"Dialectics, the epitome of negative knowledge, will have nothing beside it; even a negative dialectics drags along the commandment of exclusiveness from the positive one, from the system. Such reasoning would require a non-dialectical consciousness to be negated as finite and fallible. In all its historical forms, dialectics prohibited stepping out of it . . . Although dialectics allows us to think the absolute, the absolute as transmitted by dialectics remains in bondage to conditioned thinking. "
Theodor Adorno, Negative Dialectics, 1969
We can get a clear idea of how complex and enigmatic Plato's Dialectic is by examining several scholastic attempts to fathom its essence. We'll inspect a self-assumed Plato expert's effort to understand Dialectic to see how academic philosophy's common tools of conjecture and presumption fail to achieve the least notion of the essence of this challenging Platonic concept--and science. We can sometimes get a clearer idea of what something is by examining what it is not.
In an essay entitled "Dialectic as a Mystical Discipline," Kent Peacock 1 has this to say about Plato's teachings:"Now, the obvious question which strikes the beginner, when he first hears of this notion of dialectic, is, how can mere conversation or debate lead to certain knowledge of the transcendental patterns after which the world is fashioned? It would be very unusual, to say the least, to expect such a remarkable conclusion to any familiar sort of dialectic, such as might, for instance, occur in this seminar room. In fact, it is rare that a philosophical debate (as opposed to a monologue!) comes to any sort of conclusion at all. For instance, we have before us as models the early Socratic dialogues, in which the debaters are left suspended in a state of aporeia, or uncertainty. And yet Plato tells us that dialectic is the special technique or method which brings the potential philosopher to the state of enlightenment which guarantees his authority and enables him to govern the City."
Yes, it would be unusual--ludicrous in fact--to expect "mere conversation or debate" to lead to understanding of Forms, as Plato says is possible with Dialectic. But, as we've seen in previous investigations, it's clear that Dialectic possesses an entirely different essence than conversation, debate, cross-examination, or any other ordinary kind of interchange. Dialectic involves participants moving into an altered state of consciousness; not the ordinary mind-set found in classroom discussion or debate.
"For if the power of this dialectic is so great, and the end of this path is so mighty, it is not proper to confound doxastic arguments, with a method of this kind . . .
"The doxastic method of reasoning has for its end the apparent, but the dialectic method endeavors to arrive at the One itself, always employing for this purpose steps of ascent, and at last, beautifully ends in the nature of the good."
Proclus (411-485 CE), The Theology of Plato
Peacock's foundering demonstrates that Plato's Dialectic is a phenomenon which can only be understood by persons who have experienced it. Peacock is forced, through lack of operative understanding of Dialectic, to make wild conjectures as to its true nature. He opines that it might be something like the Zen Buddhist practice of meditating on a koan, "a little story or puzzle whose meaning the student is asked to resolve, but which is hopelessly, almost fiendishly paradoxical. A well-known example is the demand to 'Tell me what is the sound of one hand clapping.'"
Peacock speculates that Dialectic and Zen koan contemplation are similar in "that enlightenment is achieved by deliberately forcing one's attention on an unresolvable paradox."
"The difference in method between Zen and Plato is that Plato uses interminable discussion to bring the student's mind to the necessary state, while the Buddhists use meditation. I think the Buddhist would argue that meditation is a much more effective means for achieving the end of enlightenment that he seeks. (Of course, interaction with the teacher is also a vital part of the process in Zen.) Zen Buddhism has the benefit of over two thousand years of practice in something that I think Plato was just beginning to get a glimmering of how to use."
Peacock, having never experienced either the supposed "enlightenment" of Zen koan contemplation or the true mystical state of Platonic Dialectic, can only presume that". . . the human mind has the peculiar ability that if it is deliberately and intensely focussed on a problematic situation for a long enough time, it can sometimes suddenly achieve a sudden resolution of the problem . . . My suggestion, which could only be supported by a thorough study of the historical literature, is that Plato or his followers became fascinated by the power of this faculty and decided to pursue it, using the medium of intense debate. This, I think, was the point of the process of dialectic; it was conversation designed to induce a burst of enlightenment, probably by focusing on an aporetic situation . . .
