17 - Raphael Woolf on Socrates

Peter's colleague Raphael Woolf joins him to discuss Socrates as he is portrayed by Plato: the gadfly of Athens. But was he an ascetic? And could it really be true that virtue is knowledge?

Press 'play' to hear the podcast: 

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.

Further Reading: 

R. Woolf, ‘Socratic Authority’, Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 90 (2008), 1-38; reprinted in P. Remes and J. Sihvola (eds.), Ancient Philosophy of the Self, Springer (2008), 77-107.

R. Woolf, ‘The Practice of a Philosopher’, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 26 (2004), 97-129 [about Socrates in Plato's Phaedo].

TD's picture

Sympathy for people who don't know what they are talking about?

I don't have sympathy for any of Plato's interlocutors when engaged in discussion with Socrates.

Is there something wrong with me?

Anyone who gets annoyed with another who shows them they don't know what they are talking about might be mentally immature and/or psychologically/emotionally insecure.

Peter Adamson's picture


Well, I think Raphael Woolf is right to say at least that many students find Socrates more annoying than the interlocutors. It is perhaps not so much a question of whether the interlocutors know what they are talking about, as whether Socrates is arguing fairly, or holding them to unreasonable standards (like, do I really need to be able to define courage to prove I am courageous?). Anyway as a historical matter I think we can safely say the other Athenians found him provocative to say the least!