- Term Papers and Free Essays

Plato's Socrate

Essay by   •  September 21, 2010  •  3,238 Words (13 Pages)  •  1,860 Views

Essay Preview: Plato's Socrate

Report this essay
Page 1 of 13

Socrates and Properties

By Characterizing himself Ð'-Socrates- as both ignorant and wise, he presents us with one of the most striking paradoxes. Like so many of the other philosophers, is provocative in that its apparent self-contradiction hides an important idea for us readers to discover. Though out this text Socrates ignorance results from his belief that he has no knowledge of moral idea, or moral properties, such as justice, virtue, piety, and beauty. He asserts that, if only he knew the relevant definitions, he would be a moral expert who could answer philosophical questions about moral properties- questions such as is a certain action just? Or is it truly good for a man to be virtuous? Socrates believes that only someone that is "truly wise" would know these essential definitions and be able to provide such expert answers. It is important to determine whether Socrates does, in fact, accept priority of definition principle and, if he does, whether he is committed to a false and problematic principle that subjects him to catastrophic results. A textual analysis will be a philosophic inquiry into Socrates' conception of knowledge, considering what he believes knowledge to be, how the knowledge of definitions fits into his epistemology, and whether or not his conception of knowledge is philosophical compelling.

Socrates does not appear to hold a consistent epistemological view through out the book. The book is timely. It appears shortly following the death of Gregory Vlastos, who stimulated much of the philosophical interest in this area, and thus at a moment when the future of that interest might be in some doubt. But by offering consistently challenging and novel interpretations, and by arguing clearly and vigorously for their positions with reference both to the texts and to the work of other scholars, the authors guarantee a continuing debate on the topics. It is certainly one of the best introductions there is to Socratic thought, together with Vlastos' Socrates, Ironist and Moral Philosopher and posthumous companion volume Socratic Studies, Terence Irwin's Plato's Moral Theory, and (for a very different approach) Leo Strauss's long essay "The Problem of Socrates" in The Rebirth of Classical Political Rationalism.

Some of the authors' more controversial positions are: Socrates does not really have a method at all, though his manner of examining others can produce important negative and positive results; Socrates' profession of ignorance is limited to knowledge which gives real wisdom, and even here he claims to possess knowledge that certain things are true (e.g. suffering is better than injustice), but not to know why or how it is they are true; Socrates' extraordinary claims in the Gorgias concerning what everyone believes and desires (justice and the true good) are consistent with his treatment of akrasia, and present an entirely unified psychological theory; Socrates regards virtue as neither necessary nor sufficient to happiness (this view is unique to the authors); Socrates opposed all disobedience to law, even to law which commanded injustice, and his trial and execution were not motivated by political concerns; the accusations against Socrates at his trial reflect religious prejudices which he represents quite accurately in Plato's Apology.

This paper will try to answer one of may question specific positions and arguments the authors make. I do not see, for example, that the distinction between knowing that certain things are true and knowing why or how it is they are true is all that significant, when applied to moral wisdom, understood as knowledge of the true or ideal virtues: is not knowledge of how each of the beings is equivalent to knowledge of what the definition of each is? I also cannot agree that Socrates would be willing to obey a manifestly unjust law, e.g. to harm an innocent person, and think his action justified on the grounds that not he, but the state was the responsible agent in such a situation, an implication of their interpretation the authors fully acknowledge.

All moral knowledge must start with knowledge of definition. The traditional view holds that Socrates' interest in definitions and his skepticism about clams to non-definitionally based moral knowledge come from his belief that a person cannot have knowledge about a moral property unless he first knows the fundamental nature, or definition, of the property. The principle of false is one of the main arguments presented in "Plato's Socrates". The book, suggests that the principle is false because a person does not need to know the definition of property in order to possess other knowledge; if it were true, would wholly undermine the search for knowledge because other knowledge about a moral property must be gained. The principle is morally harmful because in seeming to put moral knowledge out of human reach, it can lead people to lose interest in moral matters.

Socrates does many things and he does them in a remarkable way. In the book it is stated by Brickhouse and Smith that " Socrates' elenchus is not a craft. It is nonetheless true that Socrates does what he does with remarkable and obvious facility." This explains that Socrates method put forth the recognition of his work. Socrates way of asking questions and leading to answers was achieved by "elenctic arguments appear only to demonstrate the inconsistency of the interlocutors' initial moral claim" (page 10).

The first chapter of the book goes over how to lead the examined life, Socrates succeeded in discovering that a great many people "think they know something when in fact they know little or nothing" (page 27). Main intake in is that, one needs to practice elenchos oneself to lead an examined life, one needs to have his/her life examined by other. Importantly having enough people who are "equally capable of performing it on them"(page 29).

Moving forward, Socrates describes Meno's question as obviously suggesting that his own methods of argument, the dialectic elenchos, is a different, more serious and effective one. Through a series of exchange with Meno who claimed to know what arếte is in the first place, Socrates, in his characteristic disavowal of knowledge are persistent, forces Meno to admit that he is equally at loss. And only on the basis of this admitted ignorance can they embark on a joint inquiry, and elenchos.

That is a good introduction for the main idea in chapter two which discusses the paradox of Socrates, and knowing how something is. Socrates developed the dialectical process for gaining knowledge. This sub-branch concerns the nature and scope of knowledge, that is, does knowledge exist? Can we have knowledge? What does it mean



Download as:   txt (19.4 Kb)   pdf (191.2 Kb)   docx (16.1 Kb)  
Continue for 12 more pages »
Only available on