"I do not pretend to be certain of what this means . . . I rather doubt that Plato himself ever experienced this hypothetical supreme state of enlightenment that would enable one to see the Form of the Good directly. This is evidenced by the way in which Socrates introduces his description of the phenomenon, as if he were describing an aspiration, not an attainment. However, I do think that dialectic was practiced as a mystical discipline in the Academy, and that Plato undoubtedly achieved some sort of impressive, though perhaps inexpressible, illumination. Whatever he achieved was enough to excite his imagination and make him believe, or hope, that if dialectic were practiced well enough it would bring perception of the ultimate first principle, which he was sure must exist."
"The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato."
Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality, 1979
A counterfeit "Plato scholar" such as Peacock affects humility by saying that he doesn't pretend to be certain of what Plato means by Dialectic, then immediately expounds the veriest nonsense as if he totally comprehended the essence of this mystical phenomenon. The upshot of this pseudo-philosopher's uninformed conjectures about Plato's thought is Peacock's preposterous conclusion that "Zen is philosophically more sophisticated than Plato."
If you don't bother to study Plato's thought with the level of diligence, reflection, and participation it requires--what Proclus termed "the arduous sublimities of this contemplation"--you wind up with this kind of absurd misrepresentation of Plato in general and Dialectic in particular.
Peacock and other academics of the same ilk are unaware that the mystical science of Platonic dialectic has been practiced by Perennialist teachers ever since the time of Socrates. Proclus, for example, did not merely theorize about Platonic dialectic, he used it in his private life alone and with his associates and students. Boethius practiced inner dialectic and chose to write his Emboldenment of Philosophy in the dialogue form.
Discussing Proclus' use of Platonic dialectic, this scholastic is unable to understand the dynamic of dialectic in the life of advanced thinkers.
"For Proclus Plato was the first scientific philosopher and it is only in Plato's writings that the scientific exposition of truth is to be found . . . Elaborating an approach inspired, it appears, in some respects by his teacher Syrianus, Proclus conceived of dialectic very much after the pattern of the structure of geometry as he understood it: dialectic is a demonstrative science, explicating certain a priori metaphysical truths given in the soul. These truths are more profound and general than geometrical axioms, concerning as they do the first principles of all reality, the gods." 2
"It is easy to collect its [Platonic philosophy's] pre-eminence to all other philosophies; to show that where they oppose it, they are erroneous; that so far as they contain any thing scientific they are allied to it; and that at best they are but rivulets derived from this vast ocean of truth."
Thomas Taylor, "Introduction to the Philosophy and Writings of Plato"
Earlier Distortion of Platonic Dialectic
The distortion, misinterpretation, and perversion of Plato's conception of Dialectic by his successors began even during his life and have continued ever since, ending with the deliberate mangling of Plato's thought by such pseudo-scholars as Karl Popper, Leo Strauss, and their reactionary neo-con disciples.
It's interesting to note that Aristotle, a student in Plato's Academy, completely missed the true meaning of Dialectic. In his Seventh Letter, Plato made it clear that only specially qualified and attuned students can be selected 3 to be initiated into this esoteric phenomenon. Clearly, Plato was not able to include Aristotle, which speaks volumes about Aristotle's deficiencies.
Aristotle's misunderstanding of Platonic Dialectic resulted in his statement: "The dialectic is merely critical where philosophy claims to know." To Plato the Dialectic was the path to understanding of the Forms. Aristotle believed that philosophy was the ultimate and dialectic was merely a path of right reason, a method of sound rational thinking. With Aristotle, Dialectic became merely a methodology of logic.
