Criticisms of Socratic thought

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Criticisms of Socratic thought is an article about how philosophers and thinkers were critical of Socratic thought.

Socrates had detractors situated within the early Hellenistic period.[1]

Non-adherents to Socratic thought


Aristoxenus accused Socrates of bigamy as did other Peripatetics (Morrison); Callisthenes, Demetrius of Phalerum, Satirus, and Hieronymus (Long). [2][3][4]


Aristoxenus of Tarentum, during the latter parts of the fourth century B.C., wrote a polemic Life of Socrates. According to Aristoxenus, Socrates was an individual who was uneducated, ignorant (uneducated and ignorant are perhaps the same thing in the modern reading) and also he exhibited licentiousness, and was "guilty of violent anger and shameful dissoluteness", and undisciplined. [4][5][6][7]

He went so far as to state of Socrates irascibility, to produce within him behaviour outside of something which was societally acceptable i.e. indecorum (via Baron).[8]

A person named Spintharus, who was Aristoxenus' father, or teacher (Wehrli), apparently claimed Socrates was not always able to control his emotions. In respect to this as a reliable disclosure on the nature of Socrates, he is thought at least to have at sometime associated himself with Socrates, if this is the case, then presumably as a student of his. [9][10][11][12]

Opinion on Aristoxenus

Mansfield (1994) thinks him to be "unkind", and to have written the work to discredit Socrates' thinking. Fitton and Bicknell consider Aristoxenus to have found some elements of truth in his account. [13][9]


Criticisms were established on the perception of differences as to the role of the philosopher and how he should provide lecture to pupils. Persons of this school of thought including Epicurus and Metrodorus, Idomeneus, Zeno of Sidon and Philodemus, Diogenes of Oenoanda all represented figures of history who were apparently hostile to the teachings of Socrates. Colotes, who was a follower of Epicurus during the 3rd century B.C., considered Socrates famous claim to wisdom by ignorance as hypocritical, Socrates as an "imposter", and an individual who said one thing but did another i.e. he was not true to his words (Sedley). [3][14][15][16]


His work, The Clouds, is a critique of Socrates.[17]

In one view of Aristophanes, there is the preponsity to find him derogatory and slanderous of Socrates. (Scott).[18]

An alternative view is of the poet in his characterisation of Socrates in his play, is of a person motivated not for an assassination of the character of Socrates, but instead to constructively criticise Socrates, and to communicate a kind of warning to the philosopher (Benardete).[19]

Plato' Symposium treats the criticisms of Aristophanes.[20]


Polycrates wrote an oppositional work c.393 B.C. entitled The Prosecution of Socrates or, alternatively titled, The Accusation of Socrates. The work is lost, and is known primarily through the later transmission of Isocrates in his work Busiris. The work is thought to have considered Socrates as being anti-democratic, according to Wilson.[5][21]


Anne-Marie Bowery thinks Plato was critical.[18][22]


Parmenides criticised Socrates' doctorine of theory of forms.[23]


In Gorgias, the figure Callicles, is contrary to Socrates' position.Nothing biographical is known of Callicles.[24][25]


He criticised the ideas put forward by Socrates within the Republic, which as a whole are now known as communism. While Socrates champions unity in the city, Aristotle thinks diversity is the correct choice.[26][27]


Nietzsche apparently rejected the ideas of Socrates to some extent, in-as-much, he thought Socrates "a villain" (Kaufmann), and as being dogmatic (Nehamas).[28][29]


