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Socratic Studies Paperback – 16 Dec 1993


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"Each of these essays is like a polished diamond, hard-edged, multi-faceted, and brilliant....[They] will stand as a remarkable achievement. Reading them is exhilarating and challenging. They are a splendid example of how philology and analytic philosophy can together be used to recover ancient wisdom." Lloyd P. Gerson, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"Vlastos' work is central to any understanding of ancient philosophy so this work will be widely sought out by professors and students." The Reader's Review

"Those who wish to argue that this ancient Athenian used irony and other forms of indirect expression in order to enhance his communication of internally consistent and cogent philosophical theories that can endure examination by the contemporary analytic philosopher will enjoy sinking their teeth into Socratic Studies." Naomi Reshotko, Canadian Philsophical Review

"Over the last dozen years or so Vlastos has transformed the study of Socrates with missionary zeal. He has produced a picture of Socrates that is amazingly consistent and often satisfying, built upon a series of plausible hypotheses." Ancient Philosophy

Book Description

This is the companion volume to Gregory Vlastos' highly acclaimed Socrates: Ironist and Moral Philosopher. Four ground-breaking papers which laid the basis for his understanding of Socrates are collected here, together with a fifth chapter which is a new and provocative discussion of Socrates' arguments in the Protagoras and Laches.

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In Plato's earlier dialogues - in all of them except the Euthydemus, Hippias Major, Lysis, Menexenus - Socrates' inquiries display a pattern of investigation whose rationale he does not investigate. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Work of a master 15 Mar 2005
By Epops - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is a companion volume to Vlastos' "Socrates: Ironist and Moral Philosopher". It contains five papers, on Socrates' method of inquiry (elenchus), on his disavowal of knowledge, on the "Socratic Fallacy" (also about his attitude toward knowledge), on Socrates' relationship with the Athenian government, a comparison of the "Protagoras" and the "Laches" (a very technical paper), plus an essay on Vlastos' own political attitudes compared to those of Socrates.

Vlastos assumes a knowledge of the Greek alphabet and of basic logic. He spent his professional life trying to clarify Socrates' philosophy to the extent that it can be separated from Plato's projections. As a non-specialist, I find Professor Vlastos' explanations very convincing, but understanding them requires time and attention to detail. It is not light reading.

His paper on "Socrates and the Athenian democracy" covers much of the same ground as I.F. Stone's speculative and subjective book on Socrates' trial and death. Vlastos takes pains not to outrun his evidence, and when he does, to be very clear about it. He shows clearly that Socrates was NOT a closet oligarchist, probably sympathized with the democracy, and avoided politics when at all possible. But he also shows that the evidence for any clear statement of Socrates' political views is sparse - "crumbs".

The essay on "Socrates and Vietnam" is the most interesting of the papers because in it Vlastos reveals his own Leftist political views and his disappointment that Socrates wasn't himself more clearly a man of the Left - in ancient terms, a man of the "demos". He thinks this is a deficiency and that it diminishes Socrates' status as a moral example. For Vlastos, the viciousness of Athenian politics does not excuse Socrates' passivity.

Vlastos equates the Vietnam War with the Peloponnesian War, and faults Socrates for staying silent regarding atrocities committed in that war by Athens. While Professor Vlastos, like Socrates, is dead and can't defend himself, nevertheless it seems to me that Vlastos' naive and doctrinaire support of Communist regimes in both Vietnam and Central America was in harmony with the views of his fellow academics and much of the American electorate, and carried negligible personal risk. Socrates, by contrast, like any Athenian citizen, ran the risk of fine, exile, or death, if he took a political position that conflicted with the "demos" of Athens. No Athenian had the protection of a First Amendment. Socrates' trial and execution shows the extreme vulnerability of any Athenian who came into political conflict with his fellow citizens.

Vlastos, to his credit, doesn't let his political differences with his hero interfere with his fairness and objectivity. His work is close, careful, fair-minded, and scholarly reasoning at its best. May his spirit reside peacefully with that of the man he spent so many years studying.

(In fairness to Vlastos, it should be noted that in his paper "Socrates and Vietnam" he states that during the Vietnam years he was notified by the FBI that his status as an immigrant from Canada could be placed in jeopardy if he became too active in the anti-war movement. He says that FBI notification helped keep him at his research for the next 20 years, and that he identifies with Socrates' desire to stay out of trouble with the authorities. Vlastos, feeling more secure in exercising his First Amendment rights in the '80's, and no doubt by then a naturalized citizen, became more outspoken in his Leftist views. However, I don't think the possibility of being deported to Canada is equivalent to being sentenced to death, and, with all due respect to the professor, I find his comparison of his own situation with that of Socrates a bit much.)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Gregory Vlastos Fan 21 Jan 2011
By Sulpicia - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I am a huge fan of Gregory Vlastos' work. Reading Socrates: Ironist and Moral Philosopher many years ago was my first introduction to Plato scholarship and it convinced me to appreciate the Platonic dialogues. This short companion to Socrates: Ironist and Moral Philosopher did not disappoint. In this work, Vlastos works through four big questions about Socrates and the Socratic method from Plato's early dialogues in an elegant fashion. Although I disagree with the premise that we can ascribe these qualities to the historical Socrates, I think that Vlastos' treatment of the subject is articulate and fascinating. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys Plato and/or is a fan of Gregory Vlastos.
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