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The Development of Ethics: Volume 1From Socrates to the Reformation$
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Terence Irwin

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780198242673

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198242673.001.0001

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(p.13) 2. Socrates
The Development of Ethics: Volume 1


Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the methods and doctrines that Plato treats as distinctive of Socrates. Socrates commits himself to three main paradoxes and the chapter discusses what Socrates means by his paradoxical claims, and why he believes them. The main ostensible source consists of the Platonic dialogues in which Socrates is a principal speaker. However, ancient readers do not treat all these dialogues as evidence for Socrates' views. Diogenes and Aristippus claim to be followers of Socrates, but they have harsh words for Plato and his doctrines. Aristotle attributes some of the doctrines found in the Platonic dialogues to Socrates, and others to Plato. The Stoics criticize Plato, but not Socrates, on some ethical questions. The division that these readers mark, explicitly or implicitly, between Socrates and Plato can be understood on the assumption that they agree with Aristotle's judgment about which doctrines are Socratic and which are Platonic. He often contrasts Socrates' ethical theory with Plato's. He ascribes a purely cognitive view of virtue to Socrates, but never to Plato.

Keywords:   Socrates, virtue, Plato, paradoxes, Platonic dialogues, Diogenes, Aristippus, Aristotle, Stoics

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