Polus admires orators for the tyrannical power they have. However, Socrates argues that orators and tyrants lack power worth having: the ability to satisfy one's wishes or wants (boulēseis). He distinguishes wanting from thinking best, and grants that orators and tyrants do what they think best while denying that they do what they want. His account is often thought to involve two conflicting requirements: wants must be attributable to the wanter from their own perspective (to count as their desires), but (...) wants must also be directed at objects that are genuinely good (in order for failure to satisfy them to matter). We offer an account of wanting as reflective, coherent desire, which allows Socrates to satisfy both desiderata. We then explain why he thinks that orators and tyrants want to act justly, though they do greater injustices than anyone else and so frustrate their own wants more than anyone else. (shrink)
In dialogues ranging from the Symposium to the Timaeus, Plato appears to propose that the philosopher’s grasp of the forms may confer immortality upon him. Whatever can Plato mean in making such a claim? What does he take immortality to consist in, such that it could constitute a reward for philosophical enlightenment? And how is this proposal compatible with Plato’s insistence throughout his corpus that all soul, not just philosophical soul, is immortal? In this chapter, I pursue these questions by (...) applying the distinction between general and earned immortality to the Phaedo and the Symposium. I argue that, while Plato attributes general immortality to all soul in the Phaedo, in the Affinity Argument, he proposes that the philosopher’s soul can achieve earned immortality through contemplating forms. It is this form of immortality that Plato claims is unavailable to humankind in the flux passage of the Symposium. At the same time, in the ascent passage, he holds out the possibility – albeit with significant reservations – that the philosopher’s soul may transcend its humanity and achieve earned immortality through its communion with the form. (shrink)
One of the ways in which Plato has captured the popular imagination is with the claim that the philosopher can feel erôs, passionate love, for the objects of knowledge. Why should Plato make this claim? In this chapter, I explore Plato’s treatment of philosophical erôs along three dimensions. First, I consider the source of philosophical erôs. I argue that it is grounded in our mortality and imperfection, which give rise to a desire for immortality and the immortal. Second, I turn (...) to the object of philosophical erôs. I suggest that it is an arresting response to beauty, through which we come to value the ideal properties of the forms. Finally, I address the nature of erôs. I claim that it is a focusing desire, that overrides other concerns and causes us to overwhelmingly focus on its object. I conclude the chapter by considering the problem Vlastos famously raises for Plato’s account of erôs: can it do justice to disinterested, interpersonal love? In agreement with Vlastos, I claim that one who comes to grasp the forms will cease to feel interpersonal love; however, I also suggest that erôs can give rise to philia, beneficent concern with the wellbeing of others. (shrink)
In the Gorgias, Socrates claims that painful bodily punishment like flogging can improve certain wrongdoers. I argue that we can take Socrates’ endorsement seriously, even on the standard interpretation of Socratic motivational intellectualism, according to which there are no non-rational desires. I propose that flogging can epistemically improve certain wrongdoers by communicating that wrongdoing is bad for oneself. In certain cases, this belief cannot be communicated effectively through philosophical dialogue.
In this book review, I discuss Smith’s new interpretation of Socrates' epistemology of virtue, according to which (a) Socratic virtue knowledge is craft knowledge (knowing how to live well), and such knowledge comes in degrees; and (b) Socrates has a certain degree of virtue knowledge, and one does not have to be an inerrant expert to have any virtue knowledge at all. I argue that Smith succeeds in presenting Socratic philosophy in a new light, while also pointing to remaining questions (...) about his account of virtue—specifically, about what exactly the craft of virtue is and how we can practice it and thereby improve ourselves. (shrink)
Information and, thus, intelligence, is dependent on the Conservation of a Circle, which is, technically, the only dynamic in Nature. Forcing humans, now that it is exposed, to re-think, and, eventually, repurpose, the finance, technology, and psychology, humans use to create the 'personal' (and, often, artificial) experience called 'reality.'.
