On Plato's Use of Socrates as a Character in his Dialogues

Hallvard Fossheim
University of Bergen
In this essay, it is first argued that there are several important motivations for considering as wholly legitimate the question concerning the presence of Socrates in Plato’s work. After sketching how reason in Plato’s dialogues is generally portrayed as embedded in the soul as a whole, I then apply these insights in arguing that this relation between character and thinking should inform our understanding of Plato’s Socrates as well. Socrates is present in the texts because reason, according to Plato, is dependent on both dialogue and character. This is not to say, however, that the character of Socrates is philosophy incarnate, or that the reader is supposed to ‘become’ Socrates; rather, Socrates constitutes an irreducible element in philosophy, and correspondingly, the reader comes to relate to philosophy by relating to the Socrates of the dialogues. Finally, I illustrate the thesis, and its fecundity, by focusing on an issue in the Phaedrus
Keywords Plato  Socrates  dialectic  dialogue
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