’ and Socrates,” and David Thomas’s “The Enemies of Hunting in Xenophon’s Cynegeticus. ” Together with these should be included Livio Rossetti’s recent chapter “Philosopher Socrates? Philosophy at the Time of Socrates and the Reformed Philosophia of Plato,” in the anthology Socrates and the Socratic Dialogue (2018). These authors investigate the vocabulary of philosopher, philosophy, and philosophize in fifth and fourth century Greek, with a view (in Moore) particularly to Xenophon’s seemingly derisive use of the terms, and (in Rossetti) to the enormous change in usage following what he terms the “Plato cyclone.”7

The problem hides in plain sight in the very title of Schleiermacher’s essay: Socrates as philosopher. But what does it mean to call Socrates a philosopher, a term that would not have been applied to him in his lifetime?8 And what would it mean to try to reconstruct Socrates’ philosophy? So too, what is meant by Schleiermacher’s disparagement of Xenophon as insufficiently capable of philosophizing?

Xenophon and Plato differ in many ways, but one of the most obvious is that in the former Socrates does not advocate for the study of cosmology, ontology, meteorology, or mathematics beyond what is immediately useful for civic life (albeit that we are told he makes this judgment not being unfamiliar with these fields); and Xenophon—across all his works, not just those in which Socrates is featured—is rather more concerned with presenting memorable scenes of moral instruction than with theoretical disquisitions. As a positive program, he tells us Socrates concerned himself with what he calls the human things ( ta anthropina).9 While in both authors Socrates appears to avoid the sort of natural history parodied in the Clouds, we might say that in Plato we have a Socrates who additionally has concerns for the non-humanistic sciences at least of ontology and mathematics.

Now it is certainly useful to engage in the rational reconstruction of Xenophon’s philosophy in the sense of laying out systematically what seems to be his underlying theories. Norman Sandridge admirably pursues such a study of Xenophon’s theory of leadership, for example, in Loving Humanity, Learning, and Being Honored (2012). In the volume under review, Roslyn Weiss is similarly the very model of comparative philosophical study in her paper “Pity or Pardon: Responding to Intentional Wrongdoing in Plato, Xenophon, and Aristotle”; so too, Dorion in his second paper in the collection, “Plato and Xenophon on the Different Reasons that Socrates Always Obeys the Law.”

The problem comes in the wake of Rossetti’s “Platonic cyclone,” in which the meaning of the philosophical vocabulary begins to shift decisively toward the expectation of systematic, theoretical concern for the non-humanistic sciences. As late as the Suda, we see Xenophon (s.v.) described as a philosophos Socratikos. What has happened between then and Schleiermacher’s essay?

An answer to this comes in appreciating that the Socratic problem is essentially an academic problem. Imagine, for example, that Plato had not retreated to a country estate and formed an intellectual community around him that survived his death. Had he been, as it were, a solitary author, presumably the reception of his works would have looked very much like Xenophon’s—perhaps even less, for his concerns can be abstruse and his style somewhat mannered; he does not have command of an appealingly wide array of literary genres; and whether deserved or not, he was an object of derision by comedians and fellow Socratics, and not someone known for his great andragathia. 10

Our view of Plato has been shaped by the institutional reception of his works through the Academy and thence into the Lyceum and the schools, and, most decisively beyond them, into the normative strains of Christian thought. In early modern Europe, this reception is reduplicated in the intellectual movement from the Renaissance and the Reformation that leads to Schleiermacher’s involvement in the founding of the University of Berlin, and his very Lutheran hermeneutical concerns for Plato’s texts. We might expect that the fix-is-in against Xenophon as soon as we remember that Schleiermacher’s lecture was at the Royal Academy of Sciences. In short, Schleiermacher looks at Xenophon and sees at best a statesman. He looks at Plato’s Socrates and he sees himself, ein Wissenschaftler, blind to the irony that that he is now teaching for a fee, perhaps unconsciously repressing the uncanny resemblance between the Humboldtian research university and the Phrontisterion of Aristophanes.11

It is this Platonizing in the academic profession of philosophy whose traces are still evident here. Even Danzig writes of Xenophon “correcting” Plato, as if what is at stake is some appeal to the “real” Socrates. Dorion, for all his radical desire to rid us of the Socratic problem, still sees the ultimate goal as improving our comparative study of Xenophon’s philosophy, in the sense of rational reconstructions of his theoretical commitments. In his contribution “Xenophon’s Intertextual Socrates,” Johnson fights a rather quixotic (dare we say?) rear-guard action: in place of the unrecoverable philosophy of the historical Socrates, this other Socrates is to be systematically harmonized from the various Socratic reminiscences in order to button-down a stable meaning for the signifier “Socrates.”12

