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Abstract–Plato and Xenophon on Friendship: A Comparative Study (Plato, Lysis and Xenophon’s Memorabilia 2.6)

The present paper offers a comparative interpretation of Plato’s Lysis and Xenophon’s Memorabilia 2.6 on the topic of friendship. I take as my starting point Dorion’s “Annexe 2” (Dorion 2011, 415-417) which lists the common themes between the Memorabilia and Plato’s Lysis. I insist on and try to interpret the divergences between the two authors in their treatment of these common themes: regarding terminology, theoretical premises and elaboration. These divergences reveal important differences in the emphases and priorities they set: for instance, in Plato the theoretical discussion of friendship is intermingled with the discourse on τὰ παιδικά, which is not always the case in Xenophon; moreover, some issues (e.g. the impossibility of friendship with the kakon, the philosophical dimension of autarkeia etc.) are posed with greater acuity in Plato than in Xenophon, while others (e.g. the comparison between poleis and individuals, friendship and hunting) are more markedly Xenophontic than Platonic. Although it would be tempting to proceed to some speculations about intertextuality between the two authors, I prefer instead to ponder more the question of their differentiation: concerning the philosophical aim of the Lysis, I argue that the aporia is false and relies on unsuccessful refutations; on the contrary, friendship in Xenophon has above all a political background and it is this background that is transposed to individuals. I try to show, finally, that both the Platonic false aporia and the Xenophontic political background of friendship are related to the apologetic purposes of the two authors and aim at promoting a specific image about Socrates.

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