Fw: BMCR 2005.09.65, Rachana Kamtekar, Plato's Euthyphro
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Subject: BMCR 2005.09.65, Rachana Kamtekar, Plato's Euthyphro
> Rachana Kamtekar, Plato's Euthyphro, Apology, and Crito: Critical
> Essays. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004. Pp. 288. ISBN
> 0-7425-3325-5. $27.95 (pb).
> Reviewed by Zina Giannopoulou, University of California, Irvine
> Word count: 1932 words
> To read a print-formatted version of this review, see
> [Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]
> This collection of twelve essays presents us with some of the best
> recent scholarship on Plato's Euthyphro, Apology, and Crito. By paying
> attention to the literary and the philosophical elements of the
> Platonic texts, leading classical philosophers investigate a variety of
> issues, such as Socrates' revolutionary religious ideas, the
> relationship between historical events and the Platonic texts, the
> interplay between politics and religion, and the possible tension
> between legal and moral ordinances. Kamtekar's excellent choice of
> material allows for the presentation of competing views on much-debated
> issues and reveals the complexity of these dialogues, while challenging
> the reader to think afresh about old questions and to raise new ones.
> In his article, 'Justice and Pollution in the Euthyphro,' McPherran
> shows that Euthyphro combines religious traditionalism with a
> progressive attitude to piety: he prosecutes his father because he
> believes, on the one hand, that a murderer who goes unpunished pollutes
> those who come into contact with him, and, on the other hand, that one
> should prosecute the wrongdoer on impartial grounds. He convincingly
> argues that the traditionalist echoes of Euthyphro's understanding of
> pollution notwithstanding, miasma may be seen as conceptually
> equivalent to 'corruption,' in the Socratic moral sense, i.e. 'the
> psychic pollution of inconsistent and false belief' (9). Euthyphro,
> however, is unable consistently to defend the mixture of the
> incompatible theological propositions he espouses, and thus 'is
> revealed to be a source of [psychic] pollution and a potential
> corrupter of both young and old' (11).
> In 'Plato's Euthyphro: An Analysis and Commentary,' Geach mounts
> various objections to Socrates' arguments in the dialogue, the most
> important of which are the committing of the so-called Socratic fallacy
> and the lack of a clear distinction between intentional and causal
> propositions. The former is the common Socratic assertion that being
> able to know 'what x is' is tantamount to being able to give a general
> criterion for a thing's being 'x,' as opposed to examples of things
> that are 'x.' But, Geach objects, echoing Wittgenstein, 'we know heaps
> of things without being able to define the terms in which we express
> our knowledge' (25).[] The blurring of the distinction between
> intentional and causal propositions emerges in Socrates' argument
> against Euthyphro's definition of the 'pious' as the 'god-loved':
> Socrates argues that the pious is not the same as the god-loved, since
> something's being god-loved cannot be the cause of, but must be caused
> by, the pious. Geach counterargues that the pious is not the cause of
> the gods' loving a thing (causal proposition), but rather the
> characteristic in virtue of which they love it (intentional
> In 'Socrates on the Definition of Piety: Euthyphro 10A-11B,' Cohen
> focuses on Socrates' response to Euthyphro's definition of the pious as
> the god-loved, meeting along the way Geach's objection in the foregoing
> article. He shows that the question, 'Is the pious loved by the gods
> because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved?' makes use of
> the conjunction 'because' in two non-equivalent ways: in the assertion
> (1): 'the pious is loved by the gods because it is pious,' 'because'
> supplies the reason of something's being loved, while in the assertion
> (2): 'the pious is pious because it is loved [by the gods],' 'because'
> is used to provide a logically sufficient (and perhaps also necessary)
> condition for something's being pious. Now, if 'pious' and 'god-loved'
> were definitionally equivalent, one could infer from (1) that (1'):
> 'the god-loved is loved by the gods because (reason) it is god-loved,'
> and from (2) that (2'): 'the god-loved is god-loved because (logical
> condition) it is loved by the gods.' The falsity of (1'), but not of
> (2'), proves Euthyphro's definition of piety wrong: its rejection
> suggests that the 'pious' cannot be defined as 'god-loved,' if the
> gods' reason for loving the pious is that it is pious.
