Being Participation: The Ontology of the Socratic Method
The dialogue format in Plato’s works is often described as a method conducive to eliciting interlocutors’ inherent knowledge, or as a tool by which elenchus, valued for its own sake, can be achieved. But to understand Plato in either of these ways is to miss the significance of the dialogue format predominant in his corpus, as well as the metaphysical underpinnings of the dialectic relation. In this essay I interpret the limitations of knowledge in Plato’s corpus as a correlate of one’s claims to independent possession of knowledge. Explicitly, I argue for a Platonic analysis of the individual that bolsters the impetus to use dialogue, rather than instruction, as a primary tool for philosophical inquiry and for education in general. Plato’s criterion for doing philosophy well involves not only a subjective willingness to question one’s beliefs and to live by one’s vision, but also an objective demand to coordinate one’s beliefs with those of others –and ultimately– to acknowledge the interdependence of one’s own reality with that of others.