Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair(s)

Susan O. Shapiro


Susan O. Shapiro


Harrison Kleiner


Frances B. Titchener


The primary objectives of this thesis are to argue for an approach to the Socratic problem that (1) examines Xenophon’s Socratic writings along with those of Plato, and (2) analyzes the Socratic problem with a view to the ancient conception of philosophy as a way of life. To achieve these objectives, the introductory chapter provides an overview of scholarly approaches to the Socratic problem, which have tended to favor Plato as the only reliable source on the historical Socrates. This chapter argues that such approaches are flawed, and that both authors are important sources on the historical Socrates.

The second chapter demonstrates Xenophon’s value when it comes to the Socratic problem by using Xenophon’s Memorabilia to elucidate Socrates’ religious worldview. Analyzing Plato and Xenophon side by side shows that Socrates’ daimonion, (i.e., Socrates’ divine sign), was an important part of the historical Socrates' life, that the daimonion did not interfere with Socrates’ rationality, and that there is good reason to doubt Plato’s claim that Socrates’ daimonion was exclusively apotreptic, meaning that it only turned him away from action and never toward it.

The third chapter argues that, since philosophy was conceived as a way of life by Socrates and his contemporaries, the scope of the Socratic problem should not be limited to Socrates’ theoretical philosophical views, but should include his actions, including his military and political activities.



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