Becoming Socrates

Becoming Socrates

Political Philosophy in Plato's "Parmenides"

Alex Priou


University of Rochester Press



A rigorous investigation of Socrates' early education, pinpointing the thought that led Socrates to turn from natural science to the study of morality, ethics, and politics
Plato's Parmenides is regarded as a canonical work in ontology. Depicting a conversation between Parmenides of Elea and a young Socrates, the dialogue presents a rigorous examination of Socrates' theory of the forms, the most influential account of being in the philosophic tradition.

In this commentary on the Parmenides, Alex Priou argues that the dialogue is, in actuality, a reflection on politics. Priou begins from the accepted view that the conversation consists of two discrete parts -- a critique of the forms, followed by Socrates' philosophical training -- but finds a unity to the dialogue yet to be acknowledged. By paying careful attention to what Parmenides calls the "greatest impasse" facing Socrates' ontology, Priou reveals a political context to the conversation. The need in society for order and good rule includes the need, at a more fundamental level, for an adequate and efficacious explanation of being. Recounting here how a young Socrates first learned of the primacy of political philosophy, which would become the hallmark of his life, Becoming Socrates shows that political philosophy, and not ontology, is "first philosophy."

Alex Priou is a lecturer in philosophy and the humanities at Long Island University.


256 pages
9x6 in
Hardback, 9781580469197, March 2018
eBook, 9781787441972, March 2018
University of Rochester Press
BISAC POL010000, PHI019000, PHI002000
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Related Titles

Table of Contents

The Problem of the Parmenides
Parmenides on Socrates' "Platonism": "Parmenides" 126a1-137c4
Parmenides on Eleatic Monism: "Parmenides" 137c4-166c5
The Problem of Socrates
Works Cited


For the first time, Plato's presentation of the young Socrates being schooled by the great Parmenides in ontology is shown to illuminate, and to be illuminated by, Plato's presentation of the mature Socrates analyzing justice in the Republic. What results is a deeply thought-provoking new perspective on Platonic-Socratic political philosophy. --Thomas L. Pangle, University of Texas at Austin

Alex Priou addresses here the crucial role that the Parmenides plays in Plato's account of the "Socratic turn," that is, in the thinking that led Socrates to turn away from natural philosophy and initiate a new way of philosophizing that we now call political philosophy. This impressive and valuable new interpretation helps us to understand better a notoriously difficult Platonic dialogue about the beginning of both political theory and the tradition of Western rationalism. --Mark J. Lutz, University of Nevada, Las Vegas