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Book details
  • SubGenre:Ethics & Moral Philosophy
  • Language:English
  • Pages:390
  • Paperback ISBN:9798350941142

Cave as Labyrinth

Plato's Meno and the Socratic Moment

by Alan Ponikvar

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In Cave as Labyrinth, Plato's Meno and the Socratic Moment (italicize title), Alan Ponikvar offers a reading of Plato's Meno (italicize title) in which he recollects what is said by the dialogue's protagonists in light of what is shown but left unsaid that takes the form of the argument exhibited in the dialogic action. In this way, Alan Ponikvar shows how this dialogue of questionable claims and flawed arguments can be made healthy and whole. The central challenge Plato poses for his reader is to show how a philosophic inquiry proceeds when the object of inquiry is altogether unknown. This is accomplished by Alan Ponikvar when he shows how what Meno experiences as a failed inquiry can be recollected to have been a success. Alan Ponikvar's reading of the Meno (italicize title) breaks almost at every point with the scholarly consensus as to what this dialogue is about.
In this study of Plato's Meno (italicize title), Alan Ponikvar offers an original understanding of Socrates' philosophic mission guided as it is by what it means for Socrates to be wise to his own ignorance. What is most peculiar about Socrates' wisdom is that it is a wisdom that he cannot share with his interlocutors given that it is not a wisdom capable of grounding or sustaining the polis. So, instead, it is a wisdom that is shown in the dialogic action. Plato challenges his reader to attend to the argument exhibited in the dialogic action. In this way, the reader is tasked to say what Socrates leaves unsaid. The central argument exhibited in the dialogic action is the argument that transforms Meno's paradox of learning through inquiry when the object of inquiry is something altogether unknown into a description of how such an inquiry has already taken place. The paradox proves to be an unwitting recollection of the just completed inquiry. Unknown to Meno, in discovering that he is ignorant of what virtue is, he has bumped into what he has been searching for without knowing that the discovery of his own ignorance has, indeed, been the object of his search. So, within the context of the dialogue, Meno's paradox can be recollected as Meno's unwitting self-parody. Not knowing what he has been searching for, Meno is unable to appreciate the significance of what he has discovered when he bumps into his own ignorance. For this to be a plausible reading of how the dialogic action complements what is said by Socrates and Meno, Alan Ponikvar first shows that the opening inquiry of the Meno (italicize title) gradually turns virtue into something that is, indeed, something entirely unknown. He then proceeds to explain how Socrates' myth of recollection, once it is recollected as to its true import (something Socrates reveals with his demonstration with one of Meno's slave boys), becomes a defense of Socrates' philosophic practice. Thus, in this dialogue that asks what virtue is and how virtue might be acquired, virtue itself is reconceived so that it might be viewed to vindicate Socrates' philosophic practice.
About the author
Alan Ponikvar is an independent scholar with a PhD in philosophy from the New School for Social Research.