Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Philosophy, Science and the Sciences

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Department of Philosophy | Philosophy, Science and the Sciences | Events | Women in Ancient Philosophy Guest Lecture: Isocrates and Socrates (Laura Viidebaum, NYU)

Women in Ancient Philosophy Guest Lecture: Isocrates and Socrates (Laura Viidebaum, NYU)

  • When Jul 19, 2018 from 04:00 to 06:00 (Europe/Berlin / UTC200)
  • Where Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Hannoversche Straße 6, room 1.03
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Laura Viidebaum is an Assistant Professor in Classics at New York University.


In the biographical tradition, Isokrates’ intellectual formation is most frequently associated with Gorgias, Prodikos and Theramenes. There is also another, much later and more dubious, tradition that connects Isokrates to Sokrates. Despite the confident claim in the Anonymous life of Isokrates, which states that Isokrates ‘μαθητὴς δ᾽ ἐγένετο φιλοσόφου μὲν Σωκράτους’, and a couple of anecdotes, describing Isokrates utterly distressed about the death of Sokrates to the extent of wearning mourning clothes for a year, the association between Sokrates and Isokrates is of very late origin and of little plausibility. Klaus Ries’ excellent discussion of the details of this tradition demonstrate this clearly (Ries 1959, 1-8). However, the attraction of the suggestion that there was some sort of intellectual association between the two men has had prominent supporters, who used this connection to explain Isokrates’ own educational and philosophical principles (e.g. Kennedy 1963, 174-203). Even though most modern scholarship disputes this association, there is nevertheless a generally prevailing idea that the two were on friendly terms and, moreover, that Isokrates counts at some level as an admirer of Sokrates. A lot of this reading seems to be dependent on the interpretation of Isokrates’ Antidosis together with Plato’s Phaidros, both of which will be discussed at more length in this paper. In fact, despite all the criticisms aired against the Sokratics in Isokrates’ work, scholars have never really suggested that Isokrates might be implicitly also targeting Sokrates as the representative figure of this kind of philosophy and teaching. The following will attempt to sketch out a reading of Isokrates’ relationship to Sokrates precisely in these terms, i.e. as one of competition and disagreement regarding the fundamental principles of education, rather than one of admiration and emulation.

Women in Ancient Philosophy is an initiative of female doctoral students associated to the Research Training Group Philosophy, Science and the Sciences. The initiative organizes conferences, workshops and guest lectures aiming to foster networking and equal opportunities for young female researchers.