“Just as philosophy begins with doubt, so also a life that may be called human begins with irony” (Kierkegaard The Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates, pg.6, thesis XV) What has proportion to do with humor or irony? And what do either of these have to do with being human? Jokes, laughter, and funniness connote excess, exaggeration, incongruity, dissonance, etc., the opposite of proportion--balance, symmetry, Aristotle’s golden mean. Yet, The Philosopher maintains, the wit has found the ideal moderate (...) position between the deficient boor who seems constitutionally incapable of laughing, and the excessive buffoon who doesn’t know how to laugh at the right time, in the right way, or for the right reasons--buffoonish laughter is indiscriminate. The title, paraphrasing Hume, is consistent with Kierkegaard’s valorization of irony, as philosophical doubt and the confusion induced through Socratic Irony both call for a special sort of proportion: ontological proportion. Put simply, one ought to proportion one’s being, as well as others’, as though along a shifting spectrum rather than essentially and hierarchically. The latter fosters a serious attitude that takes polarities as the rule with no exceptions; black or white, good or evil, with us or against us, one of us or one of them, always seeking the ideal of purity. We see this disproportion in authoritarians who manifestly lack a sense of humor--Hitler’s joke courts, Turkey’s president Erdoğan attempting legal punishment against a comedian who mocked him, and Trump’s thin-skinned inability to laugh at his own expense, a monumental character flaw for the most powerful person in the world. Their views are serious, rigid, closed, and dogmatic about themselves, others, and for each of them excepting Trump, the presumed absolute nature of values--Trump’s unironic pretense toward any value is merely a means to service his own absolute end, himself. The playfully ironic person can cope with reality, with ambiguity and, borrowing from Maria Lugones, “ontological confusion,” the not-fully-settled identity. (shrink)
In the following text we would like to present the philosophical discussion on untrusting lies, which introduces a space for innocent lie understood as figurative manipulation of the speech: a poetic trope that we would argue could not only be generously used to help us tolerating our sometime deceiving human condition—which is global and universally ours, that of the finitude of human capacity of knowledge and ethical action—but also to maximise our capacity for knowledge formation and adaptation to values. Concepts (...) formation and communication relates to a collective interplay of different interiorized images, before it comes to the exterior in some well-chosen expressions, in self-mastered way; their origin remain in a mentally latent process of selection of content and ideas, as possible solutions of in a games of compatible propositions. These unconscious materials of our life relies on our capacity to identify and quickly switch between different spans, that enable us to focus on complex sets data, all depending very much on figurative manipulations, that should not be confounded with blameworthy and misleading representations. (shrink)
_ Source: _Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 151 - 167 This paper considers the unity of Socrates’ twin apparitions of sophist and statesman, alluded to in the _Sophist_. Examining how these apparitions are at work in the _Theaetetus_, I argue that the difficulty is that of combining the nurturing or educative role of the statesman with the sophist’s practice of refutation. Beginning from Socrates’ shift in appearance early in the dialogue, I argue that the cause of this shift is Theaetetus’ (...) character, that this forces the general problem Socrates has in mind into a particular form, and that Theaetetus never fully grasps this fundamental, intractable problem. Consequently, the problem’s intractability shows why Socratic education is always refutative, and so combines the statesman and sophist’s respective arts. And because Theaetetus is the cause of Socrates’ shift, the philosopher’s appearance is always an ironic reflection of his interlocutor’s opinions: the dialogue the _Philosopher_ would have to be named the _Theaetetus_. (shrink)
[Condensed abstract] Socrates' ironic use of 'makaria' (blessedness) in the Republic exhorts Glaucon to think more critically. Certain features of the supposedly ideal city, motivated by Glaucon's character, may be protreptic for Glaucon to practice philosophical courage and intellectual moderation.
