Dialectical Refutation as a Paradigm of Socratic Punishment

Evidence from the Apology, Crito, Protagoras, and Gorgias is mustered in defense of the claim that for Socrates, dialectic typifies just punishment: Dialectic benefits the punished by making her more just, since it disabuses her of the false beliefs that stand in the way of her acquiring knowledge of justice. Though painful and disorienting to the interlocutor, having one’s opinions refuted by Socrates—who is wiser than his interlocutors due to his awareness of the vastness of his ignorance—is in fact a benefit. Socrates’ attitude toward his own pending death sentence, his claim that the virtues are unified around wisdom, and his opposition to vengeance or retaliation as a moral motive, all underscore how dialectical engagement is a paradigm instance of just Socratic punishment.
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DOI 10.5840/jpr_2002_6
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