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  1. Can. The existence of such a historical figure as Socrates is confirmed by a large number of sources, and, in fact, the literary works of Plato (who, of course, could have invented anything) are not the main proof of his existence. In particular, Libanius, in his Socratic work, apparently still relied on authentic (or fairly accurate copies) materials of the trial of Socrates. Independent memoirs of Socrates were composed by Xenophon. Diogenes of Laertes, as far as I remember, has several testimonies that are not written by Plato or Xenophon. Aristophanes (a contemporary of Socrates) portrayed Socrates in comedies, etc.

    Another thing is how plausible Plato's Socrates is as a person, that is, to what extent his character, his ideas, his manner of behavior, etc. are reliably reflected in Plato's dialogues. This question is somewhat more complicated, since the alternative source in this case will be practically only Xenophon. By comparing and analyzing the works of Plato and Xenophon, researchers have more or less reliably reconstructed the “true” Socrates in Plato and the “Platonic” Socrates in him. A. F. Losev's introductory article to the Collected Works of Plato in Russian (4 volumes, in the “Philosophical Heritage”) describes the periods in Plato's work and where the ideas of Socrates himself were most likely transmitted to him, and where Socrates already expressed Plato's ideas.

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