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On the Socratic Education by Christopher Bruell

By Christopher Bruell

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In making this claim, he is, without being fully aware of it, pointing toward a subclass of the very sort of knowledge excluded by Socrates' criteria and suggesting that knowledge of justice belongs to it. The teachers of justice, not only in his own case but generally, that he has in mind are "the many": the general run of human beings who, as it happens, also predominate in the Athenian assembly. And, as evidence of their ability to teach important things, he offers the example of their teaching him to speak Greek.

Is he even aware of that assumption and of its implication, as he would have to be in order to undertake the task of making (to himself) an adequate defense of what is after all a basis, not to say the basis, of the life he is straining towards? Someone might find fault with the procedure we have ascribed to Socrates here-and on the reasonable ground that it is impossible to acquire the knowledge that one needs for being a good man without being aware, or at least becoming aware, of the true purpose for which one is acquiring it: that is, without considering, as a distinct question, the question which Alcibiades has not so considered.

14. The new approach begins with an appeal to Alcibiades' political ambition, as the old too, while trying all along to move beyond it, had done. To make this argument convincing, Socrates must obviously increase Alcibiades' respect for those rivals or his fear of them (120c9-d3), which he can do either by elevating the youth's opinion of them or by lowering his opinion of himself or by doing both of these things. The first step is to tempt Alcibiades with a prospect that he is already more than tempted by: that of an easy victory over his Athenian rivals, a victory that need not be purchased at the price of acquiring an education.

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