Aristotle not only distorted Platonic Dialectic, but other fundamental elements of Plato's philosophy such as the concept of Forms. Unfortunately, many of the early pseudo-Christian scholastics, such as Augustine and Aquinas, used Aristotle as a foundation for their theological dogmas, while de-emphasizing or ignoring Plato's thought. Aristotle's philosophical and cosmological malformations were major factors in the horrendous debasement of human life that we call the Dark Ages.
Following Aristotle, the Stoics made of dialectic a merely formal discipline within logic. The Stoics divided logic into grammar and dialectic. From then on, through the Middle Ages, the term dialectic became synonymous with formal logic. This view was the basis of the seven liberal arts which for centuries constituted the intellectual studies believed to be requisite for an educated person. Grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic (formal logic) made up the Trivium. Arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music made up the Quadrivium.
We can see how far understanding of Dialectic devolved with Aristotle and the Stoics, but interpretation of this elemental phenomenon was to undergo even more fatal distortions and misinterpretations. Kant believed that logic contained two aspects: general logic and particular logic, with general logic containing analytic and dialectic logic. Kant, working from nothing but his own uninformed conjectures, believed that general analytical logic was valid, at least as a method for disproving assertions. But general dialectical logic he declared was "an organon," a logic of illusion.
"Now general logic in its assumed character of organon, is called dialectic. Different as are the signification in which the ancients used this term for a science or an art, we may safely infer, from their actual employment of it, that with them it was nothing else than a logic of illusion a sophistical art for giving ignorance the coloring of truth, in which the thoroughness of procedure which logic requires was imitated, and their topic employed to cloak the empty pretensions."
Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Pure Reason
Immanuel Kant's pathetic attempt to vilify Plato as a metaphysical charlatan is actually an indictment of Kant. In his totally incoherent jargon, Kant claimed that Plato attempts to "prove the existence of a priori notions that make synthetic statements possible through reference to perceptions that have their sources not in human understanding but in the primordial ground (Urgrund) of all things."
Kant accuses Plato of creating these "perceptions" out of thin air, mere subjective feelings. Plato's effort, Kant claimed, involves a "mystical illumination," which brands him as having fallen into Schwarmerei (the enthusiasm of philosophical imposters) that is "the death of all philosophy." Thus for Kant, Plato was the charlatan par excellence--nothing more.
Anyone who has found it required, for whatever reason (taking a graduate course at Yale Graduate School in my case), to plod through the unreadable volumes of Kant's philosophy, comes away with the clear and distinct perception that the death of academic philosophy is the work of scholastics such as Kant.
Accepting Kant's assessment that dialectical reasoning led to contradictions, Hegel nonetheless rejected the assumption that it was therefore an illusion. Instead, he contrived a completely theoretical schema in which the contradictions involved in Kantian dialectic became the true form of reality. Hegel believed that his newly hatched artifice turned the world upside down. He considered his brand of "dialectic" to be a new form of metaphysical reason, a "higher consciousness," a "new way of thinking," "an elevation of the mind" based on utter rejection of the old-fashioned laws of thought and earlier outmoded philosophy.
Hegel believed he was initiating an even more profound revolution than Aristotle by revealing to the world what he thought was the Higher Logic of dialectic.
"The fact that it has been necessary to make a completely fresh start with this science [of dialectic], the very nature of the subject matter and the absence of any previous works which might have been utilized for the projected reconstruction of logic, may be taken into account by fair-minded critics, even though a labor covering many years has been unable to give this effort a greater perfection. The essential point of view is that what is involved is an altogether new concept of scientific procedure."
Hegel, The Science of Logic
As with all metaphysical charlatans, Hegel claimed that his "new system" could not be stated in common sense terms or validly deduced conclusions. He asserted that his method involved grasping "opposites in their unity, the positive in the negative" He alleged that his conception of dialectic was "a movement of truth in spirit" and as such could not be defined or stated in propositions, only to be grasped in its whole and not summarized. To any contemporary Hegelian true believer, any attempt to explain the Hegelian dialectical method distorts it. Hegelian disciples take on the fantasy-thinking of their Master, as we see in the neo-con madness stalking the world.
