The Virtue of Philosophy, An Interpretation of Plato's "Charmides." [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 36 (4):935-936 (1983)
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Prior to the appearance of this work, the posthumously published book, Plato's "Charmides" by T. G. Tuckey was the only book-length commentary in English on the Charmides. Unlike Tuckey and the more recent German writers on this dialogue Hyland has broader aims than explicating Plato's analysis of sophrosyne, although he does that as well. Hyland sees the present philosophical and cultural scene pervaded by the two apparently opposite but intimately interrelated stances of mastery and submission. To these he proposes an alternative--the interrogative stance maintained by Socrates in the Platonic dialogues. Such an orientation maintains "a precarious balance" between mastery and submission. One neither accepts any answer as completely satisfactory nor does one despair of any meaningfulness to the range of answers available. Thus one avoids imposing a theory upon the facts as well as being overly submissive to whatever events are present as the manifestation of Being. This attitude, also called "responsive openness," is believed by Hyland to be the real meaning of sophrosyne, the virtue investigated in the Charmides. Such a stance is the existential attitude adopted by the philosopher; indeed, it is the virtue of philosophy. In the Charmides Socrates is presented as the mean between the submission exhibited by Chaerephon, who too uncritically accepts Socrates' way of life, and Charmides and Critias, who exhibit potential tyrannical qualities in their attempts to master those around them.



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