Does Socrates Have a Method?: Rethinking the Elenchus in Plato's Dialogues and Beyond

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Overview

Although "the Socratic method" is commonly understood as a style of pedagogy involving cross-questioning between teacher and student, there has long been debate among scholars of ancient philosophy about how this method as attributed to Socrates should be defined or, indeed, whether Socrates can be said to have used any single, uniform method at all distinctive to his way of philosophizing. This volume brings together essays by classicists and philosophers examining this controversy anew.

The point of departure for many of those engaged in the debate has been the identification of Socratic method with "the elenchus" as a technique of logical argumentation aimed at refuting an interlocutor, which Gregory Vlastos highlighted in an influential article in 1983. The essays in this volume look again at many of the issues to which Vlastos drew attention but also seek to broaden the discussion well beyond the limits of his formulation.

Some contributors question the suitability of the elenchus as a general description of how Socrates engages his interlocutors; others trace the historical origins of the kinds of argumentation Socrates employs; others explore methods in addition to the elenchus that Socrates uses; several propose new ways of thinking about Socratic practices. Eight essays focus on specific dialogues, each examining why Plato has Socrates use the particular methods he does in the context defined by the dialogue. Overall, representing a wide range of approaches in Platonic scholarship, the volume aims to enliven and reorient the debate over Socratic method so as to set a new agenda for future research.

Contributors are Hayden W. Ausland, Hugh H. Benson, Thomas C. Brickhouse, Michelle Carpenter, John M. Carvalho, Lloyd P. Gerson, Francisco J. Gonzalez, James H. Lesher, Mark McPherran, Ronald M. Polansky, Gerald A. Press, François Renaud, and W. Thomas Schmid, Nicholas D. Smith, P. Christopher Smith, Harold Tarrant, Joanne B. Waugh, and Charles M. Young.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Despite their variations in topic and approach, the essays are uniformly excellent.”

—D.H. Calhoun, Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780271023472
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2004
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Gary Alan Scott is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Loyola College in Maryland.

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Table of Contents

Abbreviations for Plato's Dialogues
Preface
Introduction 1
Pt. 1 Historical Origins of Socratic Method
1 Parmenidean Elenchos 19
2 Forensic Characteristics of Socratic Argumentation 36
3 Elenchos and Exetasis: Capturing the Purpose of Socratic Interrogation 61
4 Comments on Lesher, Ausland, and Tarrant 78
Pt. 2 Reexamining Vlastos's Analysis of "the Elenchus"
5 Variety of Socratic Elenchi 89
6 Problems with Socratic Method 101
7 Elenctic Interpretation and the Delphic Oracle 114
8 The Socratic Elenchos? 145
Pt. 3 Socratic Argumentation and Interrogation in Specific Dialogues
9 The Socratic Elenchus as Constructive Protreptic 161
10 Humbling as Upbringing: The Ethical Dimension of the Elenchus in the Lysis 183
11 The (De)construction of Irrefutable Argument in Plato's Philebus 199
12 Elenchos, Protreptic, and Platonic Philosophizing 217
13 Socratic Dialectic in the Charmides 235
14 The Elenchos in the Charmides, 162-175 252
15 Certainty and Consistency in the Socratic Elenchus 266
16 Questioning the Self: A Reaction to Carvalho, Press, and Schmid 281
About the Contributors 299
Works Cited 303
Index 319
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