By A.E. Taylor

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Vlastos seems to think that saying the opposite (or perhaps contrary) of what one means is relatively straightforward. indd 28 10/17/2012 9:20:04 AM SOCRATIC IRONY Although I do not have space to go through the arguments in any detail, the consensus, then, is that Socrates’ disavowal of knowledge is not an object of his irony, contrary to what Vlastos claims. But at the same time, there remains a lingering sense that if the disavowals are simply straightforwardly meant, and there is no irony or play at work, why would anyone need to argue that Socrates means just what he says?

The character Socrates cannot, as it were, know he is a character in dialogues written by Plato. But Socrates acts, impossibly, as though he were addressing Plato’s readers; Plato, of course, never breaks in and directly addresses his readers. The worry raised by Griswold, then, is that Socrates ironizes to no one for no one; for unheard irony is simply misunderstanding at best, and outright deceit at worst. Ferrari argues to the contrary that this is precisely part of the profundity of Socrates’ own irony: its solipsism.

Socrates principally pursues ethical knowledge with others, his interlocutors, and principally by engaging them in arguments. For convenience, I will refer to the manner in which Socrates pursues philosophia as ‘Socrates’ method’ or ‘the Socratic method’. Mainstream Anglophone scholarship on Socrates’ method over the past quarter century has been galvanized by Gregory Vlastos’s 1983a article ‘The Socratic Elenchus’. My review of this literature begins with Vlastos’s article and includes the following contributions: Kraut (1983), Vlastos (1983b), THE ‘SOCRATIC ELENCHUS’ ‘Elenchus’ is a Latinization of the Greek elenchos, which often in its original context and usually in the recent literature on Socrates’ method means ‘refutation’.

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