Apologizing for Socrates: Plato and Xenophon on Socrates' behavior in court

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This paper argues that the accounts of Socrates' behavior in court given by both Plato and Xenophon stem from the need these authors felt to respond, in different ways, to the post-trial debate about Socrates. Plato's aim in the Apology was primarily to respond to specific charges of incompetence, arrogance, and failure in court. Central literary and philosophical difficulties in the composition can be explained on this basis, as can characteristic Platonic doctrines elaborated here and in other Socratic dialogues. Xenophon's treatment of Socrates in his Apology can be explained by a similar polemical motive. While Plato acknowledges that Socrates failed in conventional terms, and develops an alternative framework for evaluating success and failure, Xenophon makes the more outrageous claim that Socrates was a success in conventional terms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-321
Number of pages41
JournalTransactions of the American Philological Association
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2003


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