Socrates the stoic? Rethinking protreptic, eudaimonism, and the role of Plato's socratic dialogues

Eric Brown
Washington University in St. Louis
I defend the Stoicizing view that Socrates in the Euthydemus really means what he says when he says that wisdom is the only good for a human being. By taking the deniers' case seriously and extending my Stoicizing interpretation to the Euthydemus as a whole, I aim to show how the dialogue calls into question three prominent assumptions that the deniers make, assumptions that reach far beyond the Euthydemus and that are made by more than just the deniers. First, the deniers misread Socrates' argument that wisdom is the only good because they misunderstand what makes a protreptic argument successful. I show that the Euthydemus both raises a difficult question about reasons one might have for radical change in view and suggests a sophisticated answer. Second, the deniers' philosophical doubts about the Stoic claim rest on a mistaken interpretation of Socrates' ethical theory. I show that the Euthydemus offers a more plausible picture of Socratic eudaimonism that accommodates the Stoic claim. Third, when the deniers rely on evidence outside the Euthydemus to cast doubt on the Stoicizing reading, they rely on a dubious methodological assumption about how to read Plato's Socratic dialogues. I argue that the Euthydemus calls for a different approach
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