How Socratic Was Socrates?


Adversarialism, eh? Alright then, to start I want to point out that philosophers have been pushing this macho schtick from the beginning. Socrates is indeed their hero; if only they could do what he does, whether it be reducing their debating partners to silence or, even better, extracting succinct concessions to their intellectual superiority: “Yes, Socrates,” “You are quite right, Socrates,” “That is indeed true, Socrates,” “I dare say, Socrates,” and so on…

Socrates was an asshole. Imagine how frustrating it must have been to try and explore ideas with this elenchic-obsessed wanker who never, ever listens. Don’t believe them when they tell you that he raised his questions in good faith! In fact, not once in all of Plato’s so-called dialogues does Socrates say something like “you’re right, I was mistaken” or “I never thought of it that way before” or “thank you, I’ve really learned something here.” One translation of the ancient Greek “dia-” is “between,” which tells us that genuine dialogue requires at least two interlocutors (since only that way can there be a between) each of whom is open to being changed by what they hear. Otherwise, you get only unidirectional monologue. “It wasn’t at all like conversation,” thought Alice, “as he never said anything to her.”

That’s from a post on adversarialism in philosophy from the new blog, Digressions, by Charles Blattberg (Université de Montréal) and Yves Couture (Université du Québec à Montréal).

Related: Defending Philosophy’s Adversarial Culture

Update: Socrates Gets Socrateased.

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