19 - Know Thyself: Two Unloved Platonic Dialogues

Peter discusses virtue, self knowledge and some bad arguments in two lesser-known dialogues of Plato: the Charmides and the Euthydemus.

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Further Reading: 

MM McCabe, "Silencing the Sophists: The Drama of Plato's Euthydemus," Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy 1998, 139-168.

MM McCabe, "Looking inside Charmides’ Cloak," in Maieusis, essays for Myles Burnyeat, ed. D.Scott (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

T. Robinson (ed.) Plato: Euthydemus, Lysis, Charmides: Proceedings of the Fifth Symposium Platonicum (Sankt Augustin: Academia, 2000).


For the Sophists, see also episode 14.

Amygdale's picture

Good on Monday, better on Sunday

More edifying than going to the church!

Philip's picture

great stuff - but fast!

Hi Peter,

Thank you for a great start to what seems to become a long and interesting series of podcasts.

Just one comment: you are reading really fast - I am struggling to keep up sometimes. I think I would enjoy the podcast even more if you spent a few minutes more for each podcast.

I look forward to the next episode.

Peter Adamson's picture

Speed reading

Ok, thanks -- I will try to slow down a bit! The next couple of episodes are already recorded and in production though, so it's too late for those.

Mark's picture

Effusive praise

Dr. Adamson,

I am in awe of your construction and delivery of these podcasts. I think that they are perfectly paced, spaced, and of ideal length.

I don't want to start an acrimonious debate, but the power of digital audio is the ease with which one can listen again, either in part or in toto. (One can even slow the podcast down with free to cheap audio editors.)

So you don't think I'm just another philosophy groupie, I should add that I'm also a University professor (in the medical sciences), and am also trying to produce similar flash-based neuropathology tutorials (though my day job & RealLife keep getting in the way).

Thanks so much for the time and effort that you put in to this series!

Looking forward to Meno,


Peter Adamson's picture


Thanks very much for the praise which is effusive indeed! I'm blushing. Good luck with the neuropathology; history of philosophy sounds rather easy in comparison.

Carol A 's picture

Plato's dialogues

Wish I'd had these podcasts when I was studying Greek history - I hadn't really connected the irony of some of Plato's writing about Charmides and Critias when we studied that whole era of Greek democracy and the Thirty Tyrants.
I'll enjoy reading these two dialogues again with a fresh look.

TD's picture

Knowledge of Knowledge

Do you think the charm and leaf thing alludes to something more that what was mentioned in the pod cast?

The whole knowledge of knowledge thing, isn't this a confusion linked to diction where the last knowledge should be replaced by the word that describes knowledge.

Would you recommend reading the Theaetetus right after the Charmides since it seems to pick up where they leave off?

Incidentally, shouldn't everyone read the Theaetetus first so we start off right in trying to define what knowledge is. Since how can we discuss anything unless we have a measure stick telling us what knowledge is, otherwise we could sound quite convincing to others and even to ourselves but be still deceived (not knowing thyself - intending layered meanings here) on what exactly knowledge is: in essence, deceived we deceive

And indeed, I would take my Hackett Plato Complete Works to the desert island, easy choice, hands down; often times my wife has suggested I take this book, don a bear skin and live under a bridge somewhere, so tired of my philosophizing she's become

Peter Adamson's picture


Well, I do think it is reasonable to understand second order knowledge as just that: knowledge which is about knowledge. Think of it like this: I can know things that are propositional in form. So for instance I can know that: the cat is on the mat. I don't see what is wrong with saying: I know that: I know the cat is on the mat. Thus I believe Plato is right to be interested in this, it is not just a terminological confusion.

The Theaetetus, and epistemology, are definitely fundamental. On the other hand one great thing about Plato is that he shows the connections between epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics (and even political philosophy). I think he himself started more with ethical worries and that got him into worries about knowledge.

Make sure your bridge has an internet connection, I would hate to lose a listener.

TD's picture

Luckily there is a Starbucks

Luckily there is a Starbucks wifi within range of the bridge so I have my contingencies in order when she asks me to leave.

TD's picture

Plates disdain for the demos and the courts?

"Though -speech making- after all there is nothing remarkable in this, since it is part of the enchanters' art and but slightly inferior to it. For the enchanters's art consists in charming vipers and spiders and scorpions and other wild things, and in curing disease, while the other art -speech writing- consists in charming and persuading the members of juries and assemblies and other sorts of crowds"
It's harder to charm snakes, spiders and scorpions than the demos, who may be human versions of snakes, spiders and scorpions?
Is this an alusion to how Socrates was biten with the poison of hemlock and laid low, perhaps proving even he lacked the power to enchant those minds of brutish disposition all because he wanted to cure them of their worse illness; ignorance.