Is Virtue Teachable? A Socratic View of Moral Education

Dissertation, The University of Texas at Austin (1991)

Two of Plato's dialogues, the Protagoras and the Meno, ask, "is virtue teachable?" This dissertation shows that each of these dialogues is itself integral and consistent, and that the two are consistent with one another. Taken together these dialogues offer a unified and coherent Socratic model of moral education. The dissertation develops at length the notion of dialectic, arguing that it is the key to Socratic moral education and therefore to its goal: virtue. Developing the notion of dialectic further--its aims, its workings--the dissertation argues that Socrates' use of dialectic with respect to the interlocutors is analogous to Plato's use of dialectic with respect to the readers. The analogy is discussed through Plato's use of the dialogue form, his use of contradictions, and his use of irony. In its final chapter, the dissertation examines the practical aspects of the Socratic model of moral education by sketching a picture of how such a model might be brought to bear in the contemporary classroom in applied ethics or moral problems courses in higher education. This last chapter discusses various strategies with texts, assignments, and classroom behavior, making recommendations for those practices which are consistent with the Socratic model
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