The nature of Socrates

Is he some sort of a midwife, or more like a Silenus statue? The import of this question was emphasized by Prior in The Socratic Problem, from the Blackwell Companion to Plato

The midwife analogy from the Theaetetus:

"The common reproach against me is that I am always asking questions of other people but never express my own views about anything, because there is no wisdom in me, and that is true enough... With those who associate with me it is different. At first some may give the impression of being ignorant and stupid; but as time goes on and our association continues, all whom God permits are seen to make progress - a progress which is amazing both to other people and to themselves. And yet it is clear that this is not due to anything they have learned from me." (excerpts 150c4-d7)

The Silenus analogy from the Symposium (told by Alcibiades):

"To begin with, he's crazy about beautiful boys; he constantly follows them around in a perpetual daze. Also, he likes to say he's ignorant and knows nothing. Isn't that just like Silenus? Of course it is! And all this is just on the surface, like the outsides of those statues of Silenus. I wonder, my fellow drinkers if you have any idea what a sober and temperate man he proves to be when you have looked inside ... In public, I tell you, his whole life is one big game - a game of irony. I don't know if any of you have seen him when he's really serious. But I once caught him when he was open like Silenus' statues, and I had a glimpse of the figures he keeps hidden within; they were so godlike - so bright and beautiful, so utterly amazing - that I no longer had a choice; I just had to do whatever he told me." (Smp. 216d2, 216e-217a2)
Written on February 11, 2010