Original Articles

The Concept of Persuasion in Plato’s Early and Middle Dialogues

Published in: South African Journal of Philosophy
Volume 28, issue 2, 2009 , pages: 102–113
DOI: 10.4314/sajpem.v28i2.46666
Author(s): Dylan FutterDepartment of Philosophy, South Africa


Plato’s early dialogues represent the failure of Socrates’ philosophical programme. They depict Socrates as someone whose mission requires that he make an intellectual and moral impact on those with whom he converses; and they portray him as almost never bringing about this result. One central problem, dramatised throughout the early dialogues, is that perceptual moral intuitions undermine the possibility of reason’s making significant changes to a person’s moral belief system. I argue that Republic presents a theory of education which aims to circumvent this problem by training people so that they become like Socrates. Socrates’ status as ideal reasoner is tied to his love of argument (philologia) and his ignorance. The Republic offers an account of how these characteristics may be (non-argumentatively) instilled, which creates the psychological space for the possibility of abandoning one’s basic moral beliefs, thus securing the possibility of moral improvement by argument.

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