This long-awaited study of the most enigmatic figure of Greek philosophy reclaims Socrates' ground-breaking originality. Written by a leading historian of Greek thought, it argues for a Socrates who, though long overshadowed by his successors Plato and Aristotle, marked the true turning point in Greek philosophy, religion and ethics. The quest for the historical figure focuses on the Socrates of Plato's earlier dialogues, setting him in sharp contrast to that other Socrates of later dialogues, where he is used as a (...) mouthpiece for Plato's often anti-Socratic doctrine. At the heart of the book is the paradoxical nature of Socratic thought. But the paradoxes are explained, not explained away. The book highlights the tensions in the Socratic search for the answer to the question 'How should we live?' Conceived as a divine mandate, the search is carried out through elenctic argument, and dominated by an uncompromising rationalism. The magnetic quality of Socrates' personality is allowed to emerge throughout the book. Clearly and forcefully written, philosophically sophisticated but entirely accessible to non-specialists, this book will be of major importance and interest to all those studying ancient philosophy and the history of Western thought. (shrink)
An analysis of phaedo 96c-606c seeks to demonstrate that when forms are cited as either "safe" or "clever" aitiai they are not meant to function as either final or efficient causes, But as logico-Metaphysical essences which have no causal efficacy whatever, But which do have definite (and far-Reaching) implications for the causal order of the physical universe, For it is assumed that a causal statement, Such as "fire causes heat" will be true if, And only if, The asserted physical bond (...) between fire and heat instantiates the eternal and logically necessary relation of entailment between the instantiated forms, Fire, Heat. (shrink)
This is the companion volume to Gregory Vlastos' highly acclaimed work Socrates: Ironist and Moral Philosopher. Four ground-breaking papers which laid the basis for his understanding of Socrates are collected here, in revised form: they examine Socrates' elenctic method of investigative argument, his disavowal of knowledge, his concern for definition, and the complications of his relationship with the Athenian democracy. The fifth chapter is a new and provocative discussion of Socrates' arguments in the Protagoras and Laches. The epilogue 'Socrates and (...) Vietnam' suggests that Socrates was not, as Plato claimed, the most just man of his time. The papers have been prepared for publication by Professor Myles Burnyeat with the minimum of editorial intervention. (shrink)
‘Irony,’ says Quintilian, is that figure of speech or trope ‘in which something contrary to what is said is to be understood’ . His formula has stood the test of time. It passes intact into Dr Johnson's dictionary . It survives virtually intact in ours:Irony is the use of words to express something other than, and especially the opposite of, [their] literal meaning.
A careful reading of the initial posing of the issue to be debated with Protagoras and of its subsequent restatement when the debate resumes after a break will show that Socrates employs three distinct formulae, only the first of which answers at all closely to the term "Unity of the Virtues" which has been commonly used in the scholarly literature as a label for the position which Socrates upholds in the debate. The other two formulae, perfectly distinguishable from the first, (...) I shall call the "Similarity" and "Biconditionality" Theses. I shall discuss the three Theses seriatim. But let me emphasize from the start that they are not treated in the text as logically disjoint tenets, but as successive moments in the elucidation of a single doctrine. That is how Protagoras himself understands them. At no point does he try to drive a wedge between them or play off one against another. He accepts them as complementary expressions of a theory which he rejects and combats as a whole. (shrink)
So much has been written on this vexed issue, that one hesitates to reopen it. Yet one has no other choice when one finds scholars accepting as generally agreed a view which rests on altogether insufficient evidence. I propose, therefore, to examine the main grounds on which recent authorities interpret the disorderly motion of Tm 30a, 52d–53b, and 69b as a mythical symbol. They are four: I. That the Timaios is a myth; II. The testimony of the Academy; III. That (...) motion could not antecede the creation of time; IV. That motion could not antecede the creation of soul. (shrink)
Introduction: the paradox of Socrates, by G. Vlastos.--Our knowledge of Socrates, by A. R. Lacey.--Socrates in the Clouds, by K. J. Dover.--Elenchus, by R. Robinson.--Elenchus: direct and indirect, by R. Robinson.--Socratic definition, by R. Robinson.--Elenctic definitions, by G. Nakhnikian.--Socrates on the definition of piety: Euthyphro 10A-11B, by S. M. Cohen.--Socrates at work on virtue and knowledge in Plato's Laches, by G. Santas.--Virtues in action, by M. F. Burnyeat.--The Socratic denial of Akrasia, by J. J. Walsh.--Plato's Protagoras and explanations of weakness, (...) by G. Santas.--Socrates on disobeying the law, by A. D. Woozley.--Plato's earlier theory of forms, by R. E. Allen.--Selected bibliography (p. 336-339). (shrink)
This paper is a restatement of my earlier analysis of this argument (1954), Revised in the light of critical comments by other scholars and of closer study of the text. It includes a critical discussion of an alternative formalization of the argument, First offered by wilfrid sellars (1955) and retained (with modifications) by colin strang (1963), Which eliminates successfully the inconsistency of the premises of the argument but has dubious support from plato's text.
In Section IV above we start with texts whose prima facie import speaks so strongly for the Identity Thesis that any interpretation which stops short of it looks like a shabby, timorous, thesis-saving move. What else could Socrates mean when he declares with such conviction that ‘no evil’ can come to a good man (T19), that his prosecutors ‘could not harm’ him (T16(a)), that if a man has not been made more unjust he has not been harmed (T20), that ‘all (...) of happiness is in culture and justice’ (T16(a)), that living well is ‘the same’ as living justly (T15)? But then doubts begin to creep in. Recalling that inflation of the quantifier is normal and innocuous in common speech (“that job means everything to him, he'll do anything to get it, will stick at nothing ”) we ask if there is really no chance at all that ‘no evil’ in T19, ‘not harmed’ in T20 might be meant in the same way? The shift from ‘no harm’ at T16(a) to ‘no great harm’ at T16(b), once noticed, strengthens the doubt. It gets further impetus in T21(b) when to explain how ‘all of happiness is in culture and justice’ he depicts a relation (that recurs more elaborately in T22) which, though still enormously strong, is not quite as strong as would be required by identity. The doubt seeps into T15 when we note that current usage did allow just that relation as a respectable use of ‘the same’. At that point we begin to wonder if resort to the Identity Thesis might not be just a first approximation to a subtler, more finely nuanced, doctrine which would give Socrates as sound a foundation for what we know he wants to maintain at all costs - the Sovereignty of Virtue - without obliterating the eudaemonic value of everything else in his world. We cast about for a credible model of such a relation of virtue to happiness and hit on that multicomponent pattern sketched on p. 9 above. We ascertain that this will afford a comprehensively coherent eudaemonist theory of rational action, while its rival would not, and will fit perfectly a flock of texts in Section V which the latter will not fit at all. Are we not entitled to conclude that this is our best guide to the true relation of virtue to happiness in Socrates' thought - the one for which he would have declared if he had formulated explicitly those two alternative theses and made a reasoned choice between them? (shrink)
Bringing between two covers the most influential and accessible articles on Plato's Republic, this collection illuminates what is widely held to be the most important work of Western philosophy and political theory. It will be valuable not only to philosophers, but to political theorists, historians, classicists, literary scholars, and interested general readers.