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The Socratic Narrative: A Democratic Reading of Plato’s Dialogues

Arlene W. Saxonhouse

Department of Political Science, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA,


Plato wrote dialogues. While there has been attention to the dramatic elements of Plato’s dialogues by a number of scholars, there has been much less attention to the narrative style of the dialogues. I argue that we should consider whether the dialogues are recited or presented like dramatic works with each character speaking his own words—or as a mixture of these narrative forms. By employing this interpretive tool to read the Republic, I illustrate how paying attention to the narrative style enables us to see a democratic Socrates who undermines readings of the Republic famously offered by Karl Popper and Leo Strauss. Plato appears then as neither a defender of the “closed society” nor an advocate of the elite rule of the wise over the many.

Published online before print August 26, 2009, doi: 10.1177/0090591709345461
Political Theory December 2009 vol. 37 no. 6 728-753