Socrates on Why We Should Inquire

Ancient Philosophy 37 (1):1-17 (2017)
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Abstract

This paper examines whether Socrates provides his interlocutors with good reasons to seek knowledge of what virtue is, reasons that they are in a position to appreciate. I argue that in the Laches he does provide such reasons, but they are not the reasons that are most commonly identified as Socratic. Socrates thinks his interlocutors should be motivated not by the idea that virtue is knowledge nor by the idea that knowledge is good for its own sake, but rather by the idea that knowledge is needed to recognize what to aim at. His argument reaches the potentially life-altering conclusion that we should all seek knowledge of what virtue is. It is powerful precisely because it relies on uncontroversial premises that his interlocutors could be expected to accept. In laying out this argument, I distinguish different ways in which someone could count as a teacher of virtue. At the end of the article, I situate the argument within the debate about whether virtue is teachable.

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David Ebrey
Universitat de Barcelona

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