Indexed on: 21 Mar '21Published on: 01 Dec '20Published in: Classical quarterly
For several decades, scholars of Plato's dialogues have focussed their efforts on understanding Socrates’ philosophy by unravelling the arguments used to establish it. On this view, Socrates’ philosophy is presented in his arguments, and, as Gregory Vlastos says, ‘Almost everything Socrates says is wiry argument; that is the beauty of his talk for a philosopher.’ In this paper I raise questions about what can be learned about Socrates’ philosophy through analysis of his arguments. One critic of what he views as traditional interpretations of Plato—‘the sole frame of reference used by most interpreters of Plato from antiquity to the present’—describes this approach as follows: (i) reading the dialogues to discover Platonic or Socratic doctrines, and (ii) the logic of the arguments on which these doctrines are based. While I subscribe to the first point, I have questions about (ii), the ready contention that Plato's dogmas are based on the arguments through which they are defended in dialogues.