Socratic Dialectic Essay

1336 words - 6 pages

Aim and Method: Socratic DialecticThis essay will discuss the nature of Socrates inquiries in to the way humans ought to live. This paper will begin by looking at Socrates' understanding of the good life and the importance of self knowledge. It will then look at the theory of learning that the Socratic dialectic fosters, along with Socrates' theory of the natural goodness of human nature. Using Plato's story of Euthyphro , it will show the practical nature of Socrates task of making people think for themselves and understand their own fallibility through the destructive process of the Socratic dialectic. Finally, it will strip the story of Euthyphro of its details and demonstrate the step by ...view middle of the document...

In order to achieve the goal of happiness, or eudemonia, the person must conduct themselves morally. However, self deceit and flattery blinds people to their ultimate ignorance, paving the way for misguided evil to take place. In Plato's Euthyphro, the improper use and understanding of moral concepts becomes a dangerous thing, as he set about to indict his father in the name of a virtue he cannot define.The method used to bring one closer to the eidos, or universal definition of a moral term, such as 'courage', is what is called a dialectic. The dialectic is used to raise questions about certain accepted moral ideas. Because Socrates believed that evil stemmed from ignorance, he used a 'cross- examination' technique to allow his opponent to realise independently the error of his own moral claim. In his method, he would challenge anyone with a pretence to knowledge. For example, in the story of Euthyphro, Socrates undermines Euthyphro's moral claims by questioning what he actually knows about piety. In most of Plato's dialogues, it becomes clear that neither Socrates nor the other person knew the meaning of the term. Socrates was dealing not just with ignorance, of which he gladly admitted himself, but 'ignorance mistaking itself for knowledge' and 'false conceit of wisdom' . Dispelling misconceptions is, according to Socrates, important if one is to come closer to universal moral truths .The first process in the dialectical method is the destructive process, where the idea is to prove the original claim is problematic or contradictory . A good example of this is in the story of Euthyphro, who claims he must press murder charges against his father, despite his family ties, as it is the only pious course of action. Seeing that the Socratic method is reliant on the student's own thinking, Socrates adopts his typical guise of ignorance to draw out answers from Euthyphro. After all, the reason he questioned and cross examined his fellow citizens was not so he could convey some new and revolutionary truth in the way a teacher would, but only to 'point out the path along which it (truth) might be found' . What is the point in the story of Euthyphro is that Socrates gets him to examine his own knowledge of the word 'pious' and to realise that to embody piety, he must have the knowledge to what it is. In response, Euthyphro claims that piety is that which pleases the gods. To Euthyphro, Socrates asks "What gods? What is pleasing to one god might displease another. " As Socrates' logical questioning reduces Euthyphro's moral claims to mere opinion, the cross examination runs the course of many such encounters and abruptly ends with Euthyphro excusing himself and saying "another time Socrates; for I...

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