When thinking of Plato’s discussions of virtue, many dialogues come to mind, but, assuredly, the Phaedrus does not. The word ἀρετή is used only six times in the dialogue. Unlike other dialogues, the Phaedrus thematizes neither the general concept of virtue nor any of the particular virtues. Given the centrality of virtue to Plato’s ethics and politics, it is surprising to see little reference to virtue in a dialogue devoted to love and to rhetoric, topics that have deep ethical and (...) political significance. -/- I argue that the Phaedrus makes important contributions to our understanding of virtue in Plato despite the infrequency of references. First, the dialogue juxtaposes competing conceptions of virtue: the “urbane” (cf. 227d) capacity to make things conform to one’s happenstance desires, championed by Lysias, and the “manic” capacity to conform oneself to reality, championed by Socrates. After clarifying that enslavement to pleasure-lust is the underlying condition of soul for Lysianic virtue, Socrates reveals that the non-lover’s “virtue” is, in truth, virtue in name only. Rather, true virtue emerges only when the soul becomes harmoniously ordered under reason’s guidance, a condition which is achieved through the soul’s encounter with beauty. Second, in the process of articulating how true virtue comes to be in the soul, Socrates gives grounds for distinguishing it from “self-restraint” (ἐγκράτεια), a condition of soul whose outward aspect may be indistinguishable from that of virtue. While a soul in which reason does not take the reins may act from self-restraint, it does not yet act from virtue. Third, the dialogue gives us resources for seeing how other people, such as artful rhetoricians, can influence one’s cultivation of virtue. At first glance, Socrates’s claim that artful rhetoricians can “hand over” virtue (270b) seems incompatible with his claim that virtue is unteachable (cf. Meno 86d-99e). However, the dialogue offers some resources for seeing that the unteachability of virtue and the capacity for rhetoricians to “hand over” virtue are not, in fact, incompatible. From these three points, we will see that the Phaedrus offers an intellectualist account of virtue reminiscent of what we see in other dialogues. The intellectualist vision here, however, is one that includes a positive role for the subrational elements of the soul rather than one that excludes them from relevance or actively seeks to suppress them. (shrink)
Diotima’s speech claims that philosophy ranks among the erōtica. The standard reading of this holds that erōs manifests in philosophical activity. This is puzzling. Eros has a reputation for overpowering the psyche, making reasoning impossible. The major interpretive discussion of this puzzle suggests that Diotima must therefore accept either non-rationalist philosophizing or rationalist erōs. This paper argues for an alternative. The “ancillary activities view” posits that the erōtica do not manifest erōs but are activities undertaken to achieve its telos. On (...) this view, love’s relationship to philosophy is as un-mysterious as wanting something and doing what it takes to get it. (shrink)
Los objetos sensibles y el hombre, que constituyen el mundo sometido a alteración o cambios, poseen una estructura, organización y dinámicas propias por las cuales se intuye la presencia de causas o principios que dotan a ambos de tales atributos. De aquí que el límite y la medida representen condiciones de orden establecidas por el mundo ideal, un orden que actúa como causa de la armonía y la proporción que conforman todo el mundo visible. El orden ontológico y cósmico que (...) aquí se plantea proyecta también disposiciones éticas en el plano antropológico, disposiciones que obedecen a un intento explicativo de la realidad en su totalidad y que en el presente texto se intentan dilucidar. (shrink)
Plato’s Pragmatism offers the first comprehensive defense of a pragmatist reading of Plato. According to Plato, the ultimate rational goal is not to accumulate knowledge and avoid falsehood but rather to live an excellent human life. The book contends that a pragmatic outlook is present throughout the Platonic corpus. The authors argue that the successful pursuit of a good life requires cultivating certain ethical commitments, and that maintaining these commitments often requires violating epistemic norms. In the course of defending the (...) pragmatist interpretation, the authors present a forceful Platonic argument for the conclusion that the value of truth has its limits, and that what matters most are one’s ethical commitments and the courage to live up to them. Their interpretation has far-reaching consequences in that it reshapes how we understand the relationship between Plato’s ethics and epistemology. Plato’s Pragmatism will appeal to scholars and advanced students of Plato and ancient philosophy. It will also be of interest to those working on current controversies in ethics and epistemology. (shrink)
