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Conversations of Socrates (Penguin Classics) Paperback – July 3, 1990

4.6 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Greek

About the Author

Xenophon was born c.430BC, an Athenian gentleman. Whilst fighting for Greece, he was finally banished due to his devotion to Socrates and support for Sparta. Settling near Olympia under Spartan protection, he began to write his treatises, histories and biographies. Hugh Tredinnick was Professor of Classics at Royal Holloway College from 1946 - 1966. he has translated works by Aristotle. He dies in 1982. Robin Waterfield is a self-employed writer with publications ranging from academic articles to children's fiction. He has tranlsated various Greek texts for Penguin.
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised edition (July 3, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014044517X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140445176
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,579 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Frank T. Klus on June 27, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very few extant works remain on the life of Socrates: mainly the works of Xenophon and Plato. In "Conversations of Socrates" Xenophon writes extensively on the philosophical thought of the master in a forthright and simple manner. Xenophon has not always been praised for his writing style but he covers the Socratic principles thoroughly. The subjects aren't organized particularly well with examples of Socrates' views on certain virtues scattered throughout the text. Nevertheless, since Socrates didn't write his own thoughts we are very fortunate that we have these works.
Xenophon divided his works into four books: Socrates' Defense; Memoirs of Socrates; the Dinner-Party; and the Estate-Manager. Xenophon writes in the second and third person so that we "hear" the Socratic Method throughout the text. We see how Socrates used questions of his followers to teach them to think. His method thoroughly flushed out the truth and often revealed the flaws in the arguments his opponents and followers made.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Xenophon. One could almost imagine being right there with the master as he shredded the weaknesses in faulty arguments and uncovered hidden truths. His opinions on virtues may be dated to Twentieth Century people but one must remember that it was largely his teachings that had such a great influence on Western thought and ideas.
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Format: Paperback
More on Socrates, especially for those who wish to know more after having exhausted Plato (which is no simple task). Only gets four stars because it comes across as being slightly less powerful than Plato, although, contrary to the translators opinion, appears to portray the historical Socrates more accurately (except for the final dialogue). Socrates' Defense presents the only other complete account of his trial, Memoirs of Socrates is a collection, The Dinner Party is about the notion of love, and Estate Manager is a dialogue about managing an estate. I have always find the presentation of dialogue preferable to essay (as in Plutarch).
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By A Customer on June 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
While not as competent a writer as Plato, Xenophon's 'Socrates' is the historically more accurate (I refer to the chapter of Memoirs in this book.)The Dinner-Party was my favorite dialogue, there are also several brilliant vignettes throughout the memoir chapter. This is not to say that it doesn't 'drag' in parts, it does. The Estate-Manager, which is the last dialogue, terribly weighs down this volume; there Socrates is more a bystander than participant.
But I give this 5 stars, as its an indespensible volume for the Socratic enthusiast.
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This is a very, very different portrait of Socrates from the one painted by Plato. Probably, if you are considering buying this book, you have studied Plato at least somewhat. Plato's and Xenophon's accounts of Socrates are views of the man from totally different angles. I very much enjoyed Xenophon's representation of Socrates as a character. There are some extremely funny stories. I especially loved the story of Socrates' "philosophical" encounter with the courtesan Theodote. I confess, though, that after reading this book I understand the role of homosexuality in Greek culture even less than I did before. But that bafflement, too, is part of the interest of the book.

Like others writing here, I like Xenophon as a writer much better than Robin Waterfield does -- or at least, I like Tredennick's and Waterfield's Xenophon much better than Waterfield himself likes Xenophon in Greek.

I thought Waterfield's introductions were excellent, but I recommend reading them after you read the original material, not before.

I don't know Greek, so I can't vouch for the accuracy of the translations by Tredennick and Waterfield, but I found them to be graceful and a pleasure to read. They always felt stylistically just right.

Like others writing here, I was frustrated by the lack of precise line numbering, and the lack of a note on the text.

Physically: the paper is cheap, but the font is large and clear. The book is relatively comfortable to hold open (always an issue with paperbacks).

This book definitely makes me want to read more of Xenophon.

[Disclaimer: I did not buy this book from Amazon, but I buy plenty of other books from Amazon.]
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It is a testament to the clarity of thought and intellect shown by Socrates that both Plato and Xenophon - politically, almost polar opposites - sought to rehabilitate his reputation shortly after he was forced to commit suicide. His appeal to left and right - with each side endeavouring to lay claim to his allegiance and legacy - reminds this reviewer of recent literary and critical responses to George Orwell. With only fragments of Socrates' original works surviving, here the politically conservative Xenophon chose to emphasise what could be considered the more socially conservative aspects of Socrates thought (although "The Dinner Party" contains a few challenges to socially conservative mores!)

To what degree Plato or Xenophon have modified Socrates' views in their own image in The Republic (Penguin Classics) or Conversations of Socrates (Penguin Classics) is unclear - it is quite possible that Socrates was too critical and individual a thinker to be a man purely of the left or right. Xenophon's version is written with clarity and little pretence (if perhaps slanted towards the authors own predispositions) and strikingly illustrates Athenian life in general, and the influence of Socrates and his methods of critical inquiry on Athenian thought and intellectual life in particular. Highly recommended for anybody with an interest in Ancient Greek philosophy, culture or history.
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