Euthydemus / Edition 1

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Overview

Euthydemus, written circa 384 BCE, is a dialogue by Plato which satirizes what Plato presents as the logical fallacies of the Sophists. In it, Socrates describes to his friend Crito a visit he and various youths paid to two brothers, Euthydemus and Dionysodorus, both of whom were prominent Sophists from Chios and Thurii.

The Euthydemus contrasts Socratic argumentation and education with the methods of Sophism, to the detriment of the latter. Throughout the dialogue, Euthydemus and Dionysodorus continually attempt to ensnare Socrates with what are presented as deceptive and meaningless arguments, primarily to demonstrate their professed philosophical superiority.

As in many of the Socratic dialogues, the two Sophists against whom Socrates argues were indeed real people. Euthydemus was somewhat famous at the time the dialogue was written, and is mentioned several times by both Plato and Aristotle. Likewise, Dionysodorus is mentioned by Xenophon.

Plato defines Euthydemus' and Dionysodorus' argumentation as 'eristic'. This literally means "designed for wrangling" ('eris' meaning 'strife' in Greek). No matter how one attempts to refute eristic arguments, the argument is designed so that any means of refutation will fail. For example, at one point, Euthydemus attempts to prove the impossibility of falsehood:

"Non-facts do not exist do they?"
"No, they don't."
"And things which do not exist do not exist anywhere, do they?"
"No."
"Now, is it possible for things which do not exist to be the object of any action, in the sense that things which do not exist anywhere can have anything done to them?
"I don't think so."
"Well then, when politicians speak in the Assembly, isn't that an activity?"
"Yes, it is."
"And if it's an activity, they are doing something?"
"Yes."
"Then speech is activity, and doing something?"
He agreed.

"So no one speaks non-existent things: I mean, he would already, in speaking, be doing something, and you have agreed that it is impossible for non-existent things to have anything done to them by anybody. So you have committed to the view that lies never happen: if Dionysodorus speaks, he speaks facts-that is, truth."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

This is the best translation available of a lively and challenging dialogue, which sets before the reader profound questions about the use and misuse of reason. --Myles Burnyeat, University of Cambridge

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780872202344
  • Publisher: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/1/1993
  • Series: Hackett Classics Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 96

Meet the Author

Benjamin Jowett (15 April 1817 - 1 October 1893) was renowned as an influential tutor and administrative reformer in the University of Oxford, a theologian and translator of Plato. He was Master of Balliol College, Oxford.

Plato (428/427 or 424/423 BC - 348/347 BC) was a philosopher, as well as mathematician, in Classical Greece and an influential figure in philosophy, central in Western philosophy. He was Socrates' student, and founded the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with Socrates and his most famous student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the foundations of Western philosophy and science. Alfred North Whitehead once noted: "the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato."

Plato's dialogues have been used to teach a range of subjects, including philosophy, logic, ethics, rhetoric, religion and mathematics. His theory of Forms began a unique perspective on abstract objects, and led to a school of thought called Platonism. Plato's writings have been published in several fashions; this has led to several conventions regarding the naming and referencing of Plato's texts.

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