Accepting Hegel's dogma that contradiction is the elemental moving principle of the world, Karl Marx claimed to have turned Hegel's whole system on its head, maintaining that the Hegelian movement of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis could be used to explain--and predict--the course of human history. Thus was born the preposterous nonsense termed dialectical materialism.
This next section is exceptionally dense in terms of the delineation of the arguments of Plato scholars and their refutation. If you don't wish to explore this more complex material, you may want to skip to the concluding section by clicking here.
Contemporary Distortions of Platonic Dialectic
One of the more recent failed attempts to understand Dialectic was carried out by the physicist David Bohm (1917-1992). He tried to discern the essence of group interchange, writing a book (On Dialogue) and organizing dialogue groups. Unfortunately, Bohm and those associated with him, were unable to understand the underlying dynamic of Platonic Dialectic, so their efforts came to naught. Failing to realize that he would have to undertake an in-depth study of Plato's dialogues in order to comprehend the profound phenomenon Dialectic, Bohm arrived at such errors as this:"The dialogue is not aimed at settling anything. We explore meaning together--the creative perception of meaning--thinking together and feeling together. But meaning is active. It is not merely sitting there. The consideration of this meaning may act--or it may not. The whole point of having the Dialogue is that we're not trying to produce a result. That's very important. It may never do it. Or it may do it at some moment when we least expect it. The seed has been planted. And the meaning is naturally, spontaneously active and transformative."
David Bohm, "On Meaning, Purpose and Exploration in Dialogue"
Persons such as Bohm assume we can merely get a group of people together, let them founder, and something worthwhile will result.
"On the surface, dialogue is a relatively straightforward activity. A group of fifteen to forty people (Bohm's suggestions regarding numbers varied) voluntarily convene in a circle. After some initial clarification as to the nature of the process, the group is faced with how to proceed. As the group has convened with no preset agenda, settling into an agreeable topic (or topics) may take some time, and generate some frustration. In these early stages, a facilitator is useful, but the facilitator role should be relinquished as quickly as possible, leaving the group to charts its own course. Experience has shown that if such a group continues to meet regularly, social conventions begin to wear thin, and the content of sub-cultural differences begins to assert itself, regardless of the topic du jour. This emergent friction between contrasting values is at the heart of dialogue, in that it allows the participants to notice the assumptions that are active in the group, including one's own personal assumptions. Recognizing the power of these assumptions and attending to their 'virus-like' nature may lead to a new understanding of the fragmentary and self-destructive nature of many of our thought processes. With such understanding, defensive posturing can diminish, and a quality of natural warmth and fellowship can infuse the group."
Lee Nichol, Foreword to Bohm, On Dialogue, 1996
"This was the Socratic method, the dialectic, maieutic (maieutikos) method: to lead the mind, by attractiveness, to self-discovery . . . Socratic dialectic is used to determine and to pursue human excellence."
David Fortunoff, "Dialogue, Dialectic, and Maieutic:
Plato's Dialogues As Educational Models"
Platonic Dialectic has been disfigured and misinterpreted by malformed concepts to the point that standard dictionaries now define Dialectic in these distortive terms (The American Heritage Dictionary, 2000):
- The art or practice of arriving at the truth by the exchange of logical arguments
- The process especially associated with Hegel of arriving at the truth by stating a thesis, developing a contradictory antithesis, and combining and resolving them into a coherent synthesis
In this and most other dictionaries, Plato is not even mentioned in defining "dialectic."
Our difficulty in comprehending Dialectic is in part because our Western conception of how we apprehend Reality is articulated in terms of knowledge: "the body of truth, information, and principles acquired by mankind." Our comprehension of the world is thought to be involved with external objects and eventuate in information, facts, and data. For example, we assume that if we comprehend Plato's teachings then we will arrive inevitably at a system of doctrines which he expounded. This body of ideas and concepts can then be taught as a series of propositions which a student could memorize and then be said to have full comprehension of Platonism.