In this paper, I explore two possible readings of Republic IV, 439c2-d8, and of Plato’s claim that the just soul is governed by its rational element. My aim is to argue against a “desiderative” interpretation of the passage, according to which the motivational strength of rational desires depends on a set of desires given in advance and produced independently of reason. As an alternative, I advance a “cognitivist” reading according to which the rational desires of the just soul have as (...) its ultimate source a knowledge about the nature of goodness and happiness, with its own motivational force. Finally, I argue for a reinterpretation of 439a4-b1, a passage that, at first sight, seems to contradict my analysis of 439c2-d8. (shrink)
I offer a reading of the two conceptions of the good found in Plato’s Protagoras: the popular conception—‘the many’s’ conception—and Socrates’ conception. I pay particular attention to the three kinds of goods Socrates introduces: (a) bodily pleasures like food, drink, and sex; (b) instrumental goods like wealth, health, or power; and (c) virtuous actions like courageously going to war. My reading revises existing views about these goods in two ways. First, I argue that the many are only ‘hedonists’ in a (...) very attenuated sense. They do not value goods of kind (b) simply as means to pleasures of kind (a); rather, they have fundamentally different attitudes to (a) and (b). Second, the hedonism that Socrates’ defends includes a distinction between kinds of pleasures: (a) bodily pleasures and (c) the pleasures of virtuous actions. This distinction between kinds of pleasures—some that do and some that do not exert the ‘power of appearance’—allows Socrates to address one of the central beliefs in the popular conception of akrasia, namely that it involves a special kind of unruly desire: non-rational appetites for pleasures like food, drink, or sex. Socrates replaces the motivational push of non-rational appetites with the epistemic pull of the appearance of immediate pleasures like food, drink, and sex. (shrink)
Many scholars have viewed the noble lie as fundamentally a device for educating the non-philosophers in the Kallipolis. On this reading, the elite and sophisticated philosopher rulers lie to the non-philosophers, who are unable to fully grasp the truth; such lies help motivate the non-philosophers towards virtuous activity and the promotion of the common good. Hence, according to many scholars, the falsehoods of the noble lie play no role in motivating fully accomplished adult philosophers towards virtue. The motivation for this (...) view is that it would seem strange that the wisest citizens, who have knowledge of the Forms, believe something as far-fetched as the myth of the metals. However, this paper challenges this tradition by arguing that the falsehoods of the noble lie are fundamental to the philosophers’ virtuous dispositions. More precisely, this paper argues that the non-reasoning part of the rulers believes the falsehoods of the noble lie and that these false beliefs have positive ethical value because the non-reasoning part of the soul is too unsophisticated to grasp the complete truth. Thus, the non-reasoning part of a philosopher’s soul requires false beliefs in the same way that non-philosophers require false beliefs. (shrink)
Plato’s attitude towards drunkenness (μέθη) is surprisingly positive in the Laws, especially as compared to his negative treatment of intoxication in the Republic. In the Republic, Plato maintains that intoxication causes cowardice and intemperance (3.398e-399e, 3.403e, and 9.571c-573b), while in the Laws, Plato holds that it can produce courage and temperance (1.635b, 1.645d-650a, and 2.665c-672d). This raises the question: Did Plato change his mind, and if he did, why? Ultimately, this paper answers affirmatively and argues that this marks a substantive (...) shift in Plato’s attitude towards anti-rational desires. More precisely, this paper argues that in the Republic, Plato holds that anti-rational desires are always detrimental to health and virtue, while in the Laws, Plato maintains that anti-rational desires can be instrumental to health and virtue. (shrink)
