Socrates and the beginnings of moral philosophy

Socrates and the beginnings of moral philosophy
Socrates and the beginnings of moral philosophy Hugh H.Benson INTRODUCTION Cicero in Tusculan Disputations famously tells us that Socrates first called philosophy down from the sky, set it in cities and even introduced it into homes, and compelled it to consider life and morals, good and evil. (V.4.10)1 Again in the Academica he attributes to Varro the following view: It is my view, and it is universally agreed, that Socrates was the first person who summoned philosophy away from mysteries veiled in concealment by nature herself, upon which all philosophers before him had been engaged, and led it to the subject of ordinary life, in order to investigate the virtues and vices, and good and evil generally, and to realize that heavenly matters are either remote from our knowledge or else, however fully known, have nothing to do with the good life. (I.5.15, trans. Rackham) Here we have two of the clearest statements of a tradition that stretches from perhaps as early as Aristotle2 to the present day:3 moral philosophy begins with Socrates. Nevertheless, this tradition should strike us as odd. In this very volume we have seen instances of moral philosophy—or at least a reasonable facsimile of it —predating Socrates. The Pythagoreans appear to be committed to something like a moral philosophy, while many of the so-called ‘natural philosophers’ appear to have moral commitments as only a quick glance at their fragments makes clear. Moreover, a number of philosophers flourishing virtually contemporaneously with Socrates would seem to have an equal claim to fathering moral philosophy. The sophists—Protagoras, Gorgias, et al—certainly seem to have moral views that rival Socrates’, while the fragments of Democritus exhibit a moral theory. Of course, part of the difficulty here is that the notion of having or practising a moral philosophy is quite vague. Does it suffice merely to entertain moral propositions? If so, then moral philosophy began long before Socrates. On the other hand, if it requires something else, what else? Answering this question is both difficult and perhaps uninteresting. But even if we were to answer it, we would still be a long way from confirming or disconfirming the Ciceronian tradition. To do this we would need to rehearse the entire history of philosophy up to Socrates focusing on whether any of Socrates’ predecessors or contemporaries had or practised a moral philosophy so defined. Such a task is obviously well beyond anything that can be accomplished in an essay of this son. Consequently, I will not attempt it. Instead, I propose to focus on a characteristic feature of Socratic moral philosophy, a feature that may have motivated the Ciceronian tradition. For morality, according to Socrates, is a knowledge or expertise to be practised and studied just like any other knowledge or expertise. What distinguishes it from other instances of knowledge and expertise is its object: roughly, the good. This is the message at the core of Socratic philosophy, a message Socrates believed he was called upon to spread. Whether such a message is new to the intellectual scene of fifth century Greece, or if so, whether that justifies crediting Socrates with the origins of moral philosophy, I leave for others to decide. My goal here is to come to grips with the substance of Socratic moral philosophy, whatever its intellectual ancestors and contemporaries may have been. THE SOCRATIC PROBLEM Before beginning this task we must address an issue that all discussions of Socratic philosophy must face: Whom am I referring to when I use the name ‘Socrates’? The question arises because the historical individual that goes by this name (and who was the mentor of Plato, an associate of Xenophon, Alcibiades and Chaerephon, and general pest on the streets of Athens in the latter part of the fifth century BC) apparently wrote nothing. Our knowledge of the philosophical views of this individual derives primarily from four distinct sources: Aristophanes, who wrote a comedy entitled the Clouds in which Socrates is a major figure;4 Xenophon, who wrote a variety of Socratic works, perhaps the most important of which is the Memorabilia which purports to be a record of a number of Socratic conversations5; Plato, who wrote twenty dialogues in which Socrates is the primary speaker6; and Aristotle, who refers to Socrates over forty times throughout his corpus.7 This alone would pose no problem; we think we know quite a bit about Themistocles or Pericles and yet we possess none of their writings either. The problem arises because the portraits of Socrates painted by our first three sources are so different.8 According to Aristophanes, Socrates is a sophistic natural philosopher who was willing to teach anyone who would pay for it how to make the weaker argument the stronger and who denied the existence of the gods of common opinion. According to Xenophon, Socrates was an unexciting didactician, who was quick to give advice concerning the most common matters and who was a paragon of common morality and religious practice. And according to Plato, Socrates was a non-dogmatic, perhaps even sceptical, moral philosopher, who examined and exposed others’ pretenses to wisdom, denied that he taught anything, and espoused such non-traditional, in some cases even paradoxical, theses as ‘no one ever does wrong willingly’, ‘it is wrong to harm one’s enemies’, and ‘knowledge is necessary and sufficient for virtue’. The problem, then, is to decide which of these three portraits accurately represents the actual historical Socrates who walked the streets and frequented the gymnasia of fifth-century Athens. Perhaps the clearest and currently most widely accepted solution to this problem9 can be found in Gregory Vlastos’s last book Socrates: Ironist and Moral Philosopher [9.93].10 According to Vlastos, our three principal sources are Plato, Xenophon and Aristotle. He dismisses the Aristophanes portrait as the comic caricature that it is,11 and then goes on to maintain that the Platonic portrait is more equivocal than I have let on. Vlastos argues that there are at least two distinct portraits of Socrates in the Platonic dialogues: one to be found in the early dialogues and another to be found in the middle and late dialogues.12 The argument proceeds by detailing ten theses each consisting of two parts. One part contains a feature or view attributable to Socrates in the early dialogues; the other part contains a feature or view at odds with that of the first part and attributable to Socrates in the middle dialogues. For example, according to Vlastos, the Socrates of Plato’s early dialogues is exclusively a moral philosopher, while the Socrates of Plato’s middle dialogues is a ‘moral philosopher and metaphysician and epistemologist and philosopher of science and philosopher of language and philosopher of religion and philosopher of education and philosopher of art’.13 Vlastos concludes from this that in the Platonic dialogues Socrates maintains two philosophical views ‘so different that they could not have been depicted as cohabiting the same brain throughout unless it had been the brain of a schizophrenic. They are so diverse in content and method that they contrast as sharply with one another as with any third philosophy you care to mention.’14 Next, Vlastos argues on the basis of the testimony of our other two sources—Aristotle and Xenophon—that the philosophical view maintained by Socrates in the early dialogues is the philosophical view of the historical Socrates. For example, Vlastos argues that the Socrates of the middle dialogues advances a theory of separated Forms, while the Socrates of the early dialogues does not, and then points to Metaphysics 1078b30–2 where Aristotle distinguishes between Plato and Socrates precisely on the grounds that the former did, while the latter did not, separate the Forms.15 Finally, Vlastos maintains that Plato’s overriding concern in composing his dialogues—the early ones as well as the middle and late ones—is always philosophy. Consequently, ‘in any given dialogue Plato allows the persona of Socrates only what he (Plato) considers true’.16 The conclusion of Vlastos’s argument results in an interpretation of the Platonic portrait of Socrates that can be summed up in the following three theses: 1 The philosophical views advanced by Socrates in the early dialogues are distinct from the philosophical views advanced by that character in the middle dialogues (interpretation derived from Vlastos’s ten theses). 2 The philosophical views advanced by Socrates in the early dialogues represent the philosophical views of the historical Socrates (thesis based on the independent testimony of Aristotle and Xenophon). 3 The philosophical views advanced by Socrates in the early dialogues represent the philosophical views of Plato before he adopted the classical Platonism of the middle dialogues (thesis based on Vlastos’s grand methodological hypothesis). I believe that this interpretation of the Platonic Socrates is generally correct.17 Consequently, my answer to the question with which this section began is as follows. When I use the name ‘Socrates’ in the course of this essay I am referring to the actual historical individual who goes by that name, was the mentor of Plato, an associate of Xenophon, Alcibiades and Chaerephon, and a general pest on the streets and in the gymnasia of fifth-century Athens. I take as my primary source of evidence for the philosophical views of this individual the early dialogues of Plato, but I also take these views to be confirmed in part by the portraits of Aristotle and Xenophon.18 This is the Socrates of this essay. FOLK MORALITY We can now turn to the task with which this essay began: coming to grips with Socratic moral philosophy. Since according to the Ciceronian tradition Socrates is doing something very unusual in advancing a moral philosophy, we can begin by turning to those views with which Socrates contrasts his own: common or folk morality and sophistic morality. Let me begin with folk morality and a passage in the Protagoras (319b3–319d7). The main conversation in the Protagoras begins when Socrates asks Protagoras what he professes to teach. When Protagoras answers that he professes to teach virtue (aretē), Socrates expresses surprise.19 He had always believed that virtue could not be taught—or so he says —and one of his arguments for this is that the Athenians are wise, but they don’t think that virtue can be taught.20 Evidence that the Athenians don’t believe that virtue can be taught is derived from their behaviour in the Assembly. When they are faced with a decision regarding the building of