Sunday, January 23, 2011

Reasoning: Vlastos' Socratic Studies #2

This is the second installment in a chain of blogposts discussing Gregory Vlastos' book Socratic Studies, which is a series of essays on Socratic philosophy and methodology. It discusses the second essay, "Socrates' Disavowal of Knowledge".
Socratic Studies
In this essay, Vlastos moves on from the the general method of Socrates' questioning Socrates' the profession of ignorance. Specifically, Vlastos tackles the problem that Socrates seems to know so much and is wise, but claims he knows nothing. Most scholars think that he is being ironic or deceitful, but some believe him to be telling the truth (Vlastos 39). Vlastos, rather unusually, argues that Socrates is doing both. he explains that there is a difference between "knowledge-c" or knowledge as truth that is absolutely infallible and "knolwedge-e" which is knowledge justified by elenchus. Socrates can then freely disavow knowledge-c while standing behind knowledge-e, which he does on rare occasion (Vlastos 55-56).

The problem that I see with this theory is that, as Vlastos recognises, Socrates uses a whole host of different Greek words that us moderns translate as "knowledge." Vlastos never states whether there is any correlation between knowledges "e" and "c" and particular Greek words. Moreover, he never articulates a reason why if there is no Greek word correlation between these two particular types of knowledge whether there is some overriding factor that causes Socrates to use the word he does, irrespective of meaning, as well as what makes him confident that two different Greek words could both, for example, stand for knowledge-c. On the other hand, the essay opens up the ability for a lengthy study of those Greek words to answer these questions.

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