Grounding reason : Socratic dialectic in Aristotle's Topics and Plato's Hipparchus, Minos, and Lovers.


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The primary purpose of this dissertation is to recover Aristotle’s and Plato’s teaching about dialectic. The dissertation contains two interrelated arguments. First, I argue that Plato and Aristotle share considerable common ground concerning Socratic dialectic. That is, both think that the critical examination of everyday opinions about what is choiceworthy (e.g., the good, the just, and the noble) has a momentous role to play in the grounding of science and the confirming of the choiceworthiness of the philosophic life. Second, I argue that this comparative project helpfully recovers unjustly neglected works of Plato’s political philosophy. This dissertation contains three main parts. Part one is one chapter investigating Aristotle’s teaching on dialectic in his Topics. I find that, according to Aristotle, dialectic is imminently needful for the “philosophic sciences,” the interdependency of our knowledge elevates the study of political opinions, and the practice of dialectic requires the employment of clever devices in order to get unguarded, honest admissions from interlocutors. The second part consists of three chapters on Plato. Chapter three is an examination of Plato’s Hipparchus, which is devoted to the love of gain or, on closer inspection, to what is genuinely good or beneficial for someone. Chapter four turns to Plato’s Minos, which investigates what law is and discloses the comprehensive character of the human things. Chapter five interprets Plato’s Lovers, which explores the relationship between philosophy and the noble and the place of erotic love in human life. Part two studies Plato’s teaching within these three dialogues and explains how Plato’s Socrates shows the desirability of the philosophic life through his examination of his interlocutor’s political opinions. I conclude, in Part Three, with a chapter spelling out the significant agreements between Plato and Aristotle on the purpose and procedure of Socratic dialectic on the basis of the preceding chapters. They agree that the dialectical examination of the choiceworthy has a momentous role to play in the attainment of science, for the comprehensive character of the human things makes them uniquely suited for clarifying our opinions about the character of the whole.