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The Socratic dialogues (Greek Σωκρατικός λόγος or Σωκρατικός διάλογος) are prose literary works developed in Greece at the turn of the fourth century BCE, preserved today in the dialogues of Plato and the Socratic works of Xenophon - either dramatic or narrative - in which characters discuss moral and philosophical problems, illustrating the socratic method. Socrates is often the main character.
Most accurately, the term refers to works in which Socrates is a character, though as a genre other texts are included; Plato's Laws and Xenophon's Hiero are Socratic dialogues in which a wise man other than Socrates leads the discussion (the Athenian Stranger and Simonides, respectively). Likewise, the stylistic format of the dialogues can vary; Plato's dialogues generally only contain the direct words of each of the speakers, while Xenophon's dialogues are written down as a continuous story, containing, along with the narration of the circumstances of the dialogue, the "quotes" of the speakers.
According to a fragment of Aristotle, the first author of Socratic dialogue was Alexamenes of Teos, but we do not know anything else about him, whether Socrates appeared in his works, or how accurate Aristotle was in his unfavorable judgement about him. In addition to Plato and Xenophon, Antisthenes, Aeschines of Sphettos, Phaedo, Eucleides of Megara, Theocritus, Tissaphernes and Aristotle all wrote Socratic dialogues, and Cicero wrote similar dialogues in Latin on philosophical and rhetorical themes, for example De re publica.
Generally, the works of Plato's early years are all considered to be Socratic dialogues, but many of the later ones are often included as well.
- A Dialogue on the Socratic Dialogues, by Fernando Leal and Rene Saran
- Greek and Roman Materials from the Perseus Digital Library, includes Plato's Socratic Dialogues in the original Greek as well as an English translation.
- SocraticMethod.net - A Socratic Method Research Portal