Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2017

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



In Better Off Dead: Suicide in Plato's Philosophy, I argue that Plato thinks Socrates committed suicide, and show how this thesis coheres a rich set of Platonic views about the permissibility of suicide, about living a good life, and about responsible and intentional action. An ancient philosophical tradition portrays Socrates' death as a virtuous suicide, but contemporary scholars tend to focus on the fact that Socrates' death occurred as a result of execution. They think that Plato does not portray Socrates as committing suicide, largely because some textual evidence suggests that Plato considers suicide to be ethically wrong (Phd. 61c; Laws IX.873c). I argue that this interpretation is too narrow. Instead, carefully examining Plato's discussions of suicide reveals that Plato has a consistent account of suicide according to which suicide is sometimes both ethically permissible and in the agent's best interest. Socrates, I argue, embodies such circumstances in Plato's dialogues. In addition, I argue that Plato's account of responsibility and intentional action allows that suicide and execution are mutually compatible explanations of Socrates' death. According to Plato's account, Socrates was at least as responsible for his death as the city was, and Socrates committed suicide.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Eric A. Brown

Committee Members

Emily Austin, Anne Margaret Baxley, Robert Lamberton, Kit Wellman,


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