Belief and Persuasion in the Socratic Elenchus

Dylan Brian Futter, Fordham University


This dissertation is an inquiry into the Socratic Method as exhibited in Plato's early dialogues, or, as it has come to be known, the Socratic elenchus. The dissertation argues, contrary to the scholarly orthodoxy, that Socrates' ultimate (other-regarding) aim in conversation is to motivate and equip his interlocutor for the living of the examined life; in other words, the Socratic conversation is philosophical protreptic. With respect to Socrates' methodological behaviour, it argues, again contrary to the scholarly orthodoxy, that Socrates' method is not an argumentative, but an interrogative, method. First, since the goal of converting the interlocutor to the examined life is equivalent to getting him to take responsibility for himself, the "question", with its directive illocutionary force, is well suited to expressing the demand for self-examination. Secondly, the elenchus is a method of ironic questioning, which is capable of improving the state of an interlocutor's moral knowledge. Socrates' interlocutor is converted to the examined life when he internalises the Socratic capacity for ironic questioning. ^

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Recommended Citation

Dylan Brian Futter, "Belief and Persuasion in the Socratic Elenchus" (January 1, 2010). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI3431929.