On the Euthydemus

"On the Euthydemus," Interpretation, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Summer 1970).


From the Crito we are led to the Euthydemus by the consideration that the Euthydemus contains the only other conversation between Socrates and Kriton. The two dialogues stand indeed at opposite poles. The Euthydemus is the most bantering, not to say frivolous and farcical dialogue while the Crito is the most solemn one: the Crito is the only dialogue in which there occurs almost a theophany. Yet there is a remarkable kinship between the two dialogues in regard to structure. In the Euthydemus Socrates’¬†performed conversation with Kriton surrounds and interrupts the conversation, narrated by Socrates, between Socrates, Euthydemos and others. The only other dialogue which has a comparable structure is the Crito in which Socrates’ performed conversation with Kriton surrounds the quasi-conversation, evoked by Socrates, between Socrates and the Laws of Athens.

The farcical character of the Euthydemus stands in a superficial contrast with the fact that Socrates praises therein the patently absurd and ridiculous “art” of Euthydemos, not only to Euthydemos’ face, but in his absence when speaking to Kriton, as very great wisdom; he even expresses his desire to become a pupil of Euthydemos. Everyone will say, everyone has said that this is “that customary irony of Socrates.” But Kriton, the direct addressee of Socrates’ report about his conversation with Euthydemos, does not say this. Was Kriton unaware of that irony? Was he impervious to it? Would thus the Euthydemus not reveal to us Kriton’s most important limitation? Would it thus not throw light retroactively or in advance on the Crito ?

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