Socrates is an enigmatic figure who casts a long shadow over the West despite having left behind no writings of his own. What we know about him comes primarily through firsthand accounts by Aristophanes, Plato, and Xenophon, whose presentations of the man differ from one another. According to Aristophanes’ Clouds, for example, Socrates is an imprudent atheist and a corrupter of the youth. Xenophon’s Socrates is the opposite: a perfect gentleman who appreciates both theory and practice and subverts neither. Plato presents a third version in the Republic: his Socrates is the embodiment of justice, a model teacher, and a defender of virtue. Plato insists that the city of Athens, which put Socrates to death, is the true corrupter of the youth. His Socrates offers the promising young a path away from corruption and toward...


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