The socratic paradox and its enemies (review) [Book Review]

Journal of the History of Philosophy 46 (3):pp. 476-477 (2008)
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This is an important book. Its author, Roslyn Weiss, contends that the Socratic Paradox, "No one does wrong willingly," and related Socratic views about the virtues have been seriously misinterpreted. Socrates is not the moral intellectualist, ethical/psychological egoist, and eudaimonist generations of scholars have believed him to be. The arguments in which Socrates articulates versions of the Socratic Paradox must be examined with respect to their overall agonistic contexts. The Socratic Paradox, when it appears, operates as a rhetorical weapon against a specific class of interlocutor enemies—the Sophists.The significance of Weiss's thesis cannot be underestimated. If her view is correct, the delineation between early "Socratic" dialogues, marked by problematic Socratic doctrines like "No one does wrong willingly," and later "Platonic" dialogues, is significantly eroded. Perhaps other, thematic and/or methodological features mark distinctions between groups of dialogues, yet the overall effect of dispensing with this particular doctrine is spectacular. A saner Platonic Socrates emerges along with improved coherence across Plato's dialogues. Weiss builds her case in careful detail



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Maureen Eckert
University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth

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