"In Plato's early dialogues, the method of argumentation that Socrates uses is called the elenchos (eh-lenk-us) [sic] or examination. In these dialogues we rarely find Socrates lecturing or directly answering the questions; instead we find him asking questions of others in an attempt to lead them indirectly to the truth.

"Typically Socrates will ask someone who claims to be an expert to define a moral term that he is using--the nature of piety, courage, friendship or justice, for example. He then proceeds to demonstrate that the definition that has been given is inadequate or contradictory. This leads the person with whom he is arguing to come up with other definitions, which, though more adequate, are also shown to be problematic. Most of Plato's early dialogues end inconclusively, with the person being interrogated by Socrates at a complete loss to know what he believes about the topic.

"So what is the point of the elenchos if it simply leads the person being questioned to end up more confused than when he started? The answer is that Socrates' method serves both a negative as well as a positive function. Negatively, Socrates is attempting to show the individual with whom he is arguing that the view which he holds is untenable.

"On the positive side his goal is to move closer to the eidos or universal definition of the thing being spoken about. In the Euthyphro, for example, the subject matter is piety, so he is looking for the eidos of piety---a standard for determining which actions are pious or impious in all circumstances. Once we have this standard, he believes, we will possess certain knowledge [episteme] about right and wrong/good and bad/virtue and vice. And with this knowledge, he is convinced that happiness is all but inevitable." 2


Taken from: "Who Was Socrates?" by Michael S. Russo, Molloy College, Department of Philosophy. Mr. Russo is not particularly any worse (or better) than most academics, but his unenlightened misunderstanding of Plato is typical of scholastic "professors." Academic "professors" are the modern equivalent of the charlatans Plato opposed, the sophists.

What is especially perplexing is how a scholastic so-called "Plato expert" (self-appointed) can comprehend certain elements of Plato's philosophy and yet--in the next paragraph sometimes--totally misrepresent what Plato is saying. This kind of selective, limited understanding is particularly true of such scholars as Russo.