The Arousal of Emotion in Plato's Dialogues - D. L. Blank

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  • 8/12/2019 The Arousal of Emotion in Plato's Dialogues - D. L. Blank


    The Arousal of Emotion in Plato's DialoguesAuthor(s): David L. BlankSource: The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 43, No. 2 (1993), pp. 428-439Published by: Cambridge University Presson behalf of The Classical AssociationStable URL:

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  • 8/12/2019 The Arousal of Emotion in Plato's Dialogues - D. L. Blank


    ClassicalQuarterly3 (ii)428-439(1993)Printedn GreatBritain 428


    In Aeschines' dialogue Alcibiades,Socrates sees his brilliant young partner'shaughtyattitude towards the great Themistocles. Thereupon he gives an encomium ofThemistocles, a man whose wisdom and arete, great as they were, could not save himfrom ostracism by his own people. This encomium has an extraordinary effect onAlcibiades: he cries and in his despair places his head upon Socrates' knee, realizingthat he is nowhere near as good a man as Themistocles (Aesch., Alc. fr. 9 Dittm. =Ael. Aristid. 286.2). Aeschines later has Socrates say that he would have been foolishto think he could have helped Alcibiades by virtue of any art or knowledge, butnonetheless by some divine dispensation he has, in virtue of the eros he felt for theyouth, been allowed to make him better (fr. I la, c Dittm. = Ael. Aristid., Rhet. 17).A similar picture of Socrates is presented in Plato's Apology: Socrates is a gadflyannoying the body politic of Athens (30e); his purpose is not to convey anyknowledge or information (33ab), but simply to wake people up to the fact that theydo not know what they think they know and that, in order to become better, theymust care for their own souls more than for any other possessions (36c).This Socrates is often' distinguished from that of the other Platonic dialogues, eventhose usually called 'Socratic'. There Socrates' stock in trade is complex argumentsabout the virtues and other moral questions. The agreement between the PlatonicApology and Aeschines is then taken to point to the historical Socrates, while theSocrates of philosophical argumentation is attributed more to a Platonic trans-mogrification, preparatory to Plato's later abandonment of Socratic theses for hisown philosophy and to his ultimate abandonment of Socrates as a character.I want to argue that there is no conflict between the gadfly Socrates, whose primaryeffect on his associates is emotional and protreptic, and the philosophical arguer ofthe Platonic dialogues. The intended effect of Plato's arguments is essentially, thoughby no means exclusively, emotional: his logic affects us while it teaches. Thisemotional manipulation is a chief aim of the Platonic dialogues, almost all the waythrough Plato's output (perhaps only Tm. and Lgg. are to be excluded).2Of course, I am not claiming that arguments are unimportant to the Platonicdialogues. Arguments subtle and profound, crass and petty, good, bad, andindifferentobviously make up the bulk of the dialogues.3The question is ratherwhatare the arguments good for; what do the participants and we get out of them?

    1 E.g., K. Ddring, 'Der Sokratesdes Aeschinesvon Spettos und die Frage nach demhistorischen Sokrates', Hermes 112 (1984) 27-9.2 One of the few to note this sort of effect was K. Gaiser, Platone come scrittorefilosofico(Istituto Italiano per gli studi filosofici. Lezioni della scuola di studi superiori in Napoli 2;Napoli 1984) 41: 'La componente poetica e artistica di questi dialoghi non deve manifestarsisolamente nella loro forma, ma anche e sopratutto nell'effetto che provoca sul lettore', and 43f.:'...Platone nei suoi dialoghi caratterizzain modo ben preciso l'effetto dei colloqui e dei discorsifilosofici. Secondo queste affermazioni di Platone l'effetto principale dei suoi dialoghi letterarinon e cercarsi nella comunicazione di dottrine, ma nelle funzioni psicagogiche: essi intendonoliberareil lettore da legami erronei, stimolarlo, incoraggiarloe confermarlo nella sua aspirazioneverso l'Arete e l'Eudaimonia'.' For some considerations on the nature of Platonic arguments, see now M. Frede, 'Plato'sArguments and the Dialogue Form', OSAP Suppl. Vol. 'Methods of InterpretingPlato and hisDialogues', ed. J. C. Klagge and N. D. Smith (Oxford, 1992) 201-19.