". . . To put it bluntly, philosophy meant to Plato not a doctrine, still less a metaphysical system. He was fully aware of the obvious truth that final results are beyond man, and therefore not to be looked for in philosophy. Hence he can only find scorn for all those who vindicate for themselves an infallible authority and the right to speak and teach, as it were, ex cathedra. Such arrogant and overbearing behaviour is, in his eyes, quite irreconcilable with the character of a genuine philosopher. For in his opinion philosophy is essentially nothing but a sincere love of truth, and a relentless striving after it, as far as this is compatible with our mortal frames; and the only true philosopher is he, who, as a humble seeker after truth, does not presume 'to have apprehended' already, but is always 'reaching forth unto those things which are before.'" Hermann Gauss, Plato's Conception of Philosophy, 1974
Dialectic, Plato makes it clear, is not ordinary science: the form of thought which eventuates in data, hypotheses, concepts, and doctrines--knowledge. Plato's dialogues do not expound dogmas or a preconceived system of thought, they are expositions of the dialectical process for the purpose of teaching the participants--Socrates' interlocutors and modern readers--how to carry out transformative interchange. Philosophers engage in Dialectic to attain understanding, not knowledge. Understanding is a process, an art, and a skill. Knowledge is fixed content, information, and data. Dialectical philosophy is a way of life, not a memorization of doctrines.
For it will now appear that the highest end of philosophy is no more to be sought in mere knowledge, but rather in wisdom, that is, in the great art of seeing things in their due proportion, and according to their true values, and of acting in harmony with this understanding. And philosophy itself must no longer be considered to be primarily an intellectual pursuit, but rather becomes, as it has already been hinted at, a walk of life, based, as it seems, on the momentous decision to try at all times and in all circumstances to find out what is the best state for things to be in, and then to live so as to help to bring about that state." Hermann Gauss, Plato's Conception of Philosophy, 1974
This is not to say that Plato's dialogues are merely dramatic representations of the process of Dialectical interchange, containing no information about what Socrates and Plato believed and practiced. In reading Plato's dialogues we must interpret what is being said and done so we come away with an understanding of Plato's ideas and methodologies--as well as participatory involvement in the dramatic events. In emphasizing the dramatic element of Plato's dialogues, scholars such as James. A. Arieti, Victorino Tejera, and Gerald A. Press go to the extreme in seeing the conceptual content of the dialogues as subordinate to the element of drama.
These considerations have devolved into two opposing schools of thought:
- Doctrinal, non-dramatic view: ". . . Plato's philosophy is a matter of doctrines or dogmas . . ." and ". . . the dramatic dialogue is merely the form in which these doctrines are presented and is therefore essential neither to Plato's philosophy nor to the right interpretation of the dialogues." 4
- Dramatic view: ". . . If there is anything that can be reasonably described as 'the meaning' in or of a dialogue, it cannot be attained by extraction or abstraction from the dramatic context." 5
Gerald A. Press, a staunch advocate of the dramatic view, makes inordinate and erroneous claims for this point of view:". . . A new mode of interpretation has been slowly developing, which shares, in varying degrees, three orientations: it is literarily sensitive (or dramatic), taking literary elements as essential aspects of the dialogues; it is contextual, taking into consideration the ascertainable intellectual, social, and political contexts in which the dialogues were produced, rather than examining arguments extracted from their full context; and it is nondogmatic, not assuming that Plato has settled philosophic doctrines and arguments ('Platonism') that he is communicating to us through the dialogues." 6
