Socratic Silence in the Cleitophon
Keywords:Cleitophon, Eros, Self-knowledge, Socratic Circle, Protreptic, Apology
Plato’s Cleitophon is the only dialogue in which Plato presents an unanswered rebuke of Socratic philosophy by an interlocutor. Consequently, most commentators have thus rejected the dialogue as inauthentic, or have otherwise explained away the bewildering Socratic silence at the dialogue’s conclusion. In this paper I explore why Socrates chooses silence as the response to Cleitophon’s rebuke of Socrates. I argue that (and why) Socratic silence is the only way of “talking” with Cleitophon: Cleitophon’s “Socratic speech” implies notions about nomos, the soul, and philosophy that turn out to be uniquely anti-Socratic. The dramatic disjunctions between Cleitophon’s distorted image of Socrates and the real Socrates, and between Cleitophon himself and Socrates, not only make most poignant the tension between the philosopher and the city but also point to the very conditions of philosophical dialogue.
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