temples, the building of ships, or any other technical matter (en technēi), they are unwilling to listen to the advice of anyone other than the relevant experts: temple-builders, shipwrights, etc. But when they are faced with a decision regarding the management of the city they are willing to consider the advice of anyone, ‘be he carpenter, smith or cobbler, merchant or ship-owner, rich or poor, noble or low-born’ (319d2–4, [9.82]). If this is supposed to provide evidence that the Athenians fail to believe that virtue can be taught the idea must be something like this. The Athenians distinguish between those decisions that require virtue and those that do not. In the case of those that do not, the Athenians permit only the experts to be heard. In the case of those that do, the Athenians permit any and everyone to be heard. Thus, the Athenians do not regard virtue as an expertise, and so do not believe it can be taught. When Protagoras responds to this first Socratic argument, he does not deny that everyone—or at least everyone in a political community— possesses virtue sufficient for giving advice about such matters. Instead, Protagoras denies that virtue—so understood—fails to be an expertise.21 Protagoras maintains that the Athenians believe that virtue is an expertise possessed by all the citizens to some degree or other. This, however, is apparently not how Socrates understands their view. Here then we have Socrates’ conception of common Athenian morality. According to Socrates, the common or folk view is that virtue is not an expertise —at least, if by expertise one has in mind some sort of special or unique ability. Instead virtue is something possessed to one degree or another by everyone; it is easily or automatically acquired; and everyone is a competent adviser concerning it. Thus, if Socrates contrasts his own moral view with this folk view, he must believe that virtue is an expertise like temple-building, ship-building, and the rest; not something possessed by everyone; nor easily acquired. For Socrates, decisions that require virtue require the advice of an expert. But why should we think that Socrates contrasts his own moral view with this folk view? Doesn’t Socrates put this view forward not only as the common view, but also as his own in contrast to Protagoras? Yes he does, but there are a number of reasons to doubt that Socrates is genuinely committed to the view he attributes to the Athenians in this passage.22 First, at the end of the Protagoras (361a5–c2) Socrates expresses his dismay that he and Protagoras appear to be arguing for the opposite of what they had maintained at the beginning. Immediately prior to this passage they had been discussing the relationship between courage (andreia) and wisdom (sophia). Protagoras maintained that the two are altogether different on the grounds that many men are ignorant yet courageous. Socrates argued on the contrary that courage is wisdom (sophia) about what is to be feared and what isn’t (360d4–5), and so those who are ignorant cannot be courageous. Socrates concludes by noting that while he had earlier maintained—presumably at 319b3–d7 —that virtue is not knowledge (epistēmē) and so cannot be taught, he is now arguing that it is knowledge, on the basis of the claim that all the virtues—courage, justice, temperance and piety—are nothing other than knowledge. Protagoras on the other hand had maintained that virtue was knowledge and so could be taught and now he is arguing that it is not knowledge.23 Exactly how to take Socrates’ position here at the end of the Protagoras is a difficult question,24 but however else we take it we can no longer rest secure in the thought that Socrates accepts the view he attributes to the many at 319b-d. Second, outside the Protagoras there are other passages in which Socrates testifies to his rejection of the folk view. In the dialogue named for him, Crito urges Socrates to escape from prison in part on the grounds that the many apparently believe that it is the proper thing to do. Socrates responds by asking whether one should pay attention to the views of everyone or rather only to the views of the wise (tōn phronimōn). For example, Socrates asks, in the case of physical training should one pay attention to the views of anyone and everyone or to the views of the expert—the doctor (iatros) or the physical trainer (paidotribēs)—the instructor and one who knows (tōi epistatēi kai epaionti)? When Crito replies that it is the advice of the expert that ought to be heeded in this case, just as the Athenians in the Protagoras would maintain, Socrates continues that the same point holds in other cases, but especially in the case of matters concerning justice or injustice, the shameful and the fine, the good and the bad, that is, matters of the sort they are presently considering (47a-d). According to Socrates in this passage in the Crito, it is not the advice and opinion of the many that ought to be heeded in facing the decision whether to escape, but rather the advice and opinion of the one—if there is one—who knows. Thus, while Socrates does not explicitly say that when faced with decisions concerning (and so requiring) virtue, one should not consider the views of just anyone, but only the views of the expert, he does say that in these circumstances one should only pay attention to the one who knows and the analogy with the doctor and physical trainer suggests that the knowledge involved is expertise.25 In another passage Socrates’ rejection of the folk view that virtue is not an expertise is more explicit. The Laches begins with two fathers soliciting the advice of two Athenian generals—Laches and Nicias— concerning the proper education of their sons. In particular, they want to know whether they should enrol their sons in a particular form of military training. When the two generals offer incompatible advice, Laches recommending against the training, Nicias recommending in its favour, one of the fathers turns to Socrates for his vote to decide the issue. Socrates responds that this is no way to reach a decision. Again he points to the example of physical training and maintains that in this case we would not heed the advice of the majority, but rather the advice of the one who had been trained under a good physical trainer (paidotribēi)—again, just as the Athenians in the Protagoras would maintain. As Socrates puts it, ‘for I think that it is necessary to judge by knowledge but not by number if one intends to judge well’ (Laches 184e8–9). Thus, Socrates continues, the proper way to decide the issue that faces the fathers is to heed the advice of the expert (tecknikos) concerning that thing about which they are currently seeking advice. After determining that the thing concerning which they are now seeking advice is the proper care of the soul, Socrates concludes that in order to decide whose advice ought to be heeded—Socrates’, Laches’, or Nicias’—they must determine which of the three is an expert concerning the care of the soul (185e1–6). When Socrates forswears his own expertise concerning this matter, Laches and Nicias permit their expertise to be tested. Rather than asking the generals whom they have made better or who their teachers have been (189d5–e3), Socrates indicates that another way to test their expertise concerning this matter is to determine if they know what virtue is (190b7–c2). Since this may be too large a task, Socrates narrows the question to whether they know what a part of virtue is—that is, whether they know what courage is (190c8–e3). This is the question that occupies the remainder of the Laches. Thus, Socrates here explicitly maintains that when faced with a decision that the Athenians would acknowledge requires virtue we should not heed the advice of everyone. Rather it is only the advice of the expert that should be heeded. Socrates here identifies the virtue required to give such advice with some form of expertise and the expertise itself appears to amount to, or at least require knowledge of the nature of virtue. Finally, this passage in the Laches points us to a further consideration in favour of Socrates’ rejection of folk morality: Socrates’ elenctic mission. In testing the expertise of Laches and Nicias, Socrates is engaging in his elenctic mission, a mission he claims in the Apology derives from Chaerephon’s trip to the Delphic Oracle. According to Socrates, Chaerephon once asked the oracle at Delphi whether anyone was wiser (sophōteros) than Socrates, to which the oracle responded that no one was. When Chaerephon reported this episode to Socrates, he was at loss as to what the oracle could mean. On the one hand, Socrates ‘knew that he was wise concerning nothing great or small’ (Apology 21b4–5),26 and yet on the other hand, the oracle could not lie. Socrates, thereupon, set out to test the oracle by trying to uncover someone wiser than he. First, he went to the politicians, all of whom believed themselves to be wise but were shown not to be (Apology 21c3–e2). Next, he went to the poets. Not only did the poets think themselves wise concerning their poetry, but were not, but the poets also took themselves to be wise about other matters, concerning which they were not (Apology 22a8–c8). Finally, Socrates turned to the manual experts (cheirotechnas).27 These, he discovered, did indeed know many of the fine things they were reputed to know, but unfortunately this knowledge of theirs encouraged them to believe that they were wise concerning other very great things (ta megista) when they were not (Apology 22c9–e5). Socrates concludes from this investigation of the oracle that, the god is wise and that his oracular response meant that human wisdom is worth little or nothing, and that when he says this man, Socrates, he is using my name as an example, as if he said: ‘This man among you, mortals, is wisest who, like Socrates, understands that his wisdom is worthless.’ So even now I continue this investigation as the god bade me— and go around seeking out anyone, citizen or stranger, whom I think wise. Then if I do not think he is, I come to the assistance of the god and show him that he is not wise. (Apology 23a5–b7; trans. Grube.) Here then Socrates once again contrasts his own view with that of the average Athenian citizen. The average Athenian citizen—be he a politician, a poet, a manual expert, or anyone else—thinks himself wise about the great things, but is not. Such wisdom or expertise is not as easy to come by as they suppose. Socrates lacks this wisdom as well, but he also lacks the false conceit that he has it. Herein lies Socratic wisdom: recognition of his ignorance concerning the great things— recognition, that is, of his lack of moral knowledge or expertise.28 Unlike the average Athenian, Socrates does not take himself to be in the position to give advice concerning decisions that require virtue. This is the role of a moral expert, something that Socrates, unlike the average Athenian, realizes he is not. But this is not the end of the story. Socrates has found in his investigation of the oracle a mission29—the elenctic mission I referred to above.30 Socrates does not merely test an individual’s claim to moral wisdom and when he finds it lacking abandon him. Rather, as the passage quoted above indicates, when Socrates discovers that the individual lacks the knowledge he thinks he has, Socrates attempts to show him that he lacks it. But why? Socrates assumes that such moral knowledge is desirable. All of us—average Athenian and everyone— desire to possess it. Indeed, Socrates believes that such expertise is so desirable, that to encourage us to possess it, all Socrates needs to do is show us that we lack it. Consider how Socrates redescribes his elenctic mission following the jury’s hypothetical order to cease philosophizing: Gentlemen of the jury, I am grateful and I am your friend, but I will obey the god rather than you, and as long as I draw breath and am able, I shall not cease to practice philosophy, to exhort you and in my usual way to point out to any one of you whom I happen to meet: ‘Good Sir, you are an Athenian, a citizen of the greatest city with the greatest reputation for both wisdom and power; are you not ashamed of your eagerness to possess as much wealth, reputation and honours as possible, while you do not care for (epimelēi) nor give thought to wisdom or truth, or the best possible state of your soul (phronēseōs de kai aletheias kai tēs psuchēs hopōs hōs beltistē)?’ Then, if one of you disputes this and says he does care (epimeleisthai), I shall not let him go at once or leave him, but I shall question him, examine him and test him, and if I do not think that he has attained the goodness (aretēn) that he says he has, I shall reproach him because he attaches little importance to the most important things and greater importance to the inferior things. I shall treat in this way anyone I happen to meet, young or old, citizen or stranger, and more so the citizens because you are more kindred to me. Be sure that this is what the god orders me to do, and I think there is no greater blessing for the city than my service to the god. For I go around doing nothing but persuading both young and old among you not to care for (epimeleisthai) your body or your wealth in preference to or as strongly as for the best possible state of your soul (hōs tēs psuchēs hopōs aristē estai). (Apology 29d2–30b2; trans. Grube). Here then we have the first moral philosophy or moral perspective against which Socrates contrasts his own—the common or folk view. According to folk morality, virtue is something everyone—or nearly everyone31—already possesses. It is not an expertise—at least if by expertise one has in mind some sort of special or unique ability. Consequently, it is fairly easy to come by32 and everyone is in a position to give advice concerning those affairs that require virtue. For Socrates, however, things are otherwise. Virtue is an expertise, like physical training, temple-building, and the rest. It is not easy to come by33 and few —if any—people possess it or are in a position to give advice on matters that require it. But it is valuable, and we should all make it our business to obtain it. SOPHISTIC MORALITY For Socrates virtue appears to be an expertise. But how, then, does Socratic morality differ from the moral perspective of the sophists? Don’t the sophists— in so far as we can characterize their view generally —believe that virtue is an expertise possessed by relatively few individuals? Indeed, don’t they profess to be able to teach this expertise to anyone willing to pay for it? And aren’t many apparently willing to do so34 because of the sophists’ claim that those who possess this expertise will become eminently more successful in public affairs— that is, at being virtuous—than those who do not possess it? Whether or not this accurately characterizes the sophistic position,35 it is clear that this is how Socrates would characterize it. Moreover, it is equally clear that he rejects it. Recall that in the Protagoras Socrates characterizes Protagoras’ position as the claim to teach ‘political expertise’ (ten politikēn technēn) and to make men better citizens (politas)36 which he later characterizes as the claim to teach virtue (aretē).37 Moreover, Protagoras does not deny it. Rather he only denies— somewhat unsatisfactorily—that every member of the political community fails to already possess what he teaches.38 Again in the Hippias Major, Socrates describes Hippias’ wisdom (sophia)—the expertise of the sophists (ten tōn sophistōn technēn)39—as ‘the sort that makes those who study and learn it stronger in virtue (aretēn)’ (Hippias Major 283c3–4; Woodruff trans.). In the Gorgias, Socrates sums up Gorgias’ position on rhetoric—Gorgias’ expertise—as the view that the rhetor will not give advice in the Assembly on matters relating to health, ship-building, wall-building or the military. On these matters, the rhetor will accede to the advice of the relevant expert. Rather, it will only be on matters concerning the just and the unjust that the rhetors will give expert advice.40 When Gorgias objects that the rhetor will be best able to persuade concerning all matters that face the Assembly,—not merely the just and the unjust, but shipbuilding, wall-building and the rest, he is forced to concede that it is only on matters concerning the just and the unjust that the rhetor genuinely gives expert advice—a concession that ultimately leads to Gorgias’ downfall. Finally, in the Euthydemus, the two eristic experts —the brothers, Euthydemus and Dionysodorus—claim to be the best teachers of virtue alive.41 But in the Euthydemus, especially, there can be no doubt that Socrates rejects this claim. Nevertheless, in rejecting the sophistic moral perspective Socrates need not be rejecting the sophistic view that virtue is an expertise. He may instead reject the view that virtue is the particular expertise that the sophists proclaim it is. And indeed, this is precisely what he does, as the Euthydemus makes clear.42 Following the eristic brothers’ claim to teach virtue, Socrates asks them to display their expertise at persuading the young Cleinias to pursue the love of wisdom (philosophian) and the care for virtue (aretēs epimeleian).43 The next portion of the dialogue consists of two pairs of displays: first the eristic brothers’ display (275c–277c), then Socrates’ example of what he had in mind (277d– 282e), another eristic display (282e–286b), and then again another Socratic example picking up where the first left off (288b–292e). The two Socratic displays are frequently referred to as the first and second protreptics. In the first protreptic Socrates maintains that everyone seeks happiness or to fare well (278e3–279al)44 and that in order to be happy or fare well one must possess goods (279al–4). Next, Socrates argues that the only genuine good is knowledge or wisdom, all other prima facie goods are good only in so far as they are guided by knowledge (279a4–281e5).45 Consequently, Socrates concludes that everyone should seek to become as wise as possible (282a5–6). Socrates asks whether one should ‘acquire every sort of knowledge (epistēmē) or whether there is one sort of knowledge which it is necessary for the one who is happy and a good man to possess, and if so what it is’ but the question is not pursued until the beginning of the second protreptic. In the second protreptic Socrates argues that not just any knowledge or expertise is the one necessary for happiness or faring well. The relevant knowledge or expertise is one which combines ‘making something and knowing how to use what it makes’ (289b5–6). This eliminates lyre-making (luropoiikē) and pipe-making (aulopoiikē), since these expertises fail to know how to use what they make. But it also eliminates perhaps more plausible candidates: the speech-making expertise (logopoiikēn technēn), the military expertise (strategikē) and the political expertise or the expertise of a king (hē potitikē kai he basilikē technē). The first two are eliminated because they fail to know how to use what they make;46 the last is rejected because what it makes is too difficult to determine. In each case, Socrates rejects an expertise as the one required to make us happy—that is, he rejects an expertise as virtue—but it is not because it is an expertise, but because it is an expertise of the wrong sort. What sort of expertise is required can, however, be gleaned from elsewhere. Consider first the Laches. When Laches proposes wise endurance as the proper definition of courage (192d10–12), Socrates enquires whether he thinks that those who endure the relevant dangers with the expertise of horsemen, or the expertise of the sling, or the expertise of the bow, or the expertise of well-divers, or any other expertise of this sort are more or less courageous than those who endure without the relevant expertise (193b9–c8). Laches answers that they are less courageous, and so abandons his definition. The suggestion is that whatever the proper definition of courage may be, it appears not to be wise endurance when wisdom is understood as these sorts of expertise.47 Moreover, when Socrates turns to Nicias’ definition that courage is knowledge of fearful and daring things, he asks Nicias whether knowledge of fearful and daring things is anything other than knowledge of future goods and evils. Nicias responds that it is not. Next, Socrates asks whether it belongs to the same knowledge to know future, past and present things. When Nicias answers that it does, Socrates points out that it follows on Nicias’ view that courage is knowledge of all goods and evils, which is the whole of virtue and not its part, contrary to Nicias’ initial claim that courage is part of virtue. Again, whatever we take Socrates’ view to be concerning the proper definition of courage, the suggestion here seems to be that in so far as courage is defined as knowledge of the good and the bad it will be identical to virtue, not a part of it.48 Virtue, according to Socrates in the Laches, appears to be knowledge of the good and the bad. Here, then, we have a hint of Socrates’ answer to the question with which we were left at the end of the second protreptic of the Euthydemus. The knowledge or expertise that is virtue—that is necessary to make us happy and fare well—is not a knowledge or expertise like horsemanship or well-diving, but the knowledge or expertise of the good and the bad. Finally, we can turn to the Charmides. The