We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

The Neoplatonic Socrates

Edited by Danielle A. Layne and Harold Tarrant

Publication Year: 2014

Today the name Socrates invokes a powerful idealization of wisdom and nobility that would surprise many of his contemporaries, who excoriated the philosopher for corrupting youth. The problem of who Socrates "really" was—the true history of his activities and beliefs—has long been thought insoluble, and most recent Socratic studies have instead focused on reconstructing his legacy and tracing his ideas through other philosophical traditions. But this scholarship has neglected to examine closely a period of philosophy that has much to reveal about what Socrates stood for and how he taught: the Neoplatonic tradition of the first six centuries C.E., which at times decried or denied his importance yet relied on his methods.

In The Neoplatonic Socrates, leading scholars in classics and philosophy address this gap by examining Neoplatonic attitudes toward the Socratic method, Socratic love, Socrates's divine mission and moral example, and the much-debated issue of moral rectitude. Collectively, they demonstrate the importance of Socrates for the majority of Neoplatonists, a point that has often been questioned owing to the comparative neglect of surviving commentaries on the Alcibiades, Gorgias, Phaedo, and Phaedrus, in favor of dialogues dealing explicitly with metaphysical issues. Supplemented with a contextualizing introduction and a substantial appendix detailing where evidence for Socrates can be found in the extant literature, The Neoplatonic Socrates makes a clear case for the significant place Socrates held in the education and philosophy of late antiquity.

Contributors: Crystal Addey, James M. Ambury, John F. Finamore, Michael Griffin, Marilynn Lawrence, Danielle A. Layne, Christina-Panagiota Manolea, François Renaud, Geert Roskam, Harold Tarrant.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (95.3 KB)


pdf iconDownload PDF (131.4 KB)
pp. v-vi

read more


Danielle A. Layne and Harold Tarrant

pdf iconDownload PDF (256.1 KB)
pp. 1-20

In one of the most romantic dialogues of his corpus, Plato depicts Socrates walking barefoot in the waters of the Ilissus, coyly tormented by a seemingly benign conundrum: “Who am I, and what are my intentions?” Turning to the handsome Phaedrus and admitting his real difficulty with his lack of self-knowledge, Socrates...

read more

Chapter 1. Socratic Love in Neoplatonism

Geert Roskam

pdf iconDownload PDF (272.0 KB)
pp. 21-35

In his famous speech at the end of Plato’s Symposium, Alcibiades aptly expresses his feelings of perplexity concerning Socrates. He complains that it is far from easy to recount in detail the latter’s singularity (τοπίαν)1 and assures his listeners that Socrates in outward appearance may look like an ugly satyr but in actuality...

read more

Chapter 2. Plutarch and Apuleius on Socrates’ Daimonion

John F. Finamore

pdf iconDownload PDF (271.4 KB)
pp. 36-50

The topic of the nature of Socrates’ daimonion found renewed interest in the Middle Platonic period. We are fortunate to possess two works from this period on Socrates’ personal daimon by Plutarch (c. 46–120 CE) and Apuleius (c. 125–c. 180 CE).1 Plato tells us that Socrates listened to a daimon, which he describes as...

read more

Chapter 3. The Daimonion of Socrates: Daimones and Divination in Neoplatonism

Crystal Addey

pdf iconDownload PDF (337.9 KB)
pp. 51-72

Socrates stands as a figurehead in the history of Western philosophy and is often perceived as the champion of reason and rationality. Within the history of modern classical and philosophical scholarship, Socrates has been perceived as the paragon of rationality and reason, the founder of both rational enquiry and the Western...

read more

Chapter 4. Socrates in the Neoplatonic Psychology of Hermias

Christina-Panagiota Manolea

pdf iconDownload PDF (215.2 KB)
pp. 73-79

In this chapter I focus on the portrait of Socrates found in selected passages of Hermias’s in Phaedrum commentary. Despite the fact that the work in question appears to comprise a series of lectures given by Syrianus, the head of the Neoplatonic School of Athens from 432 to 437 CE, the manuscript tradition nevertheless...

read more

Chapter 5. The Character of Socrates and the Good of Dialogue Form: Neoplatonic Hermeneutics

