Monday, June 30, 2008

The Form of the Argument

I spent the last several days going through big piles of books on Socrates. Oddly, the Chapter on Socrates only has 900 words and is not much different than it would have been if I did not read through the reams of books.

Socrates is clearly one of the most important philosophers of western history. You can follow threads of his thought throughout history.

Mentioning everything that is interesting about this great thinker would take days. The question in my mind is if I should point out the many things of interest or only mention those things that I will use later in the work. I chose to only mention the things I intend to use later.

This brings me back to myth. The process of cherry picking history to prove a thesis creates a myth of history. Of course, these myth-like distortions form the foundations of our language.

Socrates did not write down his words. So it is impossible to say definitively what he meant. The Library is full of large works speculating about what people think he might have said. It is impossible to move beyond speculation.

The goal of my chapter on the Socratic Method was to present the method as a form of open equiry aimed at clarifying definitions.

I also wish to emphasize that there is a similar style of argument where a Socrates-wannabe approaches an enemy with an absurdist QA sessions aimed at muddling their opponent's definitions. Often the goal of the Socrates-wannabe is to associate negative labels with the opponent.

Using a "Socratic-like" QA session to attack one's enemies is not open enquiry. It is a form of intellectual thuggery that ultimately destroys society's ability to engage in reason.

So my goal is not to examine Socratic Dialogues in detail, but to encourage people to think of the form of the argument.

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