How to Discriminate between Experts and Frauds: Some Problems for Socratic Peirastic

History of Philosophy Quarterly 12 (3):227 - 246 (1995)
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It has often been noted that Socratic cross-examination is problematic as a method of inquiry, i.e., as a method for 'acquiring' knowledge. Rarely has it been noticed that there are problems with cross-examination when used for the purposes of 'testing' for knowledge. In the 'Charmides', Socrates commits himself to the following principle: In order to discriminate between the person who knows and the person who does not know the subject matter covered by a particular discipline (technê), one must have mastered that discipline. But if Socrates' disavowals of moral knowledge are sincere, it would seem to follow from this principle that, contrary to what Socrates says in many early dialogues, he cannot successfully test claims to moral expertise through cross-examination. Through an examination of the conditions that Socrates places on knowledge and on mastering a 'technê', I show how this problem can be resolved.



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Jyl Gentzler
Amherst College

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