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Socrates is one the most important thinkers in western philosophy, yet he remains enigmatic, having left behind no works of his own. Instead, his thought is understood primarily through the work of his followers, particularly Plato. Yet Plato’s dialogues can offer conflicting portraits of Socrates. On the one hand, he is portrayed as “barren of wisdom”: he has questions but no answers. On the other, he appears to be “fertile”: he has important things to say about those questions. Can he be both? Although Plato’s works focus on Socrates’ questions, not his answers, a careful reading can reveal many of Socrates’ likely views. In this accessible introduction, William Prior assesses Socrates the man, his famous trial, and the nature of his philosophy. He explores Socrates’ intellectualism, conception of the good life, his religious views and his thoughts concerning justice. All the way through, Prior reflects on Socrates’ distinctive method of asking questions, and the enormous influence he has had on philosophy to this day.
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