Socratic Anti-Empiricism in the "Phaedo"

Apeiron 29 (4):121-142 (1996)
Abstract
In the Phaedo, Socrates endorses the view that the senses are not a means whereby we may come to gain knowledge. Whenever one investigates by means of the senses, one is deceived. One can attain truth only by inquiry through intellect alone. It is a measure of the success of empiricism that modern commentators take a very different approach to Phaedo 65a9-67b3 than their neoplatonist forebearers did. In what follows I shall argue that, if they made too much of "Socrate's" anti-empiricism, we make too little of it.I believe that careful examination of the presuppositions of Socratic questioning will reveal some principled reasons which lead to the view about sense perception that Socrates endorses in the Phaedo. These reasons are, I believe, wrong and I think that Plato may have had occassion to reconsider them later in his career. But even if this is so, it remains that Socrates' anti-empiricism in this dialogue is not simply a gratuitous epistemological reflection of the dialogue's otherworldly, ascetic ethical outlook
Keywords Plato  Forms  Epistemology
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DOI 10.1515/APEIRON.1996.29.4.121
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