Re-examination of Popper's Portrayal of Socrates

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    • Pages : 305 à 320
    • ISBN : 978-1-4020-9337-1
    • DOI : 10.1007/978-1-4020-9338-8_23
    • Date de création : 04-01-2011
    • Dernière mise à jour : 21-02-2015



    Among “the great generation”, Popper claims, Socrates has contributed more than any other intellectual to the new faith of the open society and even died for it (Popper 1945, Vol. 1, pp. 128, 189). Bearing on the ‘Socratic problem’, Popper insisted that the historical Socrates, especially in the Crito and the Apology, didn't have any metaphysical theory nor made any effort to theorize (ibid., pp. 301–302). While also acknowledging that the figure of Socrates in the later early period dialogues, in Gorgias for example (ibid., pp. 302–303), gradually becomes more positive and assertive, these theories are attributed to Plato. However, Poper didn't discuss more systematically Socrates' theories in the early dialogues, which according to later commentators (Vlastos 1991; Prior 2004) play a significant role. Do these theories justify a different understanding of Socrates? Trying to answer this question I will re-examine Popper's portrayal of Socrates by focussing on his figure as a claimer of knowledge in three prominent early dialogues: the Apology, the Protagoras and the Meno. I suggest that, while all his claims of knowledge are compatible with ‘Platonist’ doctrines, the ‘Socratic’ principles are due to the explicit and implicit criticism of these claims through the dialogue. In this respect whereas the ‘Socratic’ principles aren't manifested in the Apology, although reminded in the trial, they are better manifested in the Protagoras and the Meno, at least partly.