Socrates' attitude towards falsehood is quite puzzling in the Republic. Although Socrates is clearly committed to truth, at several points he discusses the benefits of falsehood. This occurs most notably in Book 3 with the "noble lie" (414d-415c) and most disturbingly in Book 5 with the "rigged sexual lottery" (459d-460c). This raises the question: What kinds of falsehoods does Socrates think are beneficial, and what kinds of falsehoods does he think are harmful? And more broadly: What can this tell us (...) about the relationship between ethics and epistemology? The key to answering these questions lies in an obscure and paradoxical passage in Book II; at 382a-d Socrates distinguishes between "true falsehoods" and "impure lies." True falsehoods are always bad, but impure lies are sometimes beneficial. Despite Socrates' insistence that he is not saying anything deep, his distinction is far from straightforward. Nevertheless, in order to determine why some falsehoods are beneficial and why some are always harmful, we must understand what exactly true falsehoods are and how they differ from impure lies. In this paper, I argue that true falsehoods are a restricted class of false beliefs about ethics; they are false beliefs about how one should live and what one should pursue. I refer to these beliefs as "normative commitments." False normative commitments are always pernicious because they create and sustain psychological disharmony. Unlike true falsehoods, impure lies can be about anything. Nevertheless, they are only beneficial when they help produce and sustain true normative commitments. I argue that the upshot of this is that practical concerns have a kind of primacy over theoretical concerns. (shrink)
This paper examines whether Socrates provides his interlocutors with good reasons to seek knowledge of what virtue is, reasons that they are in a position to appreciate. I argue that in the Laches he does provide such reasons, but they are not the reasons that are most commonly identified as Socratic. Socrates thinks his interlocutors should be motivated not by the idea that virtue is knowledge nor by the idea that knowledge is good for its own sake, but rather by (...) the idea that knowledge is needed to recognize what to aim at. His argument reaches the potentially life-altering conclusion that we should all seek knowledge of what virtue is. It is powerful precisely because it relies on uncontroversial premises that his interlocutors could be expected to accept. In laying out this argument, I distinguish different ways in which someone could count as a teacher of virtue. At the end of the article, I situate the argument within the debate about whether virtue is teachable. (shrink)
In Plato’s Apology of Socrates we see a philosopher in collision with his society—a society he nonetheless claims to have benefited through his philosophic activity. It has often been asked why democratic Athens condemned a philosopher of Socrates' character to death. This anthology examines the contribution made by Plato’s Apology of Socrates to our understanding of the character of Socrates as well as of the conception of philosophy Plato attributes to him. The 11 chapters offer complementary readings of the Apology, (...) which through their different approaches demonstrate the richness of this Platonic work as well as the various layers that can be discerned in its presentation of Socrates. -/- While the contributions display variety in both topics and angles, they also share common features: An awareness of the importance of the literary aspects of Plato’s courtroom drama, as well as a readiness to take into consideration the historical context of the work. Thereby they provide contributions to a manifold understanding of the aims and impact of the work, without losing sight of the philosophical questions that are raised by Socrates’ confrontational and unrepentant defense speech. Allowing the character of Socrates to take center stage, the chapters of this volume examine the philosopher in relation to ethics, and to politics and democracy, as well as to the ideology, religion, and virtue shared by the Athenians. -/- Readers will also find reflections on classical Platonic subjects such as the nature of Socratic philosophical inquiry and of philosophy itself, as well as on the notoriously ambiguous relationships between philosophy, sophistry and rhetoric, and their several relationships to truth and justice. The anthology emphasizes and explores the equivocal and sometimes problematic aspects of Socrates as Plato presents him in the Apology, illuminating why the Athenians let the verdict fall as they did, while drawing out problematic features of Athenian society and its reaction to Socrates’ philosophic activity, thereby encouraging reflection on the role philosophy can play in our modern societies. (shrink)
Contributors to this volume focus on the character of Socrates as the embodiment of philosophy, employing this as a starting point for exploring various themes exposed in the Apology. These include the relation of philosophy to democracy, rhetoric, politics, or society in general, and the overarching question of what comprises the philosophic life.
