Monday, March 21, 2011

Reasoning: What About the Historical Socrates?

As I proctored my first exam for my new class, I spent much of the day reading the book which interested me int Plato in the first place: Socrates, Ironist and Moral Philosopher by Gregory Vlastos. I have gotten a lot further this time than either of my previous attempts to finish it [1] and it certainly provides a great wealth of knowledge. I will be writing about Vlastos' interpretation of Socratic irony soon. My real issue with much of Gregory Vlastos' analysis is his constant attempts to create a philosophical difference between the philosophy of Socrates and the philosophy of Plato using Socrates as a mouthpiece. He explains himself in the introduction that he cannot leave the historical Socrates to the historians.
Socrates: Ironist and Moral Philosopher Socratic Studies
Yet, attempting to find the philosophical method of the historical Socrates yields problematic results. Vlastos seems willing to disregard sources that he does not like or using sources like a show of hands: the more sources agree on one thing, the more likely Vlastos deems it. The problem with this is that the sources come from all different ages. Vlastos is willing to take Aristotle's word about Socrates over Xenephon's, although Xenephon was a contemporary of Socrates and Aristotle was not. Furthermore, Vlastos is willing to consider a number of late and problematic sources including Cicero and Plutarch over Xenephon's word on whether or not Socrates disavowed knowledge just because there are more in Plato's camp. More thoughts on this soon.

This reminded me that I have to finish writing up my summery and analysis of Socratic Studies. I will recommence soon.

  1. I am only two essays away from the end, although I do not think I internalized the last two essays I read particularly well due to the freezing temperatures in the room in which I was proctoring.

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