Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Summary of the Prolegomena to tomorrow's post (yes it's as boring as it sounds)

So, to sum up:
  1. The dialectic that Plato recommends must first be likened to the destructive, skeptical patterns of questioning and answering normally attributed to the Sophists, in order to be distinguished from them, since Plato himself represented dialectic in terms of this likening and distinction. (see "What is Dialectic?")
  2. The distinction in terms of which this dialectic shows up must be pried open at the point at which it seems least distinct: refutation, the activity in which Socrates is most easily confused with a Sophist. (see "Socratic Refutation")
  3. In analyzing an instance of Socratic refutation, the first step should be maieutic: it should deliver as fully as possible the reasons for the interpretation of the refutation as essentially identical with a sophistic refutation (as opposed to assuming that Plato is merely dramatizing the logical deduction of a proposition in opposition to other positions (see "The ductility of arguments and the futility of moral propositions")).
  4. In the case of the refutation of Cephalus, these reasons are:
    1. Socrates puts words in Cephalus's mouth, attributing a definition of justice to him which he never stated.
    2. Socrates may have an ulterior motive for destroying Cephalus's moral attitudes, since they tend to suggest that the Socratic way of life is imprudent. (see "Cephalus Confuted")
I should add above all that the textual structure of the refutation has roughly the form of what Aristotle will later call a hypothetical syllogism. The hypothesis that all acts of speaking the truth and paying one's debts, together with the observation that some acts of paying one's debts give power to friends who will use it to arm themselves, leads to the conclusion that sometimes it is just to help your friends harm themselves. Since, however, the opinion that harming your friends in this way would be unjust and bad is more firmly fixed than the hypothetical definition, the original assertion is destroyed, leaving its contradictory standing as an absolute certainty.

So the examination of the refutation of Cephalus will have to show two things

  1. what in the preceding conversation legitimately motivates the imposition of a definition on Cephalus's musings, and what interest Socrates has in the usefulness of money.
  2. what kind of conclusion Socrates thinks his counterexample produces.
The first of these goals I will undertake tomorrow.

continued