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Fw: BMCR 2005.09.65, