Euthydemus (dialogue)


Euthydemus (dialogue)

"Euthydemus" (Euthydemos), written 380 BCE, is dialogue by Plato which satirizes the logical fallacies of the Sophists. It describes a visit paid by Socrates and various youths to two brothers, Euthydemus and Dionysodorus, both of whom are prominent Sophists. The main purpose of Euthydemus is to contrast Socratic argumentation and education with those of the Sophism, to the detriment of the latter. As in many of the dialogues, the two Sophists whom Socrates argues against, Euthydemus and Dionysodorus, were indeed real people. Euthydemus was somewhat famous at the time the dialogue was written, and is mentioned several times by both Plato and Aristotle. Likewise, Dionysodorus is mentioned by Xenophon. The dialogue sharply contrasts Socrates' air-tight logic and calm, courteous manner with the arrogance and logical trickery of the brothers. Throughout the dialogue, Euthydemus and Dionysodorus continually attempt to ensnare Socrates with deceptive and meaningless arguments, primarily to demonstrate their professed philosophical superiority.

Eristic argument

Plato defines Euthydemus' and Dionysodorus' argumentation as 'eristic'. This literally means "designed for victory." Eristic argument is not a form of argumentation, but rather a method of verbal humiliation and abuse. No matter how one attempts to refute eristic arguments, the argument is designed so that any means of refutation will fail. For example, at one point, Euthydemus attempts to prove the impossibility of falsehood.

"Non-facts do not exist do they?"

"No, they don't."

"And things which do not exist do not exist anywhere, do they?"

"No."

"Now, is it possible for things which do not exist to be the object of any action, in the sense that things which do not exist anywhere can have anything done to them?

"I don't think so."

"Well then, when politicians speak in the Assembly, isn't that an activity?"

"Yes, it is."

"and if it's an activity, they are doing something.?"

"Yes."

"Then speech is activity, and doing something.?"

He agreed

"So no one, speaks non-existent things: I mean, he would already, in speaking, be doing something, and you have agreed that it is impossible for non-existent things to have anything done to them by anybody. So you have committed to the view that lies never happen: if Dionysodorus speaks, he speaks facts–that is, truth."

Characters

* Socrates
* Crito
* Cleinias
* Euthydemus
* Dionysodorus
* Ctesippus

Translations

* Benjamin Jowett, 1871 - [http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/euthydemus.html|full text]
* Walter Rangeley Maitland Lamb, 1882 - [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Plat.+Euthyd.+271a|full text]

ee also

*Eristic


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