last half of this dialogue consists of a long, complicated, and often tortuous discussion of Critias’ definition that temperance is knowledge of oneself (164d3–5). By 173a this definition has been modified to mean that temperance is knowledge of what one knows and does not know (172c9), and as Socrates conceded earlier, life in accordance with that knowledge would be free from error (171d6–172a3). Now Socrates relates a dream in which temperance—understood as knowledge of what one knows and does not know—rules (archoi he sōphrosunē). He grants that in such a situation one would live according to knowledge and so be free from error, but he wonders whether one would fare well and be happy (eu an prattoimen kai eudaimonoimen). Ultimately, Socrates and Critias agree that one would not. After denying that it is the knowledge of draught-playing (petteutikon), calculation (logistikon), or health— presumably medicine—that makes one fare well or be happy, Critias asserts that it is knowledge of the good and the bad (174b10). This leads Socrates to ask whether the doctor is any less successful in producing health or the shoemaker is any less successful at making shoes when knowledge of the good and the bad is lacking. Critias responds that they are not and Socrates concludes that it is the production of these things ‘well and beneficially’ that is removed when the knowledge of the good and bad is lacking (174c9–d1). This contrast recalls a similar contrast in the Euthydemus between making and using.49 Once again, Socrates distinguishes between those expertises that do not make one happy and fare well, and the one expertise that does: the ruling expertise he was searching for in the second protreptic of the Euthydemus. Indeed, as in the Laches, Socrates suggests what it is: the knowledge or expertise of the good and the bad.50 Much of this is necessarily speculative. We have at best hints, suggestions, indications that Socrates takes the knowledge or expertise that makes us happy and fare well as the knowledge or expertise of the good and the bad. But what is not speculative is that Socrates takes the knowledge or expertise that makes us happy and fare well to be virtue, nor is it speculative that that knowledge or expertise is not the expertise the sophists claim to teach. It is not the eristic brothers’ expertise in fighting with words, Gorgias’ expertise of persuasion, Hippias’ diverse expertises, nor whatever Protagoras’ expertise is supposed to be. For Socrates, virtue is an expertise—contrary to folk morality—but it is not the expertise of the sophists. A SKETCH OF SOCRATIC EXPERTISE If, then, for Socrates virtue is an expertise, the obvious question that arises is, What is an expertise for Socrates? Fortunately a considerable amount of energy has already been devoted to this topic. Brickhouse and Smith, for example, list the following conditions which an expertise must meet: rationality or regularity, teachability or learnability, explicability, inerrancy, uniqueness, distinctness of subject-matter, and knowledge or wisdom.51 Rather than merely rehearsing this work, I propose to address this question from a slightly different angle. I propose to ask what sort of thing an expertise is according to Socrates. To begin an expertise appears to be a power or capacity (dunamis).52 Early on in the Euthydemus, Socrates explains that all those present asked the two eristic brothers to ‘demonstrate the power (dunamis) of their wisdom’ (274c6–d3). Similarly, at the beginning of the Gorgias, Socrates beseeches Gorgias to teach him ‘what the power (dunamis) of his expertise is and what it is he advertises and teaches’ (447c1–3). In both passages the point is the same: in professing to possess expertise, Gorgias and the eristic brothers are professing to have a power or capacity, and Socrates wants to know what power or capacity they are professing to possess. Socrates assumes that if a person possesses knowledge, wisdom or expertise, that person possesses a power or capacity.53 That knowledge is understood as a kind of power or capacity is reinforced by the Prometheus story in the Protagoras. As Protagoras tells the story, the gods charged Epimetheus and Prometheus with distributing powers or capacities to each of the mortal creatures as was fitting. Unfortunately, Epimetheus (who was given the task of making this assignment, while Prometheus agreed to inspect it) used up all the powers available to him (e.g. strength, speed, winged flight, size, tough skin, thick hair) on the irrational creatures, leaving humans quite unprovided for (321b6–c1). Prometheus, thereupon, stole the practical wisdom (sophian) of Hephaestus and Athena—Hephaetus’ expertise (technēn) in working with fire and Athena’s other expertise54—and gave them to humanity. In this way, according to the story, humans acquired their practical wisdom, but not yet their political expertise (politikēn). This latter was reserved for Zeus to supply, who seeing that humans were able to obtain food and shelter, but were unable to fight against the beasts and to come together in cities, sent Hermes to distribute to all of humanity conscience and justice (aidō te kai dikēn) —the political expertise (tēn politikēn technēn). According to this story, then, once Epimetheus had doled out to the irrational creatures all of the powers fitting and necessary for survival,55 other powers or capacities had to be obtained for humans. Thus, Prometheus gave to them the power of practical wisdom, while Zeus gave to them the power of political wisdom. In both cases, wisdom or expertise is presumed to be a power or capacity. Indeed, the idea that political wisdom or expertise, i.e. the virtues, is a power or capacity is further supported by the question with which the remainder of the Protagoras is preoccupied: whether or not the virtues are one. Following Protagoras’ Great Speech, of which the Prometheus story is a part, Socrates asks the question which will resolve the one ‘small’ remaining difficulty: are justice, temperance, wisdom, piety and courage distinct parts of virtue or are they all different names for one and the same thing (Protagoras 329c6–d1)? Protagoras responds that this is an easy question to answer: virtue is one thing and justice, temperance, piety, etc. are its parts. Socrates appeals to the analogies of the parts of gold and the parts of a face (Protagoras 329d4–8) and asks his question again. And does each of them [i.e. the parts of virtue] have its own separate power [dunamin]? When we consider the face, the eye is not like the ear, nor is its power [dunamis] the same, nor any other part like another in power [dunamin] or in other ways. Is it the same with the parts of virtue, that none is like any other, either in itself or in its power [dunamis]? Surely, it must be, if it corresponds to our example. (Protagoras 330a4–b2; adapted from Taylor [7.22])56 Socrates’ question, then, is—at least in part—whether, according to Protagoras, political expertise is one power or more. It may be objected, however, that this last passage especially indicates not that virtue or political expertise is a power or capacity but that it is that in virtue of which one has a power or capacity.57 The suggestion is that an eye stands to its power just as courage—one of the virtues and so an expertise—stands to its power. An eye is not the power to see. Rather, it is that in virtue of which an individual has the power to see. The eye and its power are ontologically distinct. If we take the analogy to the virtues and expertise strictly, then, we must take the expertise to be ontologically distinct from its power. It is not a power; it is what confers a power on its possessor. While I cannot fully argue the point here, I believe that this is to take the analogy with the parts of the face too strictly. Recall that the point of the analogies is to get clear about what Protagoras is maintaining when he claims that the virtues are distinct. Is he maintaining that they all are (or have) the same kind of power but differ in some other way, or is he maintaining that their powers differ as well? It is at least open to Socrates to maintain contrary to Protagoras that they are (or have) the same kind of power, and so that they do not differ in any essential way.58 Moreover, there is simply no organ analogous to the eye in the case of expertise or the virtues. Surely, the possession of fully functioning vocal chords does not suffice for the possession of the expertise of rhetoric, for example. But to postulate some entity between the vocal chords and the power to persuade that is rhetoric is simply to add an unnecessary ontological layer. Indeed, it is to add an ontological layer that is not demanded by the text. None of the passages that I have cited are incompatible with understanding expertise as a kind of power in the way that knowledge—on a justified true belief model—is a kind of belief. Perhaps most important, there are various passages in which Socrates appears to use the word for power and the words for knowledge or expertise interchangeably.59 At the very least these passages indicate that the ontological distinction that the present objection presupposes is of little moment for Socrates. For all these reasons, as well as others,60 I conclude that for Socrates an expertise is some sort of power or capacity. Saying this, however, only raises a further question: what according to Socrates is a power or capacity? Surprisingly little attention has been devoted to this question, but there are a few preliminary things we can say. First, a Socratic power or capacity is typically associated with particular types of activities or behaviours.61 For example, in the Laches Socrates defines quickness as ‘the power to do many things in a short time concerning speech and running and all other things’ (Laches 192b1–3). In the Hippias Minor he describes the one who has power (the dunatos) as the one ‘who does what he wants when he wants’ (Hippias Minor 366b7–c1). And finally in the Ion, Socrates says, What moves you [Ion] is a divine power [dunamis], like the power [dunamis] in the stone which Euripides dubbed the ‘Magnesian’, but which most people call the ‘Heraclean’. This stone, you see, not only attracts iron rings on their own, but also confers on them a power [dunamin] by which they do the same thing that the stone does. (Ion 533d3–31; adapted from Saunders trans.) But as many commentators have pointed out, for Socrates, a thing does not have a power simply in virtue of the fact that it acts or behaves in certain ways. It does not have a power simply in virtue of what it does. Rather, for Socrates, a thing has a power in virtue of some state of the thing that occasions it in the appropriate circumstances