> In his seminal article 'Socratic piety,' Vlastos defines Socrates'
> understanding of eusebeia as the undertaking of actions that aim
> morally to improve others, a life-long commitment informed by a firm
> belief in god's unquestionable beneficence. Socrates' elenctic mission
> is thus seen as service to the gods, as the philosopher's unique way of
> effecting god's will by subjecting to critical scrutiny the ethical
> principles of his fellow-townsmen. Vlastos views Socratic religiosity
> and intellectualism not as incompatible stances, but rather as mutually
> reinforcing principles that govern the philosopher's conduct.
> In their 'Plato's Apology of Socrates, reprinted from their book by the
> same title, de Strycker and Slings argue that, on the basis of ancient
> forensic and epeidictic speeches, Plato's audience would have expected
> his Apology to be not a faithful reproduction of his teacher's actual
> words at his trial, but a defense of Socrates that would communicate
> the man's moral and intellectual values. In the words of the authors
> themselves, '... there is, on the one hand, no single sentence in the
> Platonic Apology that Socrates could not have actually pronounced, and
> on the other, that the published work contains no passage so
> specifically un-Platonic that it cannot be Plato's work' (78).
> In 'On the Alleged Historical Reputability of Plato's Apology,'
> Morrison argues, contra Vlastos, Kahn, and Do+ring, that Plato's
> Apology is not a reliable source for the historical Socrates'
> philosophy, namely 'the general propositions he believed in and the
> intellectual methods he employed' (106).[] He submits that any
> effort to attribute specific philosophical positions to Socrates is
> inevitably thwarted by the scarcity of sources and the difficulty of
> formulating precise doctrines from biographical anecdotes or
> contradicting evidence.
> Terence Irwin's 'Was Socrates against Democracy?' shows that our
> available sources suggest that Socrates' trial had no political
> dimension: from the fact that his political outlook was in principle
> anti-democratic it does not follow that he advocated anti-democratic
> practices. The commonly held perception that he was impious (religious
> charge) and a corrupter of the youth (moral charge) would have alone
> justified the prosecution without there being a need to ground it in
> oligarchic political motivations.
> In his article, 'The Impiety of Socrates,' Burnyeat justifies the
> condemnatory verdict reached at Socrates' trial by showing that
> Socrates was indeed guilty of not believing in the gods of the city.
> Apart from two incidental references to Hera and Thetis, Socrates
> frequently invokes 'the God' (ho theos) as the 'one' being that
> 'demands a radical questioning of the community's values and its
> religion' (156). Furthermore, the author suggests, in announcing that
> the virtuous man cannot be harmed by the city, not even if they kill
> him (Ap. 30b-c), Socrates comes close to saying that one's eudaimonia
> can be secured by one's own efforts, while divinity's role is to
> 'protect the just ... from certain unforeseeable worldly consequences
> of their own justice' (156).
> In 'Socrates and Obedience to the Law,' Brickhouse and Smith suggest an
> ingenious reconciliation of the apparent conflict in Socrates'
> allegiance to divine or legal command, by appeal to Athenian law: the
> jury could neither legally acquit Socrates and then impose the penalty
> of refraining from philosophizing on him, nor devise that penalty in
> defiance of both the prosecution's penalty (death) and the defense's
> counter-penalty (fine), which alone constituted the two viable penal
> choices available to it. Under these circumstances, there is no
> conflict between civic obedience and religious piety. Perhaps more
> radically, the authors contend that there is no conceivable situation
> in which obedience to the law and to the god may seem to conflict,
> since it was supposed that 'the foundations of the legal code were
> divine in origin' and that 'Athenian law directly proscribed impiety,
> without proscribing particular acts or beliefs' (170). Thus piety is
> already built into the legal system and cannot -- on pain of creating
> internal contradiction -- be made to clash with legal orders.
> In 'Dokimasia, Satisfaction, and Agreement,' Kraut argues against the
> authoritarian reading of Crito, advanced by Grote, according to which
> one's agreement to respect the laws of a certain city, even those one
> deems unjust, is sufficiently demonstrated by one's remaining within
> the confines of that city, in which case self-exile appropriately
> signals one's disagreement with the city's unjust rules. By carefully
> assessing the dialogue's evidence, Kraut submits that continued
> residence is merely one of the many possible signs of agreement, and
> that public demonstrations of satisfaction, such as having children and
> making public declarations about the relative merits of cities, are
> essential concomitants of one's act of agreement. Furthermore, one can
> remain in a city and still avoid making unconscionable agreements by
> publicly communicating his sincere dissent from offensive laws.
