The Classical Quarterly (New Series)

Shorter Notes

The Complexity of Socratic Irony: A Note on Professor Vlastos' Account1

Paula Gottlieba1

a1 University of Wisconsin-Madison

Professor Vlastos argues that Socratic irony was responsible for a momentous change in the way in which irony was understood in ancient times. Before Socrates, he argues, irony is connected with lying and deceit, but after Socrates it is associated with wit and urbanity. Vlastos claims that Socratic irony is distinctive and complex. According to Vlastos, Socratic irony involves no hint of deception; it consists simply in saying something which when understood in one way is false, but when understood in another way is true.


1 G. Vlastos, ‘Socratic Irony’, CQ 37 (1987), 79–96, now chapter 1 of his book, Socrates, Ironist and Moral Philosopher (Ithaca, New York, 1991), pp. 21–44.