to do what it does. A power for Socrates is not the mere tendency to perform a certain sort of activity, but rather the state of a thing that results in such activity.62 Thus, for Socrates, the power is ontologically prior to the activity the power is associated with. The activities are defined in virtue of the power that produces them, not vice versa.63 Second, a power or capacity for Socrates is to be identified by its peculiar object. For example, in the Charmides, after indicating that since temperance is knowledge of knowledge it must be a power (dunamis), Socrates infers that it must be ‘of something’ (tinos einai), citing as examples that the greater has the power (dunamin) to be of the lesser (168b5–8) and the double the power (dunamis) to be of the half. Thus, according to Socrates, if there is a double of itself, then the double will be both double and half of itself. In general, he maintains that ‘the very thing which has its own power (dunamin) applied to itself will have to have that nature towards which the power (dunamis) was directed’ (Charmides 168c10–d3; adapted from Sprague trans.). He explains this with the following examples: since hearing is of sound, hearing would have to be a sound if it were to be of itself, and since sight is of colour, sight would have to be coloured if it were of itself. While the details of these passages may be difficult to sort out, the general idea appears clear enough. Associated with every power is an object, property, nature or being (ousian). Thus, the powers of the greater, the double, hearing and sight have as their respective objects the lesser, the half, sound, and colour. Moreover, the power must always be of this object; if it were of a different object, it would be a different power. It is only on this assumption that Socrates can draw his conclusions that if the greater is of itself, then it must be lesser (as well as greater), if the double is of itself, it must be half (as well as double)64, if hearing is of itself, it must be a sound, and if sight is of itself, it must be coloured.65 Thus, since virtue is an expertise, it is a power. As a power it must be associated with a particular sort of activity and have a specific object. The activity is evidently virtuous activity66, while the object appears to be the good (and the bad) in light of our earlier discussion. But in saying this we have left out the cognitive aspect of expertise. For expertise is not just a power; it is a cognitive power. This cognitive aspect of expertise is manifested in Socrates’ view that expertise is infallible, inerrant or luck-independent. Consider, for example, Socrates’ claim in the first protreptic of the Euthydemus that having included wisdom in his list of goods necessary for happiness it would be superfluous to add good luck; for ‘when wisdom is present no good luck is lacking to the one for whom it is present’ (Euthydemus 280b2–3). The idea here is that the person with wisdom or knowledge will invariably make decisions or choices conducive to his or her happiness. Just as the expert ship pilot invariably makes decisions or choices conducive to getting to the port safely, given the circumstances she is in, so the wise or knowledgeable individual will invariably make decisions or choices conducive to attaining happiness, given her circumstances. Many scholars believe that Socrates takes these choices to be sufficient for happiness;67 others maintain that Socrates takes other goods in addition to be necessary for happiness.68 But most would agree that wisdom or knowledge is sufficient for ‘getting things right’. It is in this sense that good luck is not necessary for the wise individual. Just as the wise ship pilot does not need to rely on lucky guesses in getting to the port safely (although she may need to rely on luck in obtaining calm seas, which may or may not be necessary for arriving at the port safely), so the wise individual need not rely on lucky guesses in attaining happiness (although she may need to rely on luck in obtaining other goods which may or may not be necessary for attaining happiness).69 Again, in so far as Socrates is inclined to identify wisdom or expertise with definitional knowledge,70 Socrates’ request at Euthyphro 6e3–6 to be taught what piety is ‘so that looking to it and using it as a paradigm, I can say that that which is such as it, whether done by you or anyone else, is pious and that which is not such as it, is impious’ is making a similar point: the individual with definitional knowledge of piety will not make mistakes concerning which things are pious and which are not. She will always ‘get things right’. Wisdom, expertise, or definitional knowledge regarding piety somehow guarantees correct judgements regarding piety.71 In fact, in the Gorgias Socrates apparently distinguishes between expertise and knack with this very point in mind. At 464e2–465a7 and 500e3–501b1 this distinction is drawn almost entirely on the basis of the fact that the former possesses a logos of its object, while the latter does not.72 It is in virtue of the possession of this logos73 that an expertise can reach correct judgements concerning which things are good, for example, and so can say why each of the good things are good. A knack on the other hand, lacking this logos must merely guess at which things are pleasant, for example, and why they are. It is the definitional knowledge of the object of the expertise that accounts for the expertise’s infallibility with respect to its object. While I have only just brushed up against the many issues surrounding these passages, they all point in the same general direction: the cognitive aspect of an expertise can be found in its infallibility for reaching correct judgements concerning its object. An expert temple-builder always makes correct judgements concerning temple-building.74 It is, indeed, for this reason that her advice is heeded when considering temple-building. Thus, the characteristic Socratic view that virtue is an expertise75 amounts to the view that virtue is a power associated with a specific activity and a specific object. As a cognitive power, virtue also infallibly produces correct judgements regarding its object. We have seen some reason to suppose that for Socrates the object of the expertise that is virtue is the good. Thus, virtue is an expertise that enables its possessor infallibly to reach correct judgements regarding the good—whether, for example, escaping from prison or setting out to defeat the Sicilians is good. To learn more about the specific activities associated with virtue so understood, we must turn to Socrates’ account of the good. THE GOOD A complete account of Socrates’ moral perspective must address the question of virtuous behaviour or activity. Thus far our examination of the characteristic feature of Socrates’ moral philosophy has focused almost entirely on the nature of a virtuous person. I have been concerned to exhibit the cognitive power that such a person possesses. Such a focus, however, might be thought to obscure another way in which Socrates’ moral perspective is to be contrasted with that of the sophists. For it is often thought that Socrates is a defender in some sense of traditional moral behaviour against the supposed immoralism of the sophists.76 If such a view is correct we should expect it to emerge out of Socrates’ account of the expertise of virtue, since, as I indicated above, the activities associated with a power or capacity are defined in virtue of the power associated with them and not vice versa. To some extent our expectations will not be disappointed. But to see this we must turn to Socrates’ account of the good. In the Gorgias, Socrates indicates that the good is the rational end of all our actions. It is for the sake of it that we do everything we do, and we do not do it for the sake of anything else.77 In the Euthydemus, we saw that Socrates maintains that happiness or faring well is the object of everyone’s rational desires.78 It is reasonable to infer, then, that for Socrates the good is happiness or faring well.79 Let us call this eudaimonism.80 Given eudaimonism, then, it would appear that no one ever intentionally acts contrary to his or her own good.81 Since everyone rationally desires his or her own good, it is only mistaken beliefs about what contributes to one’s good that could explain one’s acting contrary to one’s good. Knowledge of which activities benefit one is sufficient for performing those activities.82 This is not because Socrates fails to recognize the necessity of desire for motivating action, but because for Socrates everyone rationally desires his or her own good. Consequently, since for Socrates virtue is the cognitive power whose object is the good and which infallibly produces correct judgements about the good, the virtuous person will never act contrary to his or her own good. Such a person will know which activities benefit him or her, and given his or her rational desire, he or she will perform them. Such actions will by definition be virtuous actions,—since actions are defined in virtue of the power they result from. Thus, for Socrates, knowledge of the good is sufficient for virtuous activity as well. No one ever acts viciously except out of ignorance of the good.83 Thus the characteristic feature of Socratic morality, the view that virtue is the expertise of the good—what we might call Socratic intellectualism—does have the consequence that virtuous activities benefit the agent who performs the activities. But as a defence of traditional moral behaviour it appears to be a failure. For nothing in the account of Socratic virtue as I have described it indicates that the moral expert will recognize those activities associated with traditional morality as good or beneficial. If Socratic morality is not to be the primarily amoral thesis that virtue is simply the cognitive power whose object is the agent’s own good and that is associated with those activities that promote the agent’s own good, whatever they happen to be, Socrates must believe that some or most of those activities typically associated with traditional morality promote the agent’s good.84 But where is the defence of this view? There are various passages in which Socrates compares the good of the body to the good of the soul and maintains that virtuous actions promote the health of the soul and vicious actions make it sick.85 But as a defence of traditional morality these passages are rather slight. Either Socrates is not referring necessarily to traditionally virtuous behaviour or if he is the passages appear to be merely stipulative. For while a defence of the position maintained in these passages can be derived from the account of Socratic virtue I have