In this paper, I offer a new interpretation of Aristophanes’ speech in Plato’s Symposium. Though Plato deliberately draws attention to the significance of Aristophanes’ speech in relation to Diotima’s (205d-206a, 211d), it has received relatively little philosophical attention. Critics who discuss it typically treat it as a comic fable, of little philosophical merit (e.g. Guthrie 1975, Rowe 1998), or uncover in it an appealing and even romantic treatment of love that emphasizes the significance of human individuals as love-objects to be (...) valued for their own sakes (e.g. Dover 1966, Nussbaum 1986). Against the first set of interpreters, I maintain that Aristophanes’ speech is of the utmost philosophical significance to the dialogue; in it, he sets forth a view of eros as a state of lack and a corresponding desire for completion, which is the starting-point for Diotima’s subsequent analysis. Against the second, I argue that Aristophanes’ speech contains a profoundly pessimistic account of eros. Far from being an appreciative response to the individuality of the beloved, eros, for Aristophanes, is an irrational urge, incapable of satisfaction. It is this irrationality that precludes Aristophanes’ lovers from achieving the partial satisfaction of erotic desire that is open to their Socratic counterparts through their relationship to the forms. (shrink)
In Plato’s Laws, the Athenian Stranger maintains that law should consist of both persuasion (πειθώ) and compulsion (βία) (IV.711c, IV.718b-d, and IV.722b). Persuasion can be achieved by prefacing the laws with preludes (προοίμια), which make the citizens more eager to obey the laws. Although scholars disagree on how to interpret the preludes’ persuasion, they agree that the preludes instill true beliefs and give citizens good reasons for obeying the laws. In this paper I refine this account of the preludes by (...) arguing that the primary purpose of the preludes is to motivate correct action, and that for citizens who lack rational-governance this is achieved via useful false beliefs. That is to say, in many cases, the prelude functions as a “noble lie” (γενναῖον ψεῦδος). (shrink)
The essay consists in the analysis of the problem of the evil in the man and in the analysis of the remedies which the man can find against the evil. Plato affirms the presence of an active principle of evil in the soul of every man, which coincides with some instincts of the appetitive soul; the opposite principle to the evil is the reason, which needs, though, a correct education in order to be able to fight efficiently against the evil (...) in us. The man can be seen as a battle field of these opposite forces. Plato describes the presence of the evil in us in some passages of Republic Book 9, where he compares the appetitive part of the soul with a monster. The destiny of every person in her earthly existence consists in the continuing control of the appetitive part of the soul, if the status of ethical education is to be reached and maintained. The man who remains in the realm of the opinion, that is, in the realm of the doxa is an individual who only disposes of unstable opinions and who as a consequence do not have authentic remedies against the appetitive part. On the contrary, the individual who can ascend to the realm of being through the hard education represented by arithmetic, geometry, stereometry, astronomy, harmony and, finally, dialectic is really able to contrast the force of the evil within the individual. Ethics is really possible only through the complete education which passes through these disciplines: the more the individuals is theoretically educated, the more the individual is ethically educated. The knowledge of ideas is the only authentic therapy against the evil in us. (shrink)
The Callicles colloquy of Plato’s Gorgias features both examination and ridicule. Insofar as Socrates’ examination of Callicles proceeds via the elenchus, the presence of ridicule requires explanation. This essay seeks to provide that explanation by placing the effort to ridicule within the effort to examine; that is, the judgment/pronouncement that something/ someone is worthy of ridicule is a proper part of the elenchic examination. Standard accounts of the Socratic elenchus do not include this component. Hence, the argument of this essay (...) suggests a need to revise the standard account of the elenchus, at least as it relates to the use of that method within the Gorgias. Insofar as a revised account of the elenchus has implications for our understanding of Socratic moral psychology, the argument of this essay also suggests a need to reconsider the moral psychological framework within which Socrates operates in the Gorgias. (shrink)
In our reply to Rowe, we explain why most of what he criticizes is actually the product of his misunderstanding our argument. We begin by showing that nearly all of his Part 1 misconceives our project by defending a position we never attacked. We then question why Rowe thinks the distinction we make between motivational and virtue intellectualism is unimportant before developing a defense of the consistency of our views about different desires. Next we turn to Rowe’s criticisms of our (...) account of the prudential paradox and show these criticisms to rest on a misunderstanding. We close with some remarks about the implausibility and textual problems Rowe faces in denying that Socrates recognized a role for painful punishments. (shrink)
This chapter examines Plato's moral psychology in the Phaedrus. It argues against interpreters such as Burnyeat and Nussbaum that Plato's treatment of the soul is increasingly pessimistic: reason's desire to contemplate is at odds with its obligation to rule the soul, and psychic harmony can only be secured by violently suppressing the lower parts of the soul.
In this paper, I explore parallels between philosophical and tyrannical eros in Plato's Republic. I argue that in arguing that reason experiences eros for the forms, Plato introduces significant tensions into his moral psychology.