> Contra Kraut, in 'The Interpretation of Plato's Crito,' Bostock claims
> that the dialogue advances the authoritarian demand of complete
> obedience to any and every law, failing successful persuasion. After he
> has examined the strengths and weaknessess of the alternative
> interpretations of the arguments set forth by the Laws, he concludes
> that the Crito is the only one of Plato's early dialogues to imply the
> existence of a moral expert and to envision the Laws as that expert qua
> repository of moral wisdom. In that case, the demands of the law and
> the demands of morality are in agreement, and, when morality is seen to
> conflict with a legally authoritative order, the problem lies not with
> the content of the law but with its wrongful application by unjust men.
> Finally, in 'Conflicting Values in Plato's Crito,' Harte claims that
> the dialogue sets up a conflict between three normative systems:
> Crito's, which centers around 'kinship values'; Socrates', which
> determines the justice of an agent's action according solely to its
> beneficial or deleterious effect on his soul; and the Laws', which is
> close to Crito's and promotes civic values, primarily those of the
> political community and secondarily those of family and friends. She
> further suggests that this conflict has a static and a dynamic aspect.
> The former consists in the reader's being provoked to reflect on the
> relations obtaining among these three systems of value, while the
> latter is evident in Crito's dialogic transformation from someone who
> starts out by embracing his own ethical code and urging Socrates to
> escape to someone who, at the end, is unable to dispute the Laws' case
> against that escape. The remaining conflict of values between Socrates
> and the Laws suggests that 'Socrates has no consensus of values ...
> with the political community in which he lived' (252), and Plato will
> attempt to resolve this conflict in the Republic.
> As this brief summary of the book's contents shows, Kamtekar has
> collected essays that deal superbly with the most important issues of
> the dialogues recording the words and deeds of Socrates' last days. Her
> apt inclusion of material with a literary and a philosophical bent will
> satisfy readers of diverse interpretative agendas. The collection will
> be read profitably both by those already versed in the dialogues and in
> the existing scholarship on them and by those interested in seeing for
> the first time how contemporary scholars have grappled with questions
> posed by Socrates in three of the so-called 'early dialogues.'
> Mark L. McPherran, 'Justice and Pollution in the Euthyphro'
> P.T. Geach, 'Plato's Euthyphro: An Analysis and Commentary'
> S. Marc Cohen, 'Socrates on the Definition of Piety: Euthyphro 10A-11B'
> Gregory Vlastos, 'Socratic Piety'
> E. de Strycker and S.R. Slings, 'Plato's Apology of Socrates'
> Donald Morrison, 'On the Alleged Historical Reputability of Plato's
> T.H. Irwin, 'Was Socrates against Democracy?'
> M.F. Burnyeat, 'The Impiety of Socrates'
> Thomas C. Brickhouse and Nicholas D. Smith, 'Socrates and Obedience to
> the Law'
> Richard Kraut, 'Dokimasia, Satisfaction, and Agreeement'
> David Bostock, 'The Interpretation of Plato's Crito'
> Verity Harte, 'Conflicting Values in Plato's Crito'.
> 1. Geach's objection to the 'Socratic fallacy' has spawned a great
> deal of literature. See, among others, H. Benson, 'Misunderstanding the
> "What-is-F-ness?" Question,' Archiv fu+r Geschichte der Philosophie 72
> (1990) 125-42; J. Beversluis, 'Does Socrates Commit the Socratic
> Fallacy?' American Philosophical Quarterly 24 (1987) 211-23; and A.
> Nehamas, 'Confusing Universals and Particulars in Plato's Early
> Dialogues,' Review of Metaphysics 29 (1975) 287-306.
> 2. The authors' theses, against which Morrison argues, can be found
> primarily in the following works: G. Vlastos, Socrates: Ironist and
> Moral Philosopher, Ithaca 1991; C. Kahn, Plato and the Socratic
> Dialogue: the philosophical use of a literary formCambridge 1996; and
> K. Do+ring, 'Sokrates, die Sokratiker und die von ihnen begru+ndeten
> Traditionen,' in H. Flashar (ed.), Grundriss der Geschichte der
> Philosophie: Die Philosophie der Antike, Band 2/1 (1998), 141-364.
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