As surprisingly retrograde as Johnson’s suggestion may appear, it marks, I think, the last step in the final overcoming of the Socratic problem. What Johnson is reacting to is precisely the success of Dorion’s campaign to eradicate the problem. Assuming that that project has come to fulfillment, what then is meant by “Socratic studies,” and what will its research project be, if it is not grounded somehow in the historical reality of Socrates? Already in 1994, Vander Waerdt had anticipated this question, suggesting as “our chief objective … the understanding of the Socratic movement in all its diversity.”13

Consider an analogous problem, courtesy of the Danish Socrates (as he styled himself), Søren Kierkegaard. In the face of the Schleiermacherian program of higher criticism, Kierkegaard dismisses concern for the problem of knowing the historical Jesus. The whole point of Christian devotion is that it rests on faith. No results of philological criticism can change that. What would it even mean to prove scientifically that Jesus had not existed?14 So, imagine somehow that science could prove that Socrates never existed—an existence already better attested than that of Jesus. Nothing would have changed. We would still be faced with a collection of texts sharing a family resemblance in their concern for a character named Socrates; and this sort of exegetical problem is well known in literary studies.

The enclosure by Plato’s metaphysical concerns is evident in the yearning to recover the historical Socrates, apparent—like the return of the repressed—in the way so many of the contributors in the present volume help themselves to the assistance of the pseudo-Platonic epistles, especially the seventh letter, hoping that it will provide what Nietzsche calls “a telephone to the beyond,” to allow us to hear the voice of the real Socrates.15 Similarly, despite the many protestation about the impossibility of reliably establishing the chronology of either authors’ works, many of the contributors continue to speak of Plato’s “early works,” hoping still that these either reflect a more authentically “Socratic” stage in his development, or, when this becomes indefensible, imagining that these works are at least less sophisticatedly “Platonic,” and are meant as entrées into the oeuvre.16 For this reason, several of the contributors lean heavily on the First Alcibiades. This is not the place to engage in a full discussion of the problems with ascribing this work to Plato. Suffice it here simply to note the conflation of whether the work is a good pedagogical introduction to the corpus (as it was certainly viewed by some in antiquity) with the question of whether it is an authentic work of Plato.

What of the future direction of Socratic studies? These contributions at their best have brought us to face this question anew. The project of rationally reconstructing the theoretical positions of the various Socratics and their comparative study will be of central concern; but at the same time we must recognize that comparative philosophy is only one part of understanding the impact of the Socratic authors.17 Of course we will remain interested to learn new facts about the historical Socrates should they become available; but what must be seen now is that Socrates has and always will be a radically absent and unknown origin of the Socratic movement, and we will have to grapple with the historiographical problem that runs parallel to this radical absence, namely whether Socrates marks a turning point in ancient Greek thought. This was another of the reasons Schleiermacher preferred Plato: He could not imagine that Xenophon’s Socrates could have had such an impact. A critical reassessment of this problem has recently begun to be explored by André Laks, in his , Introduction à la «philosophie présocratique» (2006), and in his new collections with Glenn Most, Early Greek Philosophy and Les débuts de la philosophie (both 2016).18 As we confront the realization that, as Derrida has written, il n’y a pas de hors-texte, we will need a new Socratic grammatology, one which recognizes that for the Socratic authors Socrates was always-already en abyme, and that what is really at issue is how these authors have treated this most dangerous supplement.19 Or, perhaps in a more Lacanian way, to appreciate the true sense of what Dorion has pointed us to: l’Autre Socrate.

Table of Contents

• Acknowledgements
• Abbreviations
• Notes on Contributors
• Introduction to the Comparative Study of Plato and Xenophon, Gabriel Danzig
• Introduction to This Volume, David Johnson

Part 1 Methods
• Comparative Exegesis and the Socratic Problem, Louis-André Dorion
• Xenophon’s Intertextual Socrates, David Johnson
• Division and Collection: A New Paradigm for the Relationship between Plato and Xenophon, William H. F. Altman
• Xenophon and the Socratics, James Redfield
• Xenophon on “Philosophy” and Socrates, Christopher Moore
• Xenophon and the Elenchos: A Formal and Comparative Analysis, Genevieve Lachance

