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Recent scholarship has explored the complex heritage of Socrates in the Hellenistic traditions. Cicero claimed to be one of the rare genuine heirs of Socrates’ method of inquiry by question and answer.
This study takes Cicero’s claims seriously and sharpens our understanding of Cicero’s beliefs about proper philosophical discourse.
Focusing on the passages in which Socratic conversation is displayed, the investigation reveals striking continuities with, and surprising differences from, the paradigm of the Socratic Method as presented by Plato.
Even the perpetuae orationes that made up the bulk of Cicero’s dialogues were thoroughly informed by his analysis of the strengths of the method. At the same time, Cicero identified weaknesses beyond its well-known rhetorical ineffectiveness.
Significantly, serious criticism of Socratic dialectic is offered from the Stoic point of view. Assessment of that method as the Socratic inheritance of the Stoa and New Academy must accordingly be nuanced.