been proposing no part of that defence requires that the actions that promote the health of the soul are traditionally virtuous activities. On the other hand, there appears to be no independent defence in these passages for the claim that traditionally virtuous activities promote the health of the soul. Perhaps a more plausible defence can be derived from the longer passages in which Socrates is arguing against the immoralism of Callicles in the Gorgias and of Thrasymachus in the first book of the Republic. Certainly the argument against Callicles, for example, purports to defend the claim that virtuous actions are always more beneficial for the agent than vicious actions against Callicles’ claim that unbridled pleasure-seeking is most beneficial for the agent. Whatever else Socrates is attempting to do in this passage he appears to be arguing that at least one sort of traditionally vicious behaviour harms the soul. While both of these arguments against immoralism deserve serious further study, there remains something unsatisfactory about them, a lack of satisfaction that Plato explicitly notes at the beginning of the second book of the Republic.86 But it is in these passages, if anywhere, that Socrates’ defence of traditional morality is to be found. CONCLUSION Let us return briefly to the Ciceronian tradition with which this essay began. According to this tradition moral philosophy in some sense begins with Socrates. We have seen a sense in which such a tradition is justified. Socrates is unique, at least among the average Athenian citizen and the sophists, in maintaining that morality or virtue is a knowledge or expertise of the good. Against the folk view, he maintains that morality or virtue is an expertise that is not possessed by everyone, but which everyone should make it their business to obtain. It is not easily obtainable, but it is obtainable none the less, and few of us are in the position to give advice concerning it. Against the sophists, Socrates maintains that it is not an expertise reducible to others. It is not rhetoric or antilogic or even polymathy. It is its own unique branch of knowledge. It is knowledge or expertise of the good.87 Nevertheless, in saying this Socrates has really only supplied what might be called the formal features of morality or virtue. Socrates’ own claim to lack the expertise that is virtue88 prohibits him from supplying a more substantive moral theory. Perhaps this is yet another way in which Socrates stands at the beginning of moral philosophy. Many, if not all, of the subsequent Greek moral philosophers may be seen as completing the work that Socrates could only begin. NOTES 1 From Guthrie [9.33]. Other translations are my own unless otherwise noted. 2 See Aristotle The Parts of Animals 642a28 and Metaphysics 987b1–4 and 1078b17. 3 See the title of the present essay. See also Guthrie [9.33], 97–105. Indeed, much of what I have to say here in the introductory section regarding this tradition and the puzzle it raises follows Guthrie’s remarks. My response to this puzzle, however, diverges significantly from Guthrie’s. 4 Socrates is also mentioned in the Frogs and the Birds. 5 His other Socratic works are the Apology, Symposium and the Oeconomicus. 6 Not counting those dialogues which are generally considered spurious. The Alcibiades I and the Cleitophon have recently garnered some supporters; for the former see Annas [9.1] and for the latter see Roochnik [9.75]. If they are genuinely Platonic, then 22 of the dialogues feature Socrates as a primary speaker. 7 Not counting the occasions in which he uses Socrates as an example in various arguments. 8 Aristotle’s portrait agrees in most essentials with the Platonic portrait. 9 I am hedging here because I am well aware that there are many first-rate Socratic scholars who do not accept Vlastos’s solution. See, esp. Kahn [9.40], [9.41], [9. 42], [9.43], [9.44], [9.45], [9.46], and [9.47]. Moreover, even among those scholars who accept the substance of Vlastos’s approach, few would accept it in all of its detail. Nevertheless, Vlastos’s well-deserved scholarly reputation, the plausibility of the approach, and the characteristic clarity and force of his argument will likely make his approach the paradigm for years to come. In any case, I believe the basic outline of the approach to be correct. 10 Vlastos [9.94] was published posthumously under the editorship of Myles Burnyeat. 11 Actually, Vlastos’s dismissal of Aristophanes is made explicitly only in Vlastos [9. 91]. I am somewhat more sympathetic to Aristophanes’ portrait than is Vlastos. 12 The Platonic dialogues have traditionally been divided into three groups, corresponding to their supposed order of composition: the early dialogues (in alphabetical order): Apology, Charmides, Crito, Euthydemus, Euthyphro, Gorgias, Hippias Major, Hippias Minor, Ion, Laches, Lysis, Menexenus, Protagoras, Republic I; the middle dialogues (in alphabetical order): Cratylus, Parmenides, Phaedo, Phaedrus, Republic II–X, Symposium and Theaetetus; the late dialogues (in alphabetical order): Critias, Laws, Philebus, Politicus, Sophist, Timaeus. (I have excluded the Meno from these three groups, because it is commonly taken to be transitional between the early and middle periods, containing elements of both.) While more fine-grained orderings have been proposed, they have never received the general support that this coarse-grained ordering has. Nevertheless, I should not be taken to suggest that everyone would agree with this method of dividing up the dialogues. Kahn (see earlier note) argues for a different division among the dialogues, while unitarians of various sorts have long argued against the utility of reading the dialogues with reference to their supposed order of composition. See most recently, Nails [9–59]. 13 Vlastos [9.93], 48. The other nine theses that Vlastos lists are roughly: (2) Socratesm (henceforth the Socrates of the middle dialogues) has an elaborate theory of separated Forms; Socratese (henceforth the Socrates of the early dialogues) does not; (3) Socratese seeks knowledge elenctically and denies that he has any; Socratesm seeks demonstrative knowledge and claims to have it; (4) Socratesm has a tripartite model of the soul; Socrates, does not; (5) Socratesm is a mathematical expert; Socratese is not; (6) Socrates, is a populist; Socratesm is an elitist; (7) Socratesm has an elaborate political theory; Socratese does not; (8) Socratesm has a metaphysical grounding for his homoerotic attachments; Socratese does not; (9) For Socratese religion is practical and realized in action; for Socratesm religion is mystical and realized in contemplation; (10) Socratese has an adversative philosophical method, Socratesm a didactic one. 14 Vlastos [9.93] 46. 15 The other theses Vlastos considers in this regard are (3) and (4). 16 Vlastos [9.93], 117 and n. 50. See also [9.93], 49–53. Vlastos labels this his ‘grand methodological hypothesis’. 17 Each of these theses has had its detractors. Graham [9.29] has recently objected to the third thesis. Kahn [9.46], Nehamas [9.65], and Beversluis [9.11] have all objected to the second thesis, primarily because of their scepticism about the reliability of the Aristotelian testimony. Finally, two different sorts of objections have been raised to the first thesis. Kahn [9.46] and Nails [9.60] have objected to seeing any significant difference between the views advanced in the early dialogues and those advanced in the middle dialogues. Kraut [9.52], Irwin [9.37], Taylor [9. 83] and others have objected to seeing the difference to be as radical as Vlastos sees it. I find only this last objection to be persuasive, and so would modify Vlastos’ approach along the lines advocated by Kraut, Irwin and Taylor. 18 Indeed, to some extent by Aristophanes as well. The moral philosophy that can be found advanced by Socrates in Plato’s early dialogues—as we will see— can easily be confused with the moral philosophy (if that is the correct name for it) advanced by the sophists, at least as Socrates/Plato understood the sophists. 19 I am here running roughshod over a number of subtleties of the text that I believe are peripheral to my present concern. Socrates does not actually ask Protagoras what he professes to teach, but rather how Hippocrates would be improved or benefited if he became Protagoras’ pupil. Nor does Protagoras actually answer that he teaches virtue. Rather Protagoras says that if Hippocrates becomes his pupil, every day he will go away being better at political expertise (tēn politikēn technēn) or at being a citizen (politēs); see Socrates’ summation of Protagoras’ answer and Protagoras’ approval. Nevertheless, Socrates clearly takes Protagoras to be professing to teach virtue. See Protagoras 320b4–c1. 20 The other argument is that those who possess virtue are unable to pass it on; Protagoras 319d7–320b3. Another version of this argument can be found at Meno 93a5–94e2. 21 See 322b5–C3, where Protagoras appears to identify the political expertise (politikēn teamēn) with conscience and justice (aidō te kai dikēn) which Zeus distributes among all the members of the community. 22 See Seeskin ([9.79], 121) who takes this passage as evidence that for Socrates virtue is not an expertise. 23 Note the apparent interchangeability of expertise (technē), wisdom (sophia), and knowledge (epistēmē) in these passages. At 319b3–328d2, Socrates had indicated that virtue was not an expertise (technē), while Protagoras had indicated that it was. At 361a5–c2, however, Socrates decribes his earlier view as the view that virtue is not knowledge (epistēmē), and Protagoras’ as the view that virtue is knowledge (epistēmē). Again, the argument from 349d2–360e5 has the conclusion that courage is wisdom (sophia), which Socrates describes at 361a5–c2 as leading to the view that virtue is knowledge (epistēmē). Protagoras uses knowledge and expertise interchangeably at 360e–351a and Socrates uses them interchangeably at 357b. 24 Taylor ([7.22], 213–14) and Vlastos ([9.93], 124) apparently take the expression of inconsistency to be insincere or illusory. The argument that has intervened between 319 and 360 is taken to suffice to reject the folk view. Brickhouse and Smith ([9.17], 99), however, apparently take this to be an expression of a genuine failure or inconsistency in Socrates’ position. Seeskin ([9.79], 143) and Guthrie ([9.33], 114 n. 1) would seem to agree. See also Irwin [9.39] and Santas [9.78]. 25 Note also that in the Protagoras, at least, Socrates was unconcerned to distinguish knowledge and expertise. See n. 23. 26 For the debate concerning the translation of this passage see Vlastos ([9.93], 237), Annas ([9.2], 44) and Woodruff ([9.96], 62 n. 3). 