Book summary: Early Socratic Dialogues

Over at my Patreon site I run occasional “book clubs,” meaning multiple posts on the same book, which interested readers can use either as a companion to the book itself, or simply as summaries that give them an idea of what the book is about (and hence facilitate their decision of whether to invest the time to read the full volume or not). Here are all the entries connected to one now completed series.

The book covered by today’s is Plato: Early Socratic Dialogues, edited by Trevor Saunders. Rich in drama and humor, these dialogues include the controversial Ion, a debate on poetic inspiration; Laches, in which Socrates seeks to define bravery; and Euthydemus, which considers the relationship between philosophy and politics. Together, they provide a definitive portrait of the real Socrates and raise issues still keenly debated by philosophers, forming an incisive overview of Plato’s philosophy.

Here are my commentaries:

  1. A brief introduction to Socrates.
  2. The Ion and whether poetry can teach moral skills.
  3. The Laches and the question of expertise in teaching young people.
  4. The Lysis and the nature of friendship.
  5. The Charmides and the nature of self-knowledge.
  6. Hippias Major and what it means when something is “fine.”
  7. Hippias Minor – or why virtue is knowledge and no one does evil on purpose.
  8. Euthydemus and the difference between sophistry and philosophy.

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Massimo is the K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York. He blogs at and He is the author of How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life.

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