Danielle A. Layne

pdf iconDownload PDF (251.2 KB)
pp. 80-96

The answer to the question “Who is Socrates for the Neoplatonists?” must begin with a detailed understanding of how the Neoplatonists interpreted the dialogues of Plato and the characters presented in them. Primarily, it requires us to revisit a question that haunts almost all secondary literature on Plato: Why dialogue form? Why...

read more

Chapter 6. Hypostasizing Socrates

Michael Griffin

pdf iconDownload PDF (258.0 KB)
pp. 97-108

In this chapter, I would like to explore a defining feature of later Neoplatonist treatments of the Platonic Socrates, namely, the representation of Socrates as a hypostasis within the rich ontological and epistemological hierarchy of later Neoplatonism. This allegory of Socrates appears to be a common inheritance of both...

read more

Chapter 7. Socratic Character: Proclus on the Function of Erotic Intellect

James M. Ambury

pdf iconDownload PDF (220.2 KB)
pp. 109-117

In this chapter I attend to the analysis of Socrates’ character in Proclus’s Commentary on the First Alcibiades of Plato. While Proclus comments extensively on Socrates’ arguments, he is also clear that Socrates’ character is equally instructive for Alcibiades. Proclus’s view is profoundly Neoplatonic in the sense that it understands...

read more

Chapter 8. The Elenctic Strategies of Socrates: The Alcibiades I and the Commentary of Olympiodorus

François Renaud

pdf iconDownload PDF (223.3 KB)
pp. 118-126

In this chapter I examine the conditions and strategies for Socrates’ elenctic practice in the first part of the Alcibiades I (106c–119a), the part of the dialogue that Olympiodorus specifically designates “elenctic.” This part is naturally divided into two primary segments: (i) the supposed origin of Alcibiades’ knowledge (the...

read more

Chapter 9. Akrasia and Enkrateia in Simplicius’s Commentary on Epictetus’s Encheiridion

Marilynn Lawrence

pdf iconDownload PDF (250.3 KB)
pp. 127-142

Is it possible to knowingly err? In other words, can someone possessing knowledge of correct action willingly chose otherwise? Socrates did not think so, or at least that is how his position is characterized in the Protagoras. Making sense of this argument has been labeled by contemporary Socratic scholars as the...

read more

Chapter 10. The Many-Voiced Socrates: Neoplatonist Sensitivity to Socrates’ Change of Register

Harold Tarrant

pdf iconDownload PDF (340.3 KB)
pp. 143-162

It is not unnatural for the readers of some Neoplatonic texts to arrive at the conclusion that Neoplatonists had little idea of how one might set about distinguishing Socrates from Plato. Plenty of references to Socrates’ position in the Neoplatonic commentaries leave one asking whether they meant anything different from Plato’s...

read more


Danielle A. Layne and Harold Tarrant

pdf iconDownload PDF (202.9 KB)
pp. 163-166

As we said in the Introduction, this volume is specifically aimed at tackling “the idea that the Neoplatonists neglected the Socratic element of Plato’s dialogues.” What it could not do, indeed could never hope to do in the light of the sheer quantity of evidence, is give a complete account of Socrates in later Platonism. Partly...

read more

Appendix: The Reception of Socrates in Late Antiquity: Authors, Texts, and Notable References

pdf iconDownload PDF (278.8 KB)
pp. 167-178

The following is a list of primary texts and authors in later antiquity who are relevant for understanding the history of Socrates’ reception. This list is meant to be a guide for those interested in research on the subject and does not seek to be exhaustive. For a more complete reference guide to the Neoplatonic Socrates please...


pdf iconDownload PDF (438.2 KB)
pp. 179-228


pdf iconDownload PDF (274.3 KB)
pp. 229-244

read more

List of Contributors

pdf iconDownload PDF (247.0 KB)
pp. 245-248

Crystal Addey is lecturer in the Department of Classics at the University of Wales, Trinity St. David, tutor for the School of Lifelong Learning, Cardiff University, and tutor for the Department of History, Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Wales, Trinity St. David. Her research interests include the roles of oracles...


pdf iconDownload PDF (205.5 KB)
pp. 249-254

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (158.4 KB)
pp. 255-258

The editors would primarily like to thank the contributors for their patience and help during the production of this volume. Over the past few years we have garnered essays from various contributors in the hopes of increasing the depth and breadth of the book, and we are deeply appreciative of the fact that each of the...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812210002
E-ISBN-10: 081221000X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812246292

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2014