Victorino Tejera, advocating the dramatic view of interpreting Plato's dialogues, is quite right in rejecting some of the more extreme assumptions of the doctrinal view:". . . (i) that the only kind of coherence which 'philosophers' may admit is deductive consistency, and (ii) that, therefore, if a discourse is not intelligible as a series of consistent propositions, it is a defective discourse--or, worse yet, it is a discourse of no interest to 'philosophers.' Current logicalist thinkers have forgotten that systemic coherence may be aesthetic (plastic or poetic), behavioral (practical or teleological), or organic (literally or metaphorically 'organic')." 7However, Tejera goes to the extreme in rejecting the doctrinal view altogether."A reader who has a strong perception of, and response to, their expressive form as constitutive of the effectiveness of Plato's dialogues, at the same time that he or she persists in isolating and extracting doctrinal propositions from them, without feeling the contradiction, is a reader who in spite of her sensibility must be said to be lacking in literary competence or, else, is going by misleading collateral information." 8
Plato's dialogues constitute both expressions of his ideas and methodologies and dramatic presentations of Dialectical events. Contrary to Press and Tejera, the dialogues can be and should be read from both these points of view. If we're to understand Plato's dialogues, we must interpret them both in terms of what is said and what is done, both in terms of what Plato is teaching and how Plato is using the dramatic form to teach. Academics such as Press and Tejera pretend to be able to read Plato's dialogues in an exclusively "interpretation of the dramatic element" mode, without in the least "extracting doctrinal propositions." But their practice belies their claims. In his book Plato's Dialogues One By One, Tejera subjectively interprets the dramatic elements of Plato's Phaedo. For example, he asserts that"Plato is showing his reader how other Pythagoreans than Simmias and Kebes were already taking the arguments reproduced in Phaedo's narrative with complete literalness, and missing the irony and courtesy with which they were being advanced in the dramatized prison scene." 9
Tejera's personal interpretation of how Plato is using dramatic effect in the Phaedo is something with which many persons who study Plato would disagree. Tejera affects to be able to interpret Plato's dialogues solely in their dramatic mode without "isolating and extracting doctrinal propositions from them." The presumption that Plato is "showing his reader" something by his inclusion of certain content is a personal interpretation of the intent and structure of the dialogue, whether Tejera wants to admit--or recognize--it or not.
Anyone, Tejera included, subjectively deciphers the elements within Plato's dialogues according to his or her point of view. To take another example, Tejera portrays Socrates as believing that he has won an ultimate victory because his martyrdom will make him immortal. I would say that this reading of Socrates is completely false. If we credit what Plato says about Socrates in the Phaedo--and all the other dialogues--we get a clear picture of a man who was not in the least egotistically involved in what his reputation would be after his death.
The correct approach to an understanding of Plato's dialogues is to consider both what he is teaching in terms of ideas and procedures and how he is teaching--in the dramatic form of the dialogue. It's clearly incorrect when Tejera says that ". . . a Socrates with doctrines at once changes the genre of the dialogue he is in, from a dramatic multivoiced interaction into a monologous disquisition disguised as a conversation, with the assertive intent of enforcing previously conceptualized points of view." 10
However we read Plato's dialogues, we depict the participants in a certain light and we explicate the events within the dialogue according to our individual perspective.
Contemporary Distortions of Platonic Dialectic
Working within the context of the New Dialectic--explicated below--the author has encountered several new distortions of dialectical interchange which persons have attempted to foist on Plato's concept/science:
- Attempting to make dialectical interchange a kind of performance during which a person can "show off"
The person attempting this perversion of dialectical interchange was a probationary student in a study program. This student had been able to achieve a modicum of essential life-stability which he had earlier refused to effect, but as the interchange demonstrates, he was still basically incapable of participating in advanced study or genuine interchange. As in his life to this point, he assumed that his "good ole boy" just gittin' along, superficial, stream-of-consciousness, failed attempts at humor and "profundity" were deep insights and a way for him to score "points" with other participants--and merely to show off--in dialectical interchange. It had recently been necessary to exclude him from direct advanced instruction because he was not studying the material in a manner to learn about himself and make the necessary changes required for advanced study. The interchange demonstrated that he was still not pursuing study in an effective, transformative manner.