27 Socrates has in mind here not simply experts in general—technikoi—but experts in various manual pursuits: sculptors, painters, cobblers, etc. A more natural translation of cheirotechnas would be ‘craftsmen’ or ‘artisans’, but that conceals the distinction between technikos and cheirotechnas. 28 For the connection between knowledge or wisdom of the great things and moral wisdom or expertise see Brickhouse and Smith [9.17], 34. For a similar interpretation of Socratic wisdom see Irwin [9.39], 27–8. 29 On how Socrates derives a mission from this oracular pronouncement see Reeve [9. 73], 24–28 and Brickhouse and Smith [9.12] and [19.15], 87–100. 30 The method that Socrates practices in carrying out this mission is the elenchos (which can be roughly translated as ‘refutation’, ‘test’, or ‘cross-examination’). Its general form is the following: First, Socrates gets the interlocutor (the individual whose claim to knowledge or expertise is being tested) to express some belief, p, usually, but not always, concerning the definition of some moral concept. Next, Socrates gets the interlocutor to express some other beliefs, q, r and s. Third, Socrates goes on to show that these premisses entail the negation of the original belief, i.e. the apparent refutand, p. Thus, the conjunction p and q and r and s is false. Considerable debate, sparked in part by Vlastos’ classic ‘The Socratic Elenchus’, concerns what Socrates concludes from such elenctic episodes. Some take Socrates to conclude that p or one of the other premises is false; see Gulley [9. 31], Nakhnikian [9.61], Vlastos [9.88], Kraut [9.50], Polansky [9.72], and McPherran [9.55]. Others take Socrates merely to conclude that the interlocutor’s beliefs are inconsistent; see Stokes [9.81], Benson [9.3] and [9.8], and perhaps Brickhouse and Smith [9.16] and [9.17], 3–29. For the difference between the Socratic elenchos and the method of the sophists see Benson [9.4] and Nehamas [9. 64]. 31 This depends on whether we accept Protagoras’ account of folk morality. If we do, then according to Protagoras, the Athenians do not maintain that everyone possesses virtue, but only those abiding within a political community. 32 In maintaining that virtue is fairly easy to come by they need not maintain that the process is automatic or simple. The point is simply that it does not require any special training—but just the sort of training the typical Athenian ‘gentleman’ provides his ‘sons’. See Anytus in the Meno at 92e–93a. 33 Although Socrates need not think that it can be taught in the way that the average Athenian thinks that ship-building is taught. Indeed, Socrates may not believe that it is an expertise that can be taught at all. 34 See, for example, Hippias’ boast concerning the riches he has made in this way at Hippias Major 282d6–e8. 35 See the previous chapter. 36 Protagoras 319a3–5. 37 Protagoras 320b4–c1. 38 Indeed, this would seem to be Protagoras’ greatest challenge: to make coherent his profession to teach virtue and his acceptance of folk morality. See the conclusion of the Protagoras as well as Theaetetus 177e–179b. 39 Hippias Major 281d5. Note the interchangeability of expertise and wisdom throughout this passage. 40 Gorgias 455a8–d5. 41 Euthydemus 273d8–9; see also 274e5, 285a2–b5, and 287a9–b1. 42 Socrstes’ distinction between knacks (empeiriai) and expertises (technai) at Gorgias 463a–465d indicates that Socrates would also reject that what the sophists practice is an expertise. But even if it were an expertise, like the expertises of medicine and physical training, it would still not be virtue. Not because virtue fails to be an expertise, but because virtue fails to be that particular expertise. 43 Note the interchangeability of wisdom and virtue here and at Euthydemus 278d2–3. See also the Apology 2.9d2–30b2 quoted above. 44 See Irwin [9.36], Chance [9.18] and Brickhouse and Smith [9.17] for the interchangeability of happiness (eudaimonia) and to fare well (eu prattein) at Eutbydemus 278e–282d. 45 See Brickhouse and Smith [9.17], 103–12 for an excellent discussion of the various subtleties surrounding this passage. See also Meno 87d–89a for a similar argument. 46 Actually the military expertise does not make anything either. Rather it captures or discovers things. But Socrates does not reject it on these grounds, but on the grounds that it fails to know how to use what it captures or discovers. 47 In indicating that this is the suggestion of this passage I do not mean to be claiming that Socrates takes the elenchos in which these points are made to constitute a proof that Laches’ definition is false. I have argued elsewhere that Socrates understands his individual elenctic arguments as establishing no more than the inconsistency of the interlocutor’s beliefs. See Benson [9.3] and [9.8]. My point here is simply that Socrates’ views can be gleaned from this passage —in part because they are repeated in other early dialogues—not that Socrates takes (nor should we take) what he believes to be relevant to the results of this particular elenchos. 48 Again, I do not intend here to suggest that this is the conclusion Socrates thinks he has established by means of his elenchos with Nicias at the end of the Laches. See previous note. 49 To see how Socrates may have taken these two contrasts to be the same consider Socrates’ example of the miner who produces gold. This expert can produce gold successfully lacking knowledge of the good and the bad. But he can’t produce it beneficially—that is, produce it in a way that will benefit him—if he lacks the knowledge of how to use it, that is, if he lacks the knowledge of the good and the bad. If we are to take these two contrasts to be essentially the same and we are to take the knowledge or expertise of the good and the bad as the knowledge or expertise that makes us happy and fare well—that is, virtue—then what is the product of this knowledge? The good. In taking virtue to be an expertise we may or may not need to view it as essentially productive. For important discussions surrounding this issue see Irwin [9.34] and Roochnik [9.76]. 50 Again, however, I hasten to point out that I do not take this to be the ‘hidden meaning’ of the Charmides or the conclusion Socrates takes his elenchoi in the Charmides to establish. See previous notes on the Laches. 51 Brickhouse and Smith [9.17], 6–7. Note that they prefer to translate technē as ‘craft’ rather than ‘expertise’. See also Reeve [9.73], 37–53, Woodruff [9.96], 68– 81, and Irwin [9.34], 73–7. 52 See Brickhouse and Smith [9.17], 37, Penner [9.69], 197, Penner [9.68], 321–2, Ferejohn [9.24], 383 n. 18, Ferejohn [9.23], 15 and Irwin [9.34], 296 n. 28. 53 See also Republic 346a1–3 and Charmides 168b2–4. 54 Taylor [9.82], 84 glosses this as perhaps spinning, weaving, pottery and cultivation of the olive. 55 See Protagoras 320e2–3. 56 See also Protagoras 331d1–e4, 333a1–b6, 349b1–c5, and 57 I owe the clear expression of this objection to C.C.W.Taylor. 58 On Socrates’ position as contrasted with Protagoras’ here see the debate concerning the Socratic doctrine of the unity of virtues: Vlastos [9.87], 221–70 and 418–23, Penner [9.67] and [9.71], Taylor [7.22], Irwin [9.39], 31–52 and 78–94, Devereux [9.20] and [9.21], Ferejohn [9.23] and [9.24], and Brickhouse and Smith [9–17]. 60–72 and 103–36. 59 Hippias Minor 365d6–366a4, Gorgias 509d2–e1, and Hippias Major 296a4–6. See also the Prometheus story mentioned above in which Protagoras sometimes has Epimetheus doling out the powers, for example strength and speed, and sometimes the things in virtue of which the creature has a particular power, for example thick hair. 60 See, for example, Republic 477d7–61 where Plato—as opposed to the Socrates of the early dialogues—explicitly identifies knowledge (epistēmē) and belief (doxa) as powers or capacities. 61 I say ‘typically’ because it is difficult to say what activities are associated with the powers of the greater, the double, the heavier, the lighter, the older, and the younger in the Charmides (168b-d), for example. 62 See Irwin’s A-powers (‘x and y have the same A-power when each of them does F (where F is some kind of behaviour); each of them has the power to F’) versus B- powers (‘x and y have the same B-power when each of them is in the same state, G, which causes their behaviour’) ([9.34], 44–46); Socratic powers are Irwin’s Bpowers. See also Penner’s tendencies and motive forces or states of the soul ([9. 67]); Taylor’s dispositional quality versus permanent state ([7.22], no); Ferejohn’s P1: ‘A has the power to do X if A intended to do X, and there were an occasion for A to do X, A would do X’ versus P2: ‘A has the power to do x if there is some unique (simple or complex) occurrent property P such that (i) A has P, and (ii) anyone with P who intended to do X, and who had the occasion to do X, would do X’ ([9.23], 18; [9.24], 382–83 and n. 18); and Vlastos’s tendencies versus dispositions ([9.87], 434). 63 The issue here is complicated somewhat by the fact that Socrates appears to allow that the same activity can be associated with different powers—for example, in the Laches Socrates appears to allow that the activity of fleeing the enemy in the face of danger which typically is associated with cowardice, can also be associated with the power of courage—while at the same time indicating in the Republic that wageearning activities can only be associated with the wage-earning power or expertise. The resolution of this issue is to be found in recognizing that activities are susceptible to differing descriptions. For Socrates, a perspicuously described activity is properly associated with only one power. The perspicuity of the description is tied to the power that produced the activity. But all of this goes considerably beyond the issues with which I am currently concerned. 64 Socrates apparently takes these to be absurd or impossible consequences; see Charmides 168e3–7. 65 One of the complications involved in this passage is the apparently equivocal use of the genitive. On the one hand, the genitive is used to pick out the special object associated with each power; on the other hand, it is used to pick out the power itself when it is ‘of itself. Perhaps the best way to understand this is to distinguish between the object of the power and what it can be directed toward. Thus, sight and hearing can both be directed toward this bell since the bell both is coloured and makes a sound. The idea might be put as follows: a power can be directed toward a particular object just in case that object has the property associated with that power. Thus, sight can be directed towards itself just in case sight is coloured. Another passage that indicates that a power is to be identified by its object is Gorgias 447c1–456a6; see Penner [9.68], 320–322. Unfortunately, there are a few passages that suggest that distinct powers can have the same object; see Gorgias 451a–c and 464a–465d. This tension, however, can be resolved in a longer discussion of this topic. 