Part 2 Ethics
• Laughter in Plato’s and Xenophon’s Symposia, Katarzyna Jazdzewska
• Socrates’ Physiognomy: Plato and Xenophon in Comparison, Alessandro Stavru
• Xenophon’s Triad of Socratic Virtues and the Poverty of Socrates, Lowell Edmunds
• Pity or Pardon: Responding to Intentional Wrongdoing in Plato, Xenophon, and Aristotle, Roslyn Weiss
• Mechanisms of Pleasure according to Xenophon’s Socrates, Olga Chernyakhovskaya
• Plato, Aristotle and Xenophon on the Ends of Virtue, Gabriel Danzig
• Socrates Erotikos: Mutuality, Role Reversal and Erotic Paideia in Xenophon’s and Plato’s Symposia, Francesca Pentassuglio
• Socratic Economics and the Psychology of Money, T. A. van Berkel

Part 3 From Friendship to Politics
• Xenophon’s Conception of Friendship in Memorabilia 2.6 (with Reference to Plato’s Lysis), Melina Tamiolaki
• Socrates’ Attitude towards Politics in Xenophon and Plato, Fiorenza Bevilacqua
• Plato and Xenophon on the Different Reasons that Socrates Always Obeys the Law, Louis-André Dorion
• Plato’s Statesman and Xenophon’s Cyrus, Carol Atack

Part 4 History
• Sparta in Xenophon and Plato, Noreen Humble
• Plato, Xenophon and Persia, C. J. Tuplin
• The Enemies of Hunting in Xenophon’s Cynegeticus, David Thomas

Index of Passages

General Index

Since 2007, I have several times offered seminars on Xenophon and on Socrates at New York University (both Collegiate seminars and in the Departments of Classics and Comparative Literature); and it is with gratitude that I acknowledge the insights and efforts of the students in those classes.


Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Stephen Herek, director. Interscope Communications. 1989.
Brucker, Jakob. Historia critica philosophiae. 4 [5] volumes (v. 4 published in parts 1 & 2). Leipzig: Bernhard Christoph Breitkopf, 1742-1744.
Cantana, Leo. “The Concept ‘System of Philosophy’: The Case of Jakob Brucker’s Historiography of Philosophy. History and Theory 44, 1 (February, 2005): 72-90.
Companion to Socrates, A. Sara Ahbel-Rappe & Rachana Kamtekar, eds. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006.
Companion to Socrates, The Bloomsbury. John Bussanich & Nicholas D. Smith, eds. London & New York: Bloomsbury, 2013.
Companion to Socrates, The Cambridge. Donald R. Morrison, ed. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
débuts de la philosophie, Les. André Laks & Glenn W. Most, eds. Paris: Fayard, 2016.
Derrida, Jacques. De la grammatologie. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1967.
————. The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond. [1980] Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1987.
Does Socrates Have a Method? Gary Alan Scott, ed. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002.
Dorion, Louis-André. L’Autre Socrate. Etudes sur les écrites socratiques de Xénophon. Paris: Les Belle Lettres, 2013.
Dupont, Florence. The Invention of Literature: From Greek Intoxication to the Latin Book. [1994] Translated by Janet Lloyd. Baltimore & London: Johns Hopkins, 1999.
Early Greek Philosophy. André Laks & Glenn W. Most, eds. 9 volumes. Loeb Classical Library 524-532. Cambridge, MA & London: Harvard University Press, 2016.
Edmunds, Lowell. “What Was Socrates Called?” Classical Quarterly 56.2 (2006): 414-425.
Garnier, Jean-Jacques. “Premier Mémoire sur Platon. Caractere de la Philosophie Socratique.” [1761] Mémoires de Literature, tires des Registres de l’Academic royale des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres 57 (1773): 247–296.
Hadot, Pierre. Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault. Edited with an introduction by Arnold I. Davidson. Translated by Michael Chase. Oxford & Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1995.
Kahn, Charles H. Plato and the Socratic Dialogue: The Philosophical Use of a Literary Form. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Kierkegaard, Søren [Johannes Climacus]. Concluding Unscientific Postscript to the Philosophical Crumbs. [1846] Edited and translated by Alastair Hannay. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Kofman, Sarah. Socrates: Fictions of a Philosopher. [1989] Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press, 1998.
Laks, André. Introduction à la «philosophie présocratique.» Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2006.
————. The Concept of Presocratic Philosophy: Its Origin, Development, and Significance. Translated by Glenn W. Most. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018.
Montuori, Mario. Socrate. Fisiologia di un mito. Florence: Sansoni, 1974. English translation by J. M. P. & M. Langdale (less full notes) as Socrates: Physiology of a Myth. London Studies in Classical Philology 6. Amsterdam: J. C. Gieben, 1981.
————. De Socrates iuste damnato: The Rise of the Socratic Problem in the Eighteenth Century. London Studies in Classical Philology 7. Amsterdam: J. C. Gieben, 1981.
Nails, Debra. Agora, Academy, and the Conduct of Philosophy. Dordrecht, Boston, London: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1995.
Rosenmeyer, Patricia A. Ancient Epistolary Fictions: The Letter in Greek Literature. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Sandridge, Norman B. Loving Humanity, Learning, and Being Honored: The Foundations of Leadership in Xenophon’s Education of Cyrus. Hellenic Studies 55. Washington, D.C.: Center for Hellenic Studies, 2012.
Schleiermacher, Friedrich. „Ueber den Werth des Sokrates als Philosophen.” [1815] Abhandlungen der philosophischen Klasse der Königlich-Preußischen Akademie der Wissenschaften aus den Jahren 1814-1815. (1818): 50-68.
Socrates and the Socratic Dialogue. Alessandro Stavru & Christopher Moore, eds. Leiden & Boston: Brill, 2018.
Socrates from Antiquity to the Enlightenment. Michael Trapp, ed. Centre for Hellenic Studies Publications 9. London: Ashgate, 2007.
Socrates in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Michael Trapp, ed. Centre for Hellenic Studies Publications 10. London: Ashgate, 2007.
Socrates 2400 Years since His Death (399 B.C.-2001 A.D.). Vassilis Karasmanis, ed. Athens: European Cultural Center of Delphi, 2004.
Socratic Movement, The. Paul Vander Waerdt, ed. Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press, 1994.
Thesleff, Holger. Studies in Platonic Chronology. Commentationes Humanarum Litterarum 70. Helsinki: Societas Scientiarum Fennica, 1982. Reprinted in Platonic Patterns: A Collection of Studies by Holger Thesleff. Las Vegas, Zurich, Athens: Parmenides Publishing, 2009.
Vander Waerdt, Paul A. “Socratic Justice and Self-sufficiency: The Story of the Delphic Oracle in Xenophon’s Apology of Socrates.Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 11 (1993): 1-48.
Vlastos, Gregory. Socrates, Ironist and Moral Philosopher. Ithaca & New York: Cornell University Press, 1991.
Wohl, Victoria. “Plato Avant la Lettre: Authenticity in Plato’s Epistles.” Ramus 27.1 (1998): 60-93.
Xénophon. Mémorables. Texte établi par Michele Bandini, traduit par Louis-André Dorion. 3 tomes. Collection Budé. Paris: Les Belle Lettres, 2000-2001.
————. Memorabili, a cura di Fiorenza Bevilacqua. Turin: Unione Tipografico-Editrice Torinese, 2010.


