The Ontology of Socratic Questioning in Plato's Early Dialogues
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A provocative close reading revealing a radical, proto-phenomenological Socrates.
Winner of the 2013 Symposium Book Award, presented by the Symposium: Canadian Journal of Continental Philosophy
Modern interpreters of Plato's Socrates have generally taken the dialogues to be aimed at working out objective truth. Attending closely to the texts of the early dialogues and the question of virtue in particular, Sean D. Kirkland suggests that this approach is flawed—that such concern with discovering external facts rests on modern assumptions that would have been far from the minds of Socrates and his contemporaries. This isn't, however, to accuse Socrates of any kind of relativism. Through careful analysis of the original Greek and of a range of competing strands of Plato scholarship, Kirkland instead brings to light a radical, proto-phenomenological Socrates, for whom "what virtue is" is what has always already appeared as virtuous in everyday experience of the world, even if initial appearances are unsatisfactory or obscure and in need of greater scrutiny and clarification.
Sean D. Kirkland is Associate Professor of Philosophy at DePaul University.