Drawing principally on the Symposium, this paper argues that humor in Plato’s dialogues serves two serious purposes. First, Plato uses puns and other devices to disarm the reader’s defenses and thereby allow her to consider philosophical ideas that she would otherwise dismiss. Second, insofar as human beings can only be understood through unchanging forms that we fail to attain, our lives are discontinuous and only partly intelligible. Since, though, the discontinuity between expectation and actual occurrence is the basis for humor, (...) Plato can use humor to express who we are as human beings. (shrink)
At the end of the essay “Silhouettes” in Either/Or , Kierkegaard writes, “only the person who has been bitten by snakes knows what one who has been bitten by snakes must suffer.” I interpret this as an allusion to Alcibiades' speech in Plato's Symposium. Kierkegaard invites the reader to compare Socrates to Don Giovanni, and Alcibiades to the seduced women. Socrates' philosophical method, in this light, is a deceptive seduction: just as Don Giovanni's seduction leads his conquests to unhappy love—what (...) Kierkegaard terms “reflective sorrow”—so the elenctic method leads Socrates' interlocutors to aporia, not to knowledge. I offer a critique of Socratic irony, a stance reflected in the theory of love Socrates presents in the Symposium, and suggest that philosophy should instead be modeled on Alcibiades' and the Silhouettes' approach to love. (shrink)
Socrates is both the first thoroughgoing moral philosopher and the first to employ irony as a philosophical tool. These innovative and foundational aspects of Socratic philosophy, however, lead to apparent inconsistencies and worrisome interactions. Socrates is charged with making his interlocutors look foolish, arrogant, self-serving, or ignorant. Worse still, he seems aware of these reactions. If Socrates knows his methods stir resentment, why does he continue with them? Furthermore, how should we view irony in light of Socratic ethics? I argue (...) that Socrates uses irony and shame to bring about the desire for moral improvement. Socratic irony is of the riddling variety and the shame that it produces is not intended to belittle the interlocutor’s sense of self. Instead, shame is an appropriate response to the realization that one’s life is unexamined and possibly vicious. Therefore, the real problem with Socratic irony lies not with its use, but its failure rate. (shrink)
It is proverbial that the European tradition of philosophy consists of a set of footnotes to Plato. However, one of his most informative works, the Atlantis story, had been totally neglected by the scientific community because for 2350 years it had simply not been understood. Plato wanted that only eligible persons shouldperceive his Atlantis story and therefore he codified it as an adventure tale. However, he placed a lot of ironical hints in his text. Anyhow, as irony isn’t everybody’s cup (...) of tea, nobody could follow him. Because of respect for Plato’s credibility; the Atlantologists tried to solve the Atlantis riddle as phenomenon, whereas just a simple analytic disquisition supported by lateral thinking had been requested. This is a challenge to prompt science to render account after 2350 years of the previous omission of the Atlantis theme and to start a serious discussion about the here presented analytic approach by lateral thinking to Plato’s Atlantis irony, which turns out to be his humorous metaphysical legacy. (shrink)
Plato’s character Socrates is clearly a sophisticated logician. Why then does he fall, at times, into the most elementary fallacies? It is, I propose, because the end goal for Plato is not the mere acquisition of superior understanding but instead a well-lived life, a life lived in harmony with oneself. For such an end, accurate opinions are necessary but not sufficient: what we crucially need is a method, a procedure for ridding ourselves of those opinions that are false. Now learning (...) a method is a very different business from learning a set of ideas. It requires not just study but practice, and practice is precisely what Plato’s dialogues, thanks to the layer of irony between author and protagonist, make possible. If we have a predisposition for detecting and are interested in resolving conflicts within a set of beliefs—if, that is, we instinctively posit logical consistency as a desideratum in life—then we stand to learn, when we read the dialogues, not only what to think but also, and far more importantly, how to think. (shrink)
I argue that, when Alcibiades' encomium to Socrates is interpreted in light of Socrates' presentation of Diotima's speech, which immediately proceeds it, it shows Socrates to be at the top level of Diotima's "ladder of ascent" to Beauty. If Alcibiades is correct, Socrates' pretense of ignorance is an ironic sham. Socrates, as Plato's mystagogos, must have experiential knowledge of the Form of Beauty.
Ce livre met le doigt sur l'un des paradoxes les plus profonds parce que les plus anciens de la culture occidentale : dans un même mouvement, les femmes se trouvent exclues de la rationalité, et l'âme n'est pensée qu'à l'aide de métaphores féminines. Cette lecture des textes classiques est un voyage au coeur de la culture occidentale où s'enracine un questionnement de la différence des sexes.
