Plato's Socrates as Educator

By Gary Alan Scott

Subjects: Ancient Greek Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Ancient Greek Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791447246, 251 pages, October 2000
Hardcover : 9780791447239, 251 pages, October 2000

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

List of Abbreviations

1. Socrates and Teaching

1. a. Why Socrates Denies Being a Teacher
1. b. Conventional Athenian Assumptions about Teachers and Teaching
1. c. Socrates as Student: The Contrast between a Market and a Gift Economy
1. d. The Meaning of "Teaching" in the Gorgias: "Additive" versus "Integrative" Models
1. e. Conclusion: The Socratic Paideusis

2. The Lysis: Limits and Liberation in Socrates' Encounter with Lysis

2. a. The Threshold Imagery in the Dramatic Setting and Prologue (203a1–206e2)
2. b. Socrates' First Conversation with Lysis (206e3–211b5)


2. b.1. Step One—The Unsettling: Disturbing What Is Familiar
2. b.2. Step Two—The Arousal: Fanning the Flames of Desire
2. b.3. Step Three—The Chastening: Reimposing Limits


2. c. Conclusion: The Positive Results of the Lysis

3. The Alcibiades I: Socratic Dialogue as Self-Care

3. a. Disarming Alcibiades: The Preliminary Contest
3. b. Introduction to the Problem of Taking Trouble over Oneself
3. c. The Meaning of Taking Trouble over Oneself
3. d. Practices for "Taking Trouble": Gumnastike and Mathesis


3. d.1. Gumnastike and Dialogue
3. d.2. Learning What Needs to Be Learned


3. e. Conclusion: The Ominous End of the Alcibiades I

4. The Symposium: Eros, Truth Telling, and the Preservation of Freedom

4. a. Alcibiades' Motive in the Algon with Socrates
4. b. Alcibiades' Attempt to Dominate Socrates


4. b.1. Eros and Thumos
4. b.2. The Vindication of Socrates' Approach to Others


4. c. Irony and Inebriation: Two Ways of Telling the Truth


4. c.1. Six Points of Emphasis in Alcibiades' Speech
4. c.2. Inebriation and Parrhêsia in Truth Telling


4. d. Conclusion: Adjudicating the Agon over Truth Telling

5. Dramatic Failure and the Gift in Socratic Paideusis

Selected Bibliography

Examines and evaluates Socrates' role as an educator in Plato's dialogues.


Despite his ceaseless efforts to purge his fellow citizens of their unfounded opinions and to bring them to care for what he believes to be the most important things, Plato's Socrates rarely succeeds in his pedagogical project with the characters he encounters. This is in striking contrast to the historical Socrates, who spawned the careers of Plato, Xenophon, and other authors of Socratic dialogues. Through an examination of Socratic pedagogy under its most propitious conditions, focusing on a narrow class of dialogues featuring Lysis and Alcibiades, this book answers the question: "why does Plato portray his divinely appointed gadfly as such a dramatic failure?"

Gary Alan Scott is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Saint Peter's College.


"This book is exceptionally important and useful. It combines three things usually found separately (if at all): sensitivity to the dialogues as integrities of drama and argument; a clear philosophical understanding of the issues relating to human freedom; and a thorough appreciation of the complexity and subtlety of Socrates as an educator. The discussions work together thematically, and are also interesting just as interpretations of the three dialogues. The book is an exceptionally important and useful work. " — W. Thomas Schmid, author of Plato's Charmides and the Socratic Ideal of Rationality