1. By “ingressive” I mean any attempt to establish an intended order for reading the works of Plato, i.e., their imagined curricular or pedagogical arrangement, as distinct from the question of their dates of composition. The term is borrowed from Charles Kahn’s Plato and the Socratic Dialogue (1996).

2. Reviewed by Danzig at BMCR 2005.05.30.

3. For a version of this argument in English, see Dorion’s chapter “The Rise and Fall of the Socratic Problem,” in the Cambridge Companion to Socrates. (Reviewed at BMCR 2011.07.13.)

4. See Vander Waerdt 1993, and also the collection The Socratic Movement.

5. See, e.g., Brucker’s chapter de schola socratica, vol. 1, pp. 522-523, p. 556. In his Budé introduction, Dorion recounts this history in some detail. For more complete accounts, see the section “La recezione dei Memorabili e la questione socratica,” pp. 63-92, in Bevilacqua’s introduction to her Memorabilia text and translation. For a study of Brucker’s anachronistic concern of systematicity, see Cantana, “The Concept ‘System of Philosophy’: The Case of Jacob Brucker’s Historiography of Philosophy.” Montuori 1974 sketches the reception of Socrates from antiquity through the Renaissance and Enlightenment. For a bibliography of 18th century writings on Socrates, see Montuori 1981.

6. Some typical examples: Vlastos 1991, p. 99: “[Plato and other Socratics] were philosophers with aggressively original doctrines of their own, one of them a very great philosopher, while Xenophon, versatile and innovative litterateur, creator of whole new literary genres, does not seem versed nearly as well as they in philosophy or as talented in this area.” Kahn 1996, p.76: “[Xenophon] apparently makes use of material from Plato in order to add philosophic spice to his otherwise bland accounts of Socrates’ moral teaching.”