  1. A.A.Long (D.R. Morrison). The Cambridge Companion to Socrates (p.368). Cambridge University Press, 2011. 
  2. D.R. Morrison (Professor of Philosophy and Classical Studies at Rice University. He has also been a Rockefeller Fellow at the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University c.2011). The Cambridge Companion to Socrates (p.368). Cambridge University Press, 2011. ISBN 0521833426. Retrieved 2015-04-07. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 A. A. Long - Irving Stone Professor of Literature in the Department of Classics at the University of California, Berkeley. Stoic Studies. University of California Press, 1996. ISBN 0520229746. Retrieved 2015-04-07. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 P Liddel, P Low. Inscriptions and Their Uses in Greek and Latin Literature (p.80). Oxford University Press, 26 Sep 2013. ISBN 0199665745. Retrieved 2015-05-01. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 E.R. Wilson. The Death of Socrates (p.91-2). Harvard University Press, 2007. ISBN 0674026837. Retrieved 2015-04-30. 
  6. Xenophon (Translated by Sir William Smith, Connop Thirlwall, George Bomford Wheeler), Raphael Kühner, Gustav Friedrich Wiggers, Friedrich Schleiermacher - Xenophon's Memorabilia of Socrates: With English Notes, Critical and Explanatory, the Prolegomena of Kühner, Wiggers' Life of Socrates, Etc (p.374) Harper & brothers, 1848 [Retrieved 2015-04-30]
  7. S Gibson - Aristoxenus of Tarentum and the Birth of Musicology (p.126) Routledge, 8 Apr 2014 ISBN 1135877475 [Retrieved 2015-05-01]
  8. C.A. Baron - Timaeus of Tauromenium and Hellenistic Historiography (p.115) Cambridge University Press, 2013 ISBN 1107000971 [Retrieved 2015-5-01]
  9. 9.0 9.1 C.A.Huffman. Aristoxenus of Tarentum: Discussion (p.211, 252, 254). Transaction Publishers, 2012. ISBN 1412843014. Retrieved 2015-04-30. (ed. p.252 accessed 2015-05-06)
  10. T Hägg. The Art of Biography in Antiquity. Cambridge University Press, 5 Apr 2012. ISBN 110701669X. Retrieved 2015-05-01. (ed. < father >)
  11. P.S. Horky - Plato and Pythagoreanism (p.42) Oxford University Press, 19 Sep 2013 ISBN 0199898227 [Retrieved 2015-05-02]("the Suda identifies both Spintharus and Mnesius as Aristoxenus father....")
  12. A.D. Winspear - The Genesis of Plato's Thought: Second Edition (p.80) Transaction Publishers, 31 Dec 2012 (reprint) ISBN 1412844622 [Retrieved 2015-05-04]
  13. J Mansfeld - Prolegomena: Questions to Be Settled Before the Study of an Author Or a Text (p.184) BRILL, 1994 ISBN 9004100849 [Retrieved 2015-04-01]
  14. M.T.Riley. The Epicurean Criticism of Socrates (PDF). reprinted from PHOENIX - University of Toronto Press. Retrieved 2015-05-01. 
  15. J Annas - Ancient Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction Oxford University Press, 12 Oct 2000 ISBN 0191578304 [Retrieved 2015-05-01]
  16. D Sedley - Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy: Winter 2003 (p.211) Oxford University Press, 15 Oct 2002 ISBN 0199259089 Volume 23 of Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy [Retrieved 2015-05-01]
  17. Four Texts on Socrates: Plato's Euthyphro, Apology, and Crito, and Aristophanes' Clouds (p.30) (edited by T.G. West, G Starry West) ISBN 0801485746 [Retrieved 2015-3-31]
  18. 18.0 18.1 GA Scott. Plato's Socrates as Educator (p.185,p.186 - Note.17). SUNY Press, 19 Oct 2000. ISBN 0791447235. Retrieved 2015-04-30. 
  19. Plato, S Benardete - Plato's Symposium: A Translation by Seth Benardete with Commentaries by Allan Bloom and Seth Benardete (p.104) University of Chicago Press, 1 Feb 2001 (reprint) ISBN 0226042758 [Retrieved 2015-04-30]
  20. M.J. Lutz. Socrates' Education to Virtue: Learning the Love of the Noble (p.57,60,61). SUNY Press, 1998. ISBN 0791436535. Retrieved 2015-04-30. 
  21. J Bussanich, N.D. Smith - The Bloomsbury Companion to Socrates (p.311) A&C Black, 3 Jan 2013 ISBN 1441112847 [Retrieved 2015-05-02](ed. < The Accusation of Socrates >)
  22. Anne-Marie Bowery - Baylor University [Retrieved 2015-04-30]
  23. RJ. Roecklein - Machiavelli and Epicureanism: An Investigation into the Origins of Early Modern Political Thought (p.21) Lexington Books, 5 Oct 2012 ISBN 0739177117 [Retrieved 2015-04-30]
  24. D Sedley - Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy XXXI: Winter 2006 Oxford University Press, 9 Nov 2006 ISBN 0199204217 Volume 31 of Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy [Retrieved 2015-04-30](< against/contrary >)
  25. Barney, Rachel, "Callicles and Thrasymachus" 4. Callicles on Natural and Conventional Justice The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.) [Retrieved 2015-04-30]
  26. MP. Nichols - Socrates and the Political Community: An Ancient Debate (p.156...) SUNY Press, 1 Jan 1987 ISBN 0887063950 [Retrieved 2015-04-30]
  27. LG. Rubin - Justice V. Law in Greek Political Thought (p.48) Rowman & Littlefield, 1 Jan 1997 ISBN 0847684237 (ed. p.48 - ".... That Aristotle objects to Socrates' treating the city as an organic unity is fairly obvious ...") [Retrieved 2015-04-30]
  28. WA Kaufmann - Nietzsche, Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist (p.391) Princeton University Press, 1974 ISBN 0691019835 (ed. "Nietzsche repudiated Socrates") [Retrieved 2015-04-30]
  29. A Nehamas - Nietzsche: Life as Literature Harvard University Press, 1985 ISBN 0674624262 (p.32 -"...Nietzsche is so suspicious of Plato and Socrates because he believes that their approach is essentially dogmatic") [Retrieved 2015-04-30]