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But Socrates, what is it that you do? Education and the Discourse of Plato's Socrates

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Title: But Socrates, what is it that you do? Education and the Discourse of Plato's Socrates
Author: Jaklic, Emily
Department: Department of Philosophy
Program: Philosophy
Advisor: Russon, John
Abstract: In this this dissertation, I attempt to determine whether or not the discourse of Plato’s Socrates is educational in its nature. I conclude that Socrates’ discourse of cross-examination is essential to the educational enterprise specifically because it creates opportunities for individuals to give consideration to their opinions about human excellence, deliberate upon them carefully, and consider whether or not they are persuaded by the reasons that they use to justify their beliefs about human excellence. In this way, Socrates’ discourse creates opportunities for individuals to educate themselves about human excellence, thereby becoming not just independent learners, but human beings whose beliefs about human excellence are truly their own, and are not just received opinions. In other words, through his discourse, Socrates creates opportunities for individuals to free themselves from being subject to the tyranny of tradition and popular opinion with respect to their beliefs about human excellence. This is an important step in the development of true citizens capable of genuine, responsible deliberation concerning what is best for their community or state as a whole. However, despite its potential educational benefits, Socrates’ cross-examination does not, and cannot, constitute a complete educational “method” or “programme” by itself. There is no single form of discourse that qualifies as “educational”; instead, education is an activity that must make use of many different forms of discourse if it is to achieve its aim of improving human beings by directing their attention (and activity) towards the good. Moreover, although Socrates’ discourse can make an important contribution to the education of human beings when utilized the right way, in the right hands, it also has the potential to exert a corrupting influence on people. Hence, Socrates’ discourse shares the same potential for both educational benefit and corruption that other forms of discourse – including ones that are employed by individuals who actively oppose Socrates – do.
Date: 2013-09

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