SOCRATES' INVESTIGATIVE PROCEDURE AND PEDAGOGICAL STRATEGY

Socrates and Adeimantus begin to construct a “city in speech,” a hypothetical or theoretical (as opposed to an actual) city, because they want to know what justice is and because they hope that, as the city develops, it will be easier for them to spot justice and injustice in it than in a person’s soul, which is harder to observe (368c-369b). Socrates therefore sets out to build a realistic, “true” (372e6) city. Yet he attempts neither to narrate the historical development of a city12—accusations that the early city develops in a historically unrealistic way (e.g., Harris 2002, 72-74) are therefore unfair—nor to build a theoretical model of a city systematically from first principles, as Schofield’s characterization of “a sort of transcendental deduction of the very existence of the market” suggests (Schofield 1999, 76; followed by Weinstein 2009, 440).13 Rather, Socrates adopts what we might call an investigative procedure.

Presumably no one who is first discovering or inventing a theory articulates it fully and systematically while it is being discovered. Rather, in the process of discovery one moves back and forth between general and specific principles (if not also particular events), clarifying, extending, or correcting one’s initial notions wherever one realizes that such activities are needed. In the same way, Plato portrays Socrates in the process of discovering a systematic theory with Adeimantus, alternately (i) positing or clarifying general principles (e.g., reasons for the division of labor) and (ii) applying these by developing specific principles for specific kinds of cases (e.g., applying the division of labor to the production of raw materials or transportation). This alternating investigative procedure gives the appearance of a wandering conversation, but this does not prevent Socrates from producing an economic theory surprisingly systematic in content.14 Schumpeter does not notice that Plato’s purpose is not only to communicate ideas; in addition, Plato seeks to model the process of discovering ideas, and to lead the reader through his or her own process of discovery.

A further aspect of Plato’s writing has proven particularly difficult for modern interpreters to make sense of, as we will see—his use of different speakers in the dialogue. The most common mistake is to assume that all or most things Adeimantus, his brother Glaucon, or even Socrates says represent Plato’s own view. But the brothers do not merely “help [Socrates] expound elaborate theoretical constructions by friendly encouragement and the occasional well-placed question” (Schofield 1999, 70). Plato portrays Adeimantus and Glaucon as distinct individuals with their own character traits and prejudices. We will observe instances in which these prejudices—not Socrates’s (or Plato’s) own convictions—begin to introduce regulatory, static, aristocratic regime features into the city in speech. By having Socrates develop the early city before Glaucon and Adeimantus start influencing the course of later versions of the city, Plato sets up a contrast. As Socrates then allows the brothers to introduce new regime features into the city and helps them work out the consequences of those features (securing their approval at every step) in his attempts to help them know themselves better and to educate them, the city comes to embody a mix of principles introduced by all three interlocutors. Socrates’s pedagogical strategy requires that he allow his interlocutors to influence the course of their joint investigation.

In sum, Socrates, if not Plato, is usually indiscriminately held responsible for most of the features of the city introduced after the early city,15 but this is a mistake. Very little of Socrates’s pedagogy consists of simply telling Glaucon and Adeimantus what to believe. Distinguishing Socrates’s views from the brothers’ requires paying attention to which speaker introduces which principles as they jointly build the city, beginning with the early city and the subsequent turn to the city of luxury. It is these passages that are the focus of this chapter.

 
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