The main aim of this paper is to explain why Plato's Socrates devotes himself to philosophy. In so doing, I hope also to show that he does not sincerely believe that any of his decisions, about philosophy or anything, involve any kind of divine intervention. As my conclusions are contrary to a good bit of first-rate, recent scholarship on the subject, and also contrary to part of what Socrates himself says in Plato's Apology of Socrates, I think it is especially (...) important to clarify (…) - 12. Plato 12 (2012). (shrink)
In this paper I discuss Plato's conception of expertise as a part of the Platonic theory of a good, successful life (eudaimonia). In various Platonic dialogues, Socrates argues that the good life requires a certain kind of knowledge that guides all our good, beneficial actions: the “knowledge of the good and bad”, which is to be acquired by “questioning ourselves and examining our and others’ beliefs”. This knowledge encompasses the particular knowledge of how to recognize experts in a given technical (...) domain. The central element in Socrates’ account of an expert is what I call the truth-and-caring criterion: an expert has to make seeking the truth and avoiding (avoidable) error her supreme epistemic goal and she has to make caring for common goods the supreme goal of practising her expertise. (shrink)
This paper defends an intellectualist interpretation of Diotima’s speech in Plato’s Symposium. I argue that Diotima’s purpose, in discussing the lower lovers, is to critique their erōs as aimed at a goal it can never secure, immortality, and as focused on an inferior object, themselves. By contrast, in loving the form of beauty, the philosopher gains a mortal sort of completion; in turning outside of himself, he also ceases to be preoccupied by his own incompleteness.
This paper offers an intellectualist interpretation of Diotima’s speech in Plato’s Symposium. Diotima’s purpose, in discussing the lower lovers, is to critique their erōs as aimed at a goal it can never secure, immortality, and as focused on an inferior object, themselves. By contrast, in loving beauty, the philosopher gains a mortal sort of completion; in turning outside of himself, he also ceases to be preoccupied by his own incompleteness.
Note: "Next to Godliness" (Apeiron) is an expanded version of this paper. -/- According to Plato's successors, assimilation to god (homoiosis theoi) was the end (telos) of the Platonic system. There is ample evidence to support this claim in dialogues ranging from the Symposium through the Timaeus. However, the Philebus poses a puzzle for this conception of the Platonic telos. On the one hand, Plato states that the gods are beings beyond pleasure while, on the other hand, he argues that (...) the best human life necessarily involves pleasure. In this paper, I argue that the solution to this puzzle lies in the fact that the processes by which we assimilate to god, learning and becoming virtuous, are restitutive and hence pleasant. Thus, the reason why the best human life necessarily involves pleasure is that we can never become fully divine and perfect, but must constantly strive to become like the divine, through pleasureful restitutive processes. In this paper, I also provide a close examination and taxonomy of the different models that Plato presents throughout his corpus of assimilation to god. (shrink)
Commentators do not take Socrates’ theses in the Hippias Minor seriously. They believe it is an aporetic dialogue and even that Socrates does not mean what he says. Hence they are unable to understand the presuppositions behind Socrates’ two interconnected theses: that those who do wrong and lie voluntarily are better than those who do wrong unintentionally, and that no one does wrong and lies voluntarily. Arguing that liars are better than the unenlightened, Socrates concludes that there are no liars. (...) Instead, there are only those who know and those who don’t. The unenlightened cannot lie, and alien volitions, desires, or emotions are unlikely to mislead and deceive those who know, i. e., the wise. Why, then, is a thinker like Socrates ready to defy the experience and moral convictions of his contemporaries and even our own to such an extent? (shrink)
Although it is a commonplace that the "Protagoras" and the "Republic" present diffent views of akrasia, the nature of the difference is not well understood. I argue that the logic of the famous argument in the "Protagoras" turns just on two crucial assumptions: that desiring is having evaluative beliefs (or that valuing is desiring), and that no one can have contradictory preferences at the same time; hedonism is not essential to the logic of the argument. And the logic of the (...) argument for the division of the soul in the "Republic" requires the rejection of just the second of these assumptions, but not the evaluative conception of desire. I also maintain that Plato was aware, at the time of composition, of these features of the argumentation of his dialogues. Finally, I argue that there is reason to think that, even at the time of the "Protagoras," Plato held the conception of the soul expressed in the "Republic," and not anything like that expressed in the famous argument of the "Protagoras." The Protagoras view, even without hedonism, is a poor expression of the thesis that virtue is knowledge. (shrink)
