Socrates on the Emotions

  • Thomas C. Brickhouse Lynchburg College
  • Nicholas D. Smith Lewis & Clark College


In Plato’s Protagoras, Socrates clearly indicates that he is a cognitivist about the emotions—in other words, he believes that emotions are in some way constituted by cognitive states. It is perhaps because of this that some scholars have claimed that Socrates believes that the only way to change how others feel about things is to engage them in rational discourse, since that is the only way, such scholars claim, to change another’s beliefs. But in this paper we show that Socrates is also responsive to, and has various non-rational strategies for dealing with, the many ways in which emotions can cloud our judgment and lead us into poor decision-making. We provide an account of how Socrates can consistently be a cognitivist about emotion and also have more than purely rational strategies for dealing with emotions.


Socrates, Emotions, Protagoras, Cognitivism, Intellectualism

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Author Biographies

Thomas C. Brickhouse, Lynchburg College
Professor, Department of Philosophy
Nicholas D. Smith, Lewis & Clark College
James F. Miller Professor of Humanities
Departments of Classics and Philosophy
How to Cite
BRICKHOUSE, Thomas C.; SMITH, Nicholas D.. Socrates on the Emotions. PLATO JOURNAL: The Journal of the International Plato Society, [S.l.], v. 15, p. 9-28, dec. 2015. ISSN 2183-4105. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 24 june 2018.


Socrates; Emotions; Protagoras; Cognitivism; Intellectualism