The Dramatic Significance of Cephalus in Plato's Republic

Teaching Philosophy 20 (3):239-249 (1997)
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Despite student interest and engagement in Platonic dialogues, by the time introductory courses reach serious discussion of Plato’s relationship to Socrates, students are so befuddled by the notion of Socrates’ character espousing a “Platonic” position that they become disheartened and lose interest in the study of Plato. This paper focuses on how the persona of Cephalus affords a special opportunity to address the relationship between Plato and Socrates in the classroom and to thereby reduce student confusion. Drawing on Plato’s Meno and the Republic, the author argues that Cephalus represents a Socratic position on virtue and justice. Tracking how arguments surrounding virtue and justice develop through these two dialogues, the author concludes that the figure of Cephalus allows Plato to pay homage to Socrates while also signaling his philosophical departure from his teacher. Lending concreteness to the relationship between Plato and Socrates, this way of interpreting Cephalus opens students up at a general level to the richness of Plato’s philosophy.



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