The role of practice and habituation in Socrates’ theory of ethical development

British Journal for the History of Philosophy 26 (6):987-1005 (2018)
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Abstract

ABSTRACTThe goal of this paper is to challenge the standard view that Socrates of the early Platonic dialogues is an intellectualist with respect to virtue. Through a detailed analysis of the educational theory laid out in the early dialogues, it will be argued that Socrates believes that the best way to cultivate virtues in his interlocutors is not to convince them of ethical truths by way of reason and argument alone, but to encourage them to participate in the practice of virtue. Habit and practice are essential to the cultivation of virtue because they mould the desires and dispositions of the agent and promote a kind of knowledge that cannot be achieved discursively – craft-knowledge. Only when agents have achieved craft-knowledge can they be counted on to act virtuously on every occasion; and craft-knowledge can only be achieved by way of practice and habituation.

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