- Attempting to turn dialectical interchange into a commonplace negotiation session
The individual attempting this perversion of dialectical interchange was a young lady who believed that all interaction with others was a process of negotiating: an attempt to bargain against "competitors" to maintain the most power and receive the desired results in the face of the other person's attempt to "best" or "demean" her. When allowed the privilege of genuine dialectical interchange, she was unable to participate in an authentic manner because she saw the experience as a negotiation or bargaining against a hostile, malevolent opponent.
Authentic Contemporary Use of Platonic Dialectic
Perennialist groups utilize the dynamic of Platonic Dialectic in working toward specific outcomes: transformation, enlightenment, and understanding of important issues, concepts, and procedures. With the introduction of the Internet, the nature of written expression of ideas has undergone a revolutionary transformation. The Perennialist Teacher and the seeker can interact in a real-time environment, exchanging ideas and investigating issues in synchronous or asynchronous mode. This new procedure is termed the New Dialectic and is now being used in study programs related to the Perennial Tradition and The New Commonwealh.
"And so with dialectic; when a person starts on the discovery of the absolute by the light of reason only, and without any assistance of sense, and perseveres until by pure intelligence he arrives at the perception of the absolute good, he at last finds himself at the end of the intellectual world, as in the case of sight at the end of the visible."
Plato, The Commonwealth
Updates and Reference:
Swarm group online chat as a counterfeit of genuine Platonic dialectical interchange
1 Kent Peacock: Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada
2 Dominic J. O'Meara, Pythagoras Revived: Mathematics and Philosophy in Late Antiquity
3 Given the nature of the spiritual birth process in dialectic, only a prepared student can effectively participate. Plato makes this clear in his Seventh Letter:"But it is the methodical study [343e] of all these stages, passing in turn from one to another, up and down, which with difficulty implants knowledge, when the man himself, like his object, is of a fine nature; but if his nature is bad--and, in fact, the condition of most men's souls in respect of learning and of what are termed [344a] 'morals' is either naturally bad or else corrupted,--then not even Lynceus [An Argonaut--an adventurer engaged in a quest--noted for his keenness of sight; here, by a playful hyperbole, he is supposed to be also a producer of sight in others; cf. Aristoph.Plut. 210] himself could make such folk see. In one word, neither receptivity nor memory will ever produce knowledge in him who has no affinity with the object, since it does not germinate to start with in alien states of mind; consequently neither those who have no natural connection or affinity with things just, and all else that is fair, although they are both receptive and retentive in various ways of other things, nor yet those who possess such affinity but are unreceptive and unretentive--none, I say, of these will ever learn to the utmost possible extent [344b] the truth of virtue nor yet of vice. For in learning these objects it is necessary to learn at the same time both what is false and what is true of the whole of Existence, and that through the most diligent and prolonged investigation, as I said at the commencement; and it is by means of the examination of each of these objects, comparing one with another--names and definitions, visions and sense-perceptions, --proving them by kindly proofs and employing dialectic that is void of envy--it is by such means, and hardly so, that there bursts out the light of intelligence and reason regarding each object in the mind of him who uses every effort of which mankind is capable." [translation by R.G. Bury]4 Gerald A. Press, "Principles of Dramatic and Non-Dogmatic Plato Interpretation," in Plato's Dialogues: New Studies and Interpretations, 1993, p. 107
5 H.S. Thayer, "Meaning and Dramatic Interpretation," in Gerald A. Press, Plato's Dialogues: New Studies and Interpretations, 1993, p. 48
6 Gerald A. Press, Op. Cit., p. 108
7 Victorino Tejera, "The Hellenistic Obliteration of Plato's Dialogism," in Gerald A. Press, Plato's Dialogues: New Studies and Interpretations, 1993, p. 130
8 Ibid., p. 136
9 Victorino Tejera, Plato's Dialogues One By One, p. 15
10 Victorino Tejera, "The Hellenistic Obliteration of Plato's Dialogism," in Gerald A. Press, Plato's Dialogues: New Studies and Interpretations, 1993, p. 137