66 To some extent this is as uninformative and potentially problematic as we might expect in light of the complication noted in n 63 above. 67 See, for example, Vlastos [9.93] and Irwin [9.36]. 68 See Backhouse and Smith [9.17] and [9.14]. 69 For a discussion of the argument on behalf of the luck-independence of wisdom in the Eutbydemus see Chance [9.18], 60–62 and Irwin [9.36], 92–6. See also Brickhouse and Smith [9.17], 119 n 31 for a similar account of the underlying idea of this passage. The same point is made concerning knowledge at Charmides 171d6–172a3 and concerning expertise at Republic 340d8–341a4. In the Euthydemus, while the first protreptic begins with frequent and consistent appeals to wisdom (sophia), by the end wisdom (sophia) and knowledge (epistēmē and phronēsis) are being used interchangeably. 70 I here forego the argument for such an identification, although Laches 184e– 190c discussed above establishes that definitional knowledge is at least a necessary condition of expertise. Dubbing this sort of knowledge ‘definitional knowledge’ is potentially misleading because if what I am arguing is correct, knowledge of what F—ness is is definitely not merely something like justified true belief of a definitional proposition, although it may very well entail such a thing. Nevertheless answers to Socratic ‘What is F-ness?’ questions have been for so long associated with definitions, it is difficult not to understand the knowledge that such an answer manifests as definitional knowledge. For more on Socratic ‘What is F-ness?’ questions, see Robinson [9.74], Nakhnikian [9.61], Beversluis [9.9], Nehamas [9. 62], Irwin [9.34] and [9.39], Benson [9.5], Kidd [9.49] and Taylor [9.84]. See also Aristotle (Metaphysics 1078b17–19) who apparently sees a connection between Socrates’ innovation regarding moral philosophy and his interest in definitions. 71 See also Protagoras 360e8–361a3. This raises a number of issues concerning the relationship between definitional knowledge of virtue, for example, and knowledge that someone is virtuous or that virtue is teachable. For more on the controversies surrounding these issues see Geach [9.25], Irwin [9.34] and [9.39], Vlastos [9.90] and [9.92], Nehamas [9.63], Beversluis [9.10], Woodruff [9.95], Benson [9.6], Penner [9.70] and [9.71], and Brickhouse and Smith [9.17]. 72 Dodds [9.22], 226 explains that the distinction between technai and empeiriai is drawn in two ways: ‘by their aim, which is merely pleasure, and by their empirical character, which means that they cannot give any rational account of their procedure….’ He goes on to explain the connection between the two ways as follows (228–229): ‘A technē differs from an empeiria in that it is based on a rational principle (logos), and can thus explain the reasons for its procedure in every case. This difference is connected with the one just mentioned [i.e. between pleasure and the good]; for in Plato’s view to beltiston is in each case rationally determinable, whereas to hēdu is not. Thus in matters of diet a doctor can predict on general principles what will be beltiston, and give a reason for his prediction, if he knows enough about the chemistry of nutrition; but the patient’s likes and dislikes are not predictable.’ (Irwin [9–35] 209–10 appears to give a similar account.) In both Irwin and Dodds the suggestion seems to be that it is the rationality of technai that is basic. In aiming at pleasure rhetoric cannot be rational and so cannot be a technē. 73 For the identification of definitional knowledge with the possession of the logos, see Woodruff [9.96], 74–75 and Reeve [9.73] 42–43. 74 See Republic 340d8–341a4. 75 This, then, is how I understand one of the so-called Socratic paradoxes that knowledge is (necessary and sufficient for) virtue. See, for example, Penner [9.71], 5, who writes ‘as if we needed evidence for the claim that ‘Virtue is knowledge’ is Socratic!’ Penner here is objecting to Devereux [9.20] (see also Devereux [9.21]), but even Devereux does not deny that the doctrine can be found in some of the Socratic dialogues, e.g. the Protagoras. See also Kraut [9.51], 286: ‘The credentials of (B) [Virtue is knowledge] as a genuine Socratic principle are impeccable. He endorses it not only in the Protagoras (361b1–2), but in the Meno (87c11–89a4) and the Laches (194d1–3) as well; in the Charmides (165c4–6) and the Euthyphro (14c5–6), the search for temperance and piety eventually leads to the idea that these qualities are forms of knowledge; and if we wish to look outside the early dialogues, we can find Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics 1144b28–30) and Xenophon (Memorabilia III.9.5–6) attributing (B) to Socrates.’ Even Brickhouse and Smith [9.17], ch 4 agree that for Socrates knowledge or wisdom is necessary and sufficient for virtue. Indeed, it is because they accept Socrates’ commitment to this doctrine that they are forced to distinguish between virtue—which knowledge of the good is sufficient and necessary for —and virtuous actions—which knowledge of the good is neither necessary nor sufficient for. See also Guthrie [9. 33], 130–39, and Taylor [9.84], 137, among others. 76 See Xenophon’s portrait of Socrates mentioned above. One way this issue is sometimes put is that Socrates collapses the convention (nomos)/nature (phusis) distinction that the sophists made so much of. (For the sophists’ view of this distinction see, for example, Kerferd [9.48], 111–131, de Romilly [9.19], 113–116, and Guthrie [9.32], 55–131.) The idea here is that Socrates is supposed to have believed that activities enjoined by conventional or traditional morality are essentially the same as those enjoined by nature. 77 See Gorgias 499e7–500a1. See also 467c5–468c1. See Irwin [9.35], 208 who correctly points out that Gorgias 499e 7–500a1 really claims that the good is what we should aim at, but what Polus and Socrates had agreed to earlier was that the good is what we do aim at. I follow Irwin’s first reading of the latter passage. 78 See Euthydemus 278e3–279a1. The happiness involved here, like the good referred to in the Gorgias, is the agent’s own. See Vlastos [9.93], 203 n.14, for example. For the translation of eudaimonia as happiness see Vlastos [9.93], 200–3. 79 See Vlastos [9.93], 204 n 20, for example, who maintains that the identity of happiness and the good is so obvious to Plato and Socrates that neither of them feels compelled to argue for it. Vlastos cites their apparent interchangeability in Socrates’ statement of Callicles’ position at Gorgias 494e–495b. See Irwin [9.36], 92 n. 12 for some reason to worry about this identity. 80 A number of different theses have been delineated under this general title. See, for example, Vlastos [9.93], 203–9, Brickhouse and Smith [9.17], 103–4 and Irwin [9. 39], 52–3. 81 This is Santas’ prudential paradox; [9.78], 183–89. He cites on behalf of Socrates’ commitment to this principle Meno 77b–78b, Protagoras 358c and Gorgias 468c5– 7. To get the prudential paradox from Socratic eudaimonism we may also need the claim that there are no non-rational desires or that non-rational desires always succumb to rational desires. 82 I here sidestep the issues surrounding Brickhouse and Smith’s [9.17] denial that virtue and so knowledge of the good is sufficient for happiness. Whichever side of this dispute we favour, someone who acts contrary to his or her own good does so unintentionally. It is either because the individual fails to know which action benefits him or her or the individual through some misfortune or lack of non-moral good is unable to perform the action. Henceforth, I will take Socrates’ position to be the sufficiency thesis in order to simplify the explication. 83 This is Santas’ moral paradox: that ‘all who do injustice or wrong do so involuntarily’; ([9.78], 183). He cites the following passages: Gorgias 460b–d, 509e5–7, Protagoras 345c and 360d3. 84 See Santas ([9.78], 190) and Taylor ([9.84], 149), who maintain that in order for Socrates to get from the prudential paradox to the moral paradox Socrates must contend that virtuous behaviour benefits the agent and vicious behavior harms the agent. 85 See, for example, Crito 47d–e and Gorgias 477b–480a. For the identification of the individual with the soul see Brickhouse and Smith [9.17], 101 n. 41. 86 See Irwin ([9.35], 193) who writes concerning the argument in the Gorgias, ‘Perhaps Plato believes that someone who rejects nomos and its conception of justice as a whole can justify himself only by advocating the complete selfindulgence supported by Callicles. Plato does not show that Callicles’ ground is the only reasonable ground for a general criticism of nomos.’ 87 Note that for Socrates the study of moral philosophy promotes one’s virtue. 88 See, for example, Apology 20b9–c3, 20d7–e3, 21b4–5, 23b2–4, Charmides 165b4– c2, Laches 200c2–5, Hippias Major 304d4–e3, Gorgias 509a4–7. Translations cited in this chapter, but not included in the bibliography, are: Cicero De Natura Deorum and Academica, trans. H.Rackham, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1979. Plato Five Dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo, trans. G.M.A. Grube, Indianapolis, Ind., Hackett, 1982. Plato Hippias Major, ed. and trans. P.Woodruff, Indianapolis, Ind., Hackett, 1982. Plato Ion, trans. T.Saunders, in T.Saunders (ed.) Plato: Early Socratic Dialogues, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1987. Plato Laches and Charmides, trans. R.K.Sprague, Indianapolis, Ind., Bobbs Merrill, 1973. BIBLIOGRAPHY 9.1 Annas, J. ‘Self-knowledge in early Plato’, in D.J.O’Meara (ed.) 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M.Burnyeat, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1994. 9.95 Woodruff, P. ‘Expert knowledge in the Apology and Laches: what a general needs to know’, Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy 3 (1987): 79–115. 9.96 ——‘Plato’s early theory of knowledge’, in Everson (see [2.35]), pp. 60–84; repr. in Benson [9.7]. 9.97 Zeller, E. Socrates and the Socratic Schools, trans. O.Reichel, 3rd edn, London, Longmans, Green and Co. 1885.

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  • Sophists (The) — The sophists G. B. Kerferd In the fifth century BC the term sophistēs was used in Greece as a name to designate a particular profession, that of certain travelling teachers who went from city to city giving lectures and providing instruction in a …   History of philosophy

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