Socratic dialogue

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The Socratic dialogue (Greek Σωκρατικὸς λόγος or Σωκρατικὸς διάλογος) is a literary prose genre, developed in Greece around 400 BC. The best known examples are the dialogues of Plato and the Socratic works of Xenophon. Typical of the genre are the dialogue form and the moral and philosophical issues that the characters discuss.

The protagonist of each dialogue, both in Plato's and Xenophon's work, usually is Socrates who by means of a kind of interrogation tries to find out more about the other person's understanding of moral issues. In the dialogues Socrates presents himself as a simple man who confesses that he has little knowledge. With this ironic approach he manages to confuse the other who boasts that he is an expert in the domain they discuss. The outcome of the dialogue is that Socrates demonstrates that the other person's views are inconsistent. In this way Socrates tries to show the way to real wisdom. One of his most famous statements in that regard is "The unexamined life is not worth living." This philosophical questioning is known as the Socratic method. In some dialogues Plato's main character is not Socrates but someone from outside of Athens. In Xenophon's 'Hiero' a certain Simonedes plays this role when Socrates is not the protagonist.