Are the long, wildly inventive etymologies in Plato’s Cratylus just some kind of joke, or does Plato himself accept them? This standard question misses the most important feature of the etymologies: they are a competitive performance, an agôn by Socrates in which he shows that he can play the game of etymologists like Cratylus better than they can themselves. Such show-off performances are a recurrent feature of Platonic dialogue: they include Socrates’ speeches on eros in the Phaedrus, his rhetorical discourse (...) in the Menexenus, and his literary interpretation in the Protagoras. The paper compares these cases to work out the ground rules, purposes and implications of the Platonic agôn, and the Cratylus etymologies in particular. (shrink)
Since Peter Geach coined the phrase in 1966 there has been much discussion among scholars of the "Socratic fallacy." No consensus presently exists on whether Socrates commits the "Socratic fallacy"; almost all scholars agree, however, that the "Socratic fallacy" is a bad thing and that Socrates has good reason to avoid it. I think that this consensus of scholars is mistaken. I think that what Geach has labeled a fallacy is no fallacy at all, but a perfectly innocent consequence of (...) Platonic epistemology. The "Socratic fallacy" arises from the "Priority of Definition" principle (PD). Plato is committed to (PD) in the "Meno." The "Meno" also contains a famous discussion of the difference between episteme and doxa (97a ff.). If we understand what Plato meant by episteme we can see that he must be committed to (PD); but we can also see that (PD) has none of the harmful consequences Geach attributes to it. Geach's view is indebted to Wittgenstein's philosophy of language. (PD) is implausible on this reading of the verb "to know," but not on Plato's. Plato claims that a demand for an explanation is appropriate wherever a claim to knowledge is made. Plato links the concept of episteme explicitly with the concept of logos; the connection between the terms may have been analytic. It does not follow from the Platonic conception of knowledge, as Geach argues, that it is "no use" using examples to establish general definitions. All that follows is that one cannot know that an alleged example of a term T is a genuine example until one has a general account of what it is to be T. Without the stronger conclusion, Geach cannot establish that the "Socratic fallacy" is a fallacy. (shrink)
A close reading of the Crito, with a focus on irony in Socrates' speech by the Laws and on the way this allows Socrates to chart a mean course between Crito's self-destructive resistance to the rule of Athenian law and Socrates' own philosophical reservations about its ethical limitations.
The article begins with a brief discussion of the ways in which Platonic irony, and specifically the irony of the Republic, has been interpreted : as part of Plato's liberary style, as a consequence of political or prudential considerations, and as a pedagogical technique. These are criticized as stopping short of an interpretation of irony which makes it part of Plato's philosophic intentions. Using several seminal examples of irony in the Republic, it is shown, 1) that Plato's philosophical irony is (...) often not dyadic but triadic, and 2) that such irony is Plato's way of presenting the philosophic issue of negativity, a negativity, it is argued, that is grounded in the nature of human eros. L'article commence avec une brève discussion des différentes façons dont l'ironie platonicienne et surtout l'ironie de la République a été interprétée : comme un aspect du style littéraire de Platon, comme conséquence de considérations politiques ou prudentielles, et comme technique pédagogique. Ces interprétations sont critiquées parce qu'elles tournent court : l'ironie fait ellemême partie des intentions philosophiques de Platon. Se servant de plusieurs exemples séminaux d'ironie dans la République il est démontré 1) que l'ironie platonicienne n'est souvent pas dyadique mais triadique, et 2) que l'ironie est le moyen pour Platon de présenter le thème philosophique de la négativité, une négativité, ici indiquée, fondée dans la nature de l'éros humain. (shrink)
This full-length study of Plato's dialogue Phaedrus, now in paperback, is written in the belief that such concerted scrutiny of a single dialogue is an important part of the project of understanding Plato so far as possible 'from the inside' - of gaining a feel for the man's philosophy. The focus of this account is on how the resources both of persuasive myth and of formal argument, for all that Plato sets them in strong contrast, nevertheless complement and reinforce each (...) other in his philosophy. Not only is the dialogue in its formal structure a dovetail of myth and argument, but the philosophic life that it praises is also shaped by an acknowledgement of the limitations of argument and the importance of mythical understanding. By means of this correlation of form and content Plato invites his readers, through the very act of reading, to take a first step along the path of the philosophical life. (shrink)
Le mot grec ironie signifiait primitivement dissimulation, et plus précisément imposture comprise comme dissimulation de l'incompétence et prétention au savoir. Appliquée à Socrate, l'ironie en est venue à désigner une dissimulation du savoir destinée à triompher plus facilement du prétendu savoir d'un adversaire. Ce retournement dans la signification du mot est un contresens — dont nous suivons l'évolution de l'Apologie au Lucullus — sur la maïeutique, qui résulte de l'usage fait par Socrate de cette méthode, dans sa première rivalité avec (...) les Sophistes. The Greek word irony primarily meant dissimulation, and more precisely imposture as dissimulation of ignorance and pretence to knowledge. Applied to Socrates, irony came to signify feigned ignorance as a mean of confuting the alleged science of an adversary. This upturning in the meaning of the word — which we tried to track from the Apology down to the Lucullus — is a misunderstanding of the maieutic which comes from the use made by Socrates of this method as a way of dispute in his early rivalry with the Sophists. (shrink)