Why Did Plato Write Socratic Dialogues?

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De Gruyter


The reader will discern in the title of this paper a reference to a classic article by Charles Kahn.1 In this article and in a number that have followed,2 Kahn has criticized the dominant contemporary interpretation of Plato's early dialogues and suggested an alternative of his own. I do not think Kahn's positive views are correct;3 however, I think he succeeds completely in showing what is wrong with the standard interpretation of the early dialogues. He does not show, in other words, what Plato's motives were for writing his early dialogues; but he certainly shows what were not Plato's motives. In what follows I shall build on Kahn's critique in order to pave the way for a statement of my own positive account of the nature and purpose of the early Platonic dialogues.


Mark McPherran, ed., Wisdom, Ignorance and Virtue: New Essays in Socratic Studies, 1997