In this dissertation, I re-examine the relationship between knowledge and virtue in Plato's dialogues. I argue that "knowledge" in the dialogues is not defined in opposition to "desire" but rather involves "desire" as a constitutive component and that "knowledge" has affective and "erotic" aspects. As a point of reference, I examine Aristotle's brief arguments against the Socratic identification of episteme and arete . I argue that they rest on epistemological and psychological assumptions that Socrates need not accept: viz., a differentiation (...) between "theoretical" and "practical" knowledge, and a differentiation between the faculty of thought and of desire. If these presuppositions are rejected, then "knowledge" in the Platonic dialogues is "prior" to a distinction between "theory" and "practice." In the third chapter, I defend this view through an examination of knowledge in the Socratic dialogues as a determinate disposition which has both discursive and non-discursive manifestations. I first show that this is true for common examples of tekhne, and second that there is no evidence that it does not equally hold for moral "knowledge." This requires, however, a re-interpretation of the place of the elenkhos in the Socratic practice of philosophia. We must not be misled by the centrality of definitions in the elenkhos, to conclude that "knowledge" is adequately described as propositional knowledge. Instead, the object of "knowledge" is a being, and hence "knowledge" is "non-propositional." The second part of this dissertation contains some preliminary attempts to develop this analysis of "knowledge" and to forestall some possible objections. In the fourth chapter I examine the three passages in which Socrates differentiates between a "maker's" and a "user's" knowledge and I show that the "knowledge" which Socrates identifies with "wisdom" unifies theoretical and practical comportments. The fifth chapter contains an examination of the dependence of knowledge on the education of our desires in the Republic. In the final chapter I show how this conception of "knowledge" understood as the telos of philosophia determines philosophical practice through an examination of the relationship between desire and dialectic in the Phaedo. (shrink)
Evidence from the Apology, Crito, Protagoras, and Gorgias is mustered in defense of the claim that for Socrates, dialectic typifies just punishment: Dialectic benefits the punished by making her more just, since it disabuses her of the false beliefs that stand in the way of her acquiring knowledge of justice. Though painful and disorienting to the interlocutor, having one’s opinions refuted by Socrates—who is wiser than his interlocutors due to his awareness of the vastness of his ignorance—is in fact a (...) benefit. Socrates’ attitude toward his own pending death sentence, his claim that the virtues are unified around wisdom, and his opposition to vengeance or retaliation as a moral motive, all underscore how dialectical engagement is a paradigm instance of just Socratic punishment. (shrink)
Praising much, I criticize this commentary on Plato's Lysis on three points: I. The book's dismissal of Socratic intellectualism. II. The book's finding of a Socratic doctrine of symmetrical friendship between good people. III. The book's reading of the final aporia.
Many commentators of the "Republic" see the conformity to authority, emphasized in the early education, as a hindrance to the development of the critical skills necessary for the philosopher. Furthermore, they see the theoretical training of the philosopher as detached from morality. I argue that Plato does not view philosophical training as separate from morality. Rather Plato views intellectual training as integral to the philosopher's overall pursuit of the Good. Philosophical knowledge is moral because the objects of such knowledge are (...) closer to the divine. Philosophical development is a moral and spiritual quest aimed at becoming god-like. (shrink)
The article examines the Socratic principle that (1) virtue is knowledge and its corollary that (2) nobody errs voluntarily (nemo sua sponte peccat). It tries to show (I) that both principles are paradoxa, i.e. from a phenomenological point of view, they seem to be false; (II) that nevertheless the platonic Socrates accepts both principles as true; and finally (III) that these principles are analytical truths a priori which can only be understood if a person (soul) finds them in him- or (...) herself. (shrink)
Originally published in 1991, this book focuses on the concept of virtue, and in particular on the virtue of wisdom or knowledge, as it is found in the epic poems of Homer, some tragedies of Sophocles, selected writings of Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers. The key questions discussed are the nature of the virtues, their relation to each other, and the relation between the virtues and happiness or well-being. This book provides the background and interpretative framework to (...) make classical works on Ethics, such as Plato’s _Republic_ and Aristotle’s _Nicomachean Ethics_, accessible to readers with no training in the classics. (shrink)