7. These authors’ careful concern for philological investigation of the question of what it would mean to call Socrates a philosopher, is similar to the earlier studies of James Lesher and Harrold Tarrant on the question of whether Socrates has a “method” and whether that method is “elenchos.” For these studies—which, unfortunately, are not reflected in the present volume’s discussions on this topic—see the anthology Does Socrates Have a Method? This concern to distinguish Plato’s Socrates by his scientific method derives ultimately from Scheielermacher.

8. See Lowell Edmunds, “What Was Socrates Called?”

9. Memorabilia I.1.11-16, IV.7. Cf. Symposium 8.4, where Socrates recognizes the sense of wonder that engenders natural history, but dismisses it as no more suitable to polite company than the Syracusan’s entertainments. Better might be to adopt distinction emphasized by Hadot between philosophy as a way of life and philosophical discourses. (See, e.g., “Philosophy as a Way of Life,” in the collection also by that title, pp. 266 ff.)

10. See Diogenes Laertius’ life of Plato at III.35 for Antisthenes’ disparagement, at III.26-28 for his treatment in comedy. See also Thomas’s contribution to the present volume, “The Enemies of Hunting in Xenophon’s Cynegeticus.

11. Cf. Hadot, “Philosophy as a Way of Life,” p. 271: “[M]odern philosophy is first and foremost a discourse developed in the classroom, and then consigned to books. It is a text that requires exegesis.”

12. This approach is anticipated by Livio Rossetti, “The Sokratikoi Logoi as a literary barrier. Toward the identification of a Standard Socrates through them.” Socrates 2400 Years since His Death (2004): 81-93.

13. Vander Waerdt, The Socratic Movement : 3.

14. See, e.g., Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Book I, Chapter 1, §1 The Holy Scriptures.

15. I believe the authenticity of the epistles can no longer be maintained after the work of Wohl and Rosenmeyer. Rosenmeyer has clearly situated them as a part of a wider literary phenomenon. Of particular relevance, as Wohl very ably discusses, is the way in which the seventh letter’s overly Hellenistic concern for writing traces a Platonic metaphysics of presence. This same problem is evident in Johnson’s repetition of the anxiety over “[Socrates’] refusal to write anything himself.” (p. 75, emphasis added) Socrates did not write because—why should he?…In any case, it was not because he had read Plato’s Phaedrus. Behind this anxiety is a kind of Freudian longing for the parential figure by which one imagines that Socrates should have been concerned to write in order to make himself present for us. Cf. Dupont (1994), who, while not au courant with more recent Socratic studies (e.g., her conflation of Plato and Socrates), nevertheless provides the means for understanding why Socrates did not write (apart, perhaps, from his prison writings). Relevant here also is Derrida 1980.

16. In Agora, Academy, and the Conduct of Philosophy (1995), Debra Nails nicely discusses the relation between what she terms the “analytic deveolpmentalist” approach to Plato and the approach taken to the Socratic problem in Anglo-American scholarship, particularly as typified by Vlastos. Overall in the present volume, there is no real critical concern for how the dissolution of the Socratic problem impacts developmentalist or ingressive reading strategies for the works of Plato, of the sort Nails has pioneered. If nothing else, the recognition of Plato as simply one among other writers of Socratic discourses—albeit one whose cyclonic force has been magnified by his institutional reception— ought to renew interest in interpretative projects such as that of Thesleff, who focuses on how literary features of Plato’s works may reflect differences in audience and institutional contexts of reception (inside and outside the Academy) rather than speculations about philosophical development. At the same time, this will have implications for our ability to appreciate the literary aspects of these writers’ work. In this vein, students in my Socrates seminar have suggested that the literary rivalry between Plato and Xenophon can be compared to a rap battle, in which Plato is Kanye, and Xenophon is Drake—which I find a refreshingly unphilosophical suggestion.

17. Of the three recent “companions” to Socrates—Blackwell 2006, Cambridge 2011, Bloombury 2013—only the first includes sustained engagement with the reception-tradition. Sarah Kofman (1989) had already moved further in seeing Socratic studies as essentially the study of fictions; but I have yet to see anything in the scholarship to equal the unpublished work of a student in one of my seminars on the figure of Socrates in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. For a call to understand Socratic studies as more than comparative philosophy, see Michael Trapp’s introduction to Socrates from Antiquity to the Enlightenment. (Also of interest is its companion volume, Socrates in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries.)

18. Reviewed at BMCR 2007.06.42; also now in an English version, reviewed at BMCR 2018.11.39. Early Greek Philosophy reviewed at BMCR 2018.03.15, and BMCR 2018.03.16.

19. Cf. Wohl, “Plato Avant la Lettre,” p. 82.