Federation of Australian Philosophy for Children Associations
Place of publication
Although it has its origins earlier, philosophy as we know it in the West took its shape from the Socrates of Plato's Dialogues. It is not implausible to regard the Dialogues as heuristic devices designed for engaging in philosophical inquiry. As such, they would model the process of philosophical inquiry as well as illustrate the common pitfalls or errors to avoid when engaging in such inquiry. So it will not be surprising to see Socrates, the character of the Dialogues, modeling questionable, even poor, inquiry techniques as well as good; admonishing other characters for poor technique and reminding them of lessons they should have learned earlier in their tuition. Plato presumably would expect students reading and role-playing a Dialogue to recognise when and where such instances occur. It is instructive then to take a close look at one of the longer dialogues featuring Socrates engaging in such inquiry, not with an untutored interlocutor, but with a professional, the sophist Protagoras, in order to identify the features of the inquiry itself. For this will reveal something of what Plato conceived to be the activity of philosophy to which we are the heirs. The Protagoras can be read as an illustration (not a definition) of how to do philosophy. And to aid this reading, I propose to focus on the logical form of the inquiry, the moves made by the characters and the techniques displayed, rather than the adequacy of the substantive arguments they mount.
Field of Research
220316 Philosophy of Specific Cultures (incl Comparative Philosophy)