The Department of Government
The Department of Government

Socratic Political Philosophy in Xenophon’s Symposium

Tue, December 8, 2009

In a new article, to be published in January in the American Journal of Political Science, Thomas Pangle recovers the largely overlooked significance of Xenophon’s Symposium, a work that illuminates, by portraying in a subtle comic drama, the new perspective on existence, the new way of life, that Socrates introduced in and through his founding of political philosophy.

The famous “problem of Socrates” as a turning point of world history (Nietzsche) remains a cynosure of controversy and puzzlement. How did Socrates understand the character of, and the relation between, civic virtue and his own philosophic virtue? What is the meaning of Socratic 'eros'? What kind of educative influence did Socrates intend to have, on and through his varied followers and associates? And what diverse effects did he actually have? Xenophon’s Symposium, viewed in the context of his other writings, affords a playful, but thereby deeply revealing, perspective — from the viewpoint of a slightly skeptical intimate.

Thomas Pangle, professor of Government, holds the Joe R. Long Chair in Democratic Studies and is co-director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Study of Core Texts and Ideas.

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