The Socrates Treatment

Hrachovec, Herbert The Socrates Treatment. Dialogue and Universalism. Journal of the International Society of Universal Dialogue, XXV (2/2015). pp. 7-17. ISSN PL ISSN 1234-5792

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The designator „Socrates“ refers to a more complicated philosophical figure than is usually acknowledged. Plato's version of the person's life and discursive strategies has had an irreversible impact on philosophy, quite independent from how the historical Socrates actually fitted into his contemporary Athenian surroundings. Aristophanes counted him among the so-called sophists, precisely the group of post-traditional, utilitarian intellectual trainers that Plato took so much care to distinguish Socrates from. This paper will argue that Aristophanes was not completely wrong about the issue and that his portrayal of the philosopher should rather be taken as indication of an inherent tension, even contradiction, in the „Socratic“ enterprise. Platonic paideia, usually presented as a blueprint for humanistic (self-)development should, consequently, be considered within the framework of the educational resources offering social and rhetorical skills intended to succeed in an increasingly multifaceted city-state like Athens.

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The argument will focus on a celebrated Socratic move, a strategic device designed to startle his interlocutors and to confer an argumentative edge to the philosopher. Longstanding familiarity with this stratagem blinds us from noticing a certain trickery in posing one of the most venerable questions in philosophy, namely „What is the essence of X?“ An attempt will be made to de-familiarize the story which has us admiring Socrates' skills in prompting self-assured citizens towards a more (pun intended) sophisticated assessment of basic philosophical concerns.

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The first section of this paper will examine the discursive procedure employed by Socrates to subvert common preconceptions of important socio-behavioral notions. The point of reference will be the concept of courage which is the main concern in Plato's Laches. Key characteristics of paideia can be exhibited by reconstructing the procedure common sense is subjected to in this example. The second section will discuss the tremendous influence this pattern of inquiry has had on traditional philosophy. Particular attention is drawn to the way it confers superiority to philosophers in „pedagogical“ discourse and to the fact that this privileged stance can by no means be taken for granted under present circumstances.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: Philosophie > Philosophische Disziplinen > Gesellschaftsphilosophie, politische Philosophie, Rechtsphilosophi
Philosophie > Philosophische Disziplinen > Ästhetik, Kunstphilosophie
Philosophie > Philosophische Institutionen > Institut für Philosophie, Wien
Depositing User: sandra subito
Date Deposited: 06 Dec 2020 16:15
Last Modified: 06 Dec 2020 16:15

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