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By Kenneth Seeskin

This booklet examines the Socratic approach to elenchus or refutation. Refutation by way of its very nature is a clash which within the arms of Plato turns into excessive drama. the ongoing dialog within which it happens is extra a try of personality than of mind. discussion and Discovery exhibits that, in his conversations, Socrates seeks to outline ethical qualities--moral essences--with the target of enhancing the soul of the respondent. Ethics underlies epistemology as the discovery of philosophic fact imposes ethical calls for at the respondent. the popularity that ethical traits akin to honesty, humility, and braveness are essential to profitable inquiry is the foremost to the certainty of the Socratic paradox that advantage is wisdom. The dialogues receiving the main emphasis are the Apology, Gorgias, Protagoras, and Meno.

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There is, however, one passage in the Apology which appears to contradict this. At 29b, Socrates says he does know that it is disgraceful to do wrong and disobey one's superior. Does this negate what he says in the rest of the Apology, the Gorgias, and elsewhere? I believe it does not. The use of know at Apology 29b is referring to the strength of Scorates' moral commitment. This does not mean, nor does Socrates ever say, that his belief follows from a completed moral theory or science. He is committed to it even though he cannot give a totally satisfactory justification for it.

12 Notice how this interpretation puts both the author and the reader in a peculiar role. The author, Plato, is not really saying anything, he is only exhibiting the things other people say. 13 The reader is put in a position to observe a philosophical exchange but is not expected to come away from it with any particular feeling or attitude. Without raising the time-honored question of which ideas belong to the historical Socrates and which to Plato, a question which centuries of debate have done nothing to resolve, we can say that Plato was asserting something when he had Socrates defend a particular conception of human life.

Page 18 Notes to Chapter One 1. On this point, see the introduction to Bryan Magee's interview with Iris Murdoch in Magee, Men of Ideas (New York: Viking Press, 1978), 264. It is unfortunate that neither Magee nor so gifted a writer as Iris Murdoch ever consider the possibility that the literary qualities of a work may be essential to its success as a piece of philosophy. 2. For the purpose of this discussion, the term "Socratic dialogue" will refer primarily to the dialogues of Plato's early period.

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