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  • 8/12/2019 The Arousal of Emotion in Plato's Dialogues - D. L. Blank


    EMOTION IN PLATO'S DIALOGUES 429Obviously, I would not ask this question if I thought it had a simple answer like: 'welearn that Virtue is knowledge, that all Virtue is one, that Forms are the ultimatecause of all things' existence, etc.' To take one of these answers, I have tried to showelsewherethat the Platonic Socrates (to say nothing of the real one) does not advocatea thesis of the unity of Virtue, nor do his argumentsabout this topic in the Protagorasamount to such an advocacy. Socrates picks up on Protagoras' own notion that theVirtues are somehow one thing because he knows he can show that it is the ill-formedthesis of a sophist ignorant not only about Virtue but even about how one mustconduct a philosophical examination of Virtue. Socrates' argumentation about thewhole of Virtue vs. its parts and about the relation of Virtue to knowledge is designedto illustrate some of the semantic and pragmatic methods which one must explore inany philosophical discussion of Virtue and the pitfalls awaiting the unwary exploreron these paths.

    Now, the Protagoras ends in aporia, but even if it did not, a look at the types ofdialectic available to Plato would show that we should not have expected thecharacter Socrates to be committed to any conclusions reached dialectically - nomore than we could expect the author Plato to be committed to the conclusionsreached by his fictional characters. From Plato's dialogues and from Aristotle'sTopics,a contemporary handbook of dialectic, we know quite a lot about the practiceof dialectic discussion in Plato's time.Aristotle divided dialectic discussion into four forms, called didascalic, dialectic,peirastic, and sophistic. Aristotle distinguishes them on the basis of their startingpoints: principles appropriate to the subject, reputable opinion, the beliefs of therespondent, and seemingly reputable opinion respectively.4Leaving aside sophistic, Iwill quickly review the first three forms.In didascalic dialectic, the respondent shows by making a false statement that heis ignorant of some truth. The questioner asks questions which are designed to bringthe respondent to see the truth of which he had been ignorant. In this situation, thequestioner must already know the truth to which he will lead the respondent, and therespondent's answers can have no important effect on the course of the conversation.As Aristotle says (SE 165b2-3), the demonstration proceeds from the principlesproper to the topic, not from the respondent's beliefs. Not many of the argumentsfound in the Platonic dialogues exhibit this form. One which does is the geometricdemonstration conducted with the slave in the Meno.Peirastic dialectic is very common in the Socratic dialogues of Plato, and it is herethat Aristotle places Socratic questioning.5 The respondent makes a statement, and

    4 SE 165a37-b8: "Ea'rt '7 rv iv rd L8taA'yEuOaLAdywv r'rrapa ydv'q, S&uaaKaALKoLKattlaAEKTLKOL' t TEpaaTTLKO KLpat PUTLKOL, UaaKaALKOLLEV OL, EK TWV OLKELWlVdpPXjvKCduTovU taOj~LaTro Kat oK KE vroOi d7TOKpvotlavov o80Uv AAOyL5dtVOLE i yapLa'EVEWVrbV utavOdvovra), sLaAEKT'LKO'' oL .K -rdv 48vdwov uvAAoyLurLKo~'dvrqao(TEwS,7TELparUTLKOL~ o, K rdV 80KOV7rWV 7 cd7TOKptVOp,L"L) Kata vayKatWv EiEgvaLcr7TpouTotLovLvp EXELV riv Taryjprqv (6dvrpd"ov 8", Stcpturat .v rpots), IptuTrLKO~ O~' K-rdv q awoCtzvwv vd"wv tz~7 v-rwv E uvAAoya-rLKoL1 "atvodttkvot uvAAoyt-ruLKoL.See alsoFrede (op. cit. in n. 3) 208ff.5 SE 183b7; a37-b8: HpoEAdC4LEa ptzv ozyv E pELlv &vactLv r-va uvAAoytu-rLKv 7TEpLt ofi7TpofAqOvroS ~iK7-JV zTapXdv0rwv w .viofordrwvr 70rov0o ap ipyov a"r 7'jr StaAEKTLKijSKaO' aUvT7vKat' -r' 7Ttpaa(-rWU9.~.TX'L SE '7poaKa-raaKEva ?Erat rpoS aUOr7v ta,rv Tr7SaoqoaurLKr7s ytrvlaaLv, o tiLOdvovTEripav vVaraL Aa