Skip to main content
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 1
  • Cited by
    This chapter has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Rider, Benjamin A. 2013. International Encyclopedia of Ethics.

  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: March 2011

1 - The Rise and Fall of the Socratic Problem


The Socratic problem has quite a history, and is now perhaps only a part of history, since its desperately unsolvable nature does not seem to guarantee it much of a future. It would undoubtedly be presumptuous to claim that the Socratic problem is a closed issue simply because it is not amenable to a satisfactory solution, but it is certainly useful to identify the principal obstacles and pitfalls that render the discovery of a solution improbable, or even impossible.

Socrates, as we know, wrote nothing. His life and ideas are known to us through direct accounts – writings either by contemporaries ( Aristophanes) or disciples ( Plato and Xenophon) – and through indirect accounts, the most important of which is the one written by Aristotle, who was born fifteen years after Socrates’ death (399). Because these accounts vary greatly from one another, the question arises as to whether it is possible to reconstruct the life and – more importantly – the ideas of the historical Socrates on the basis of one, several, or all of these accounts. The “Socratic problem” refers to the historical and methodological problem that historians confront when they attempt to reconstruct the philosophical doctrines of the historical Socrates. Any future stance on the Socratic problem, if it is to be an informed and well-grounded one, presupposes a full understanding of the origins and consequences of the proposed solutions of the last two centuries.

Recommend this book

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this book to your organisation's collection.

The Cambridge Companion to Socrates
  • Online ISBN: 9780511780257
  • Book DOI:
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to *