Socratic Ignorance and Platonic Knowledge in the Dialogues of Plato
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In this highly original and provocative book, Sara Ahbel-Rappe argues that the Platonic dialogues contain an esoteric Socrates who signifies a profound commitment to self-knowledge and whose appearances in the dialogues are meant to foster the practice of self-inquiry. According to Ahbel-Rappe, the elenchus, or inner examination, and the thesis that virtue is knowledge, are tools for a contemplative practice that teaches us how to investigate the mind and its objects directly. In other words, the Socratic persona of the dialogues represents wisdom, which is distinct from and serves as the larger space in which Platonic knowledge—ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics—is constructed. Ahbel-Rappe offers complete readings of the Apology, Charmides, Alcibiades I, Euthyphro, Lysis, Phaedrus, Theaetetus, and Parmenides, as well as parts of the Republic. Her interpretation challenges two common approaches to the figure of Socrates: the thesis that the dialogues represent an "early" Plato who later disavows his reliance on Socratic wisdom, and the thesis that Socratic ethics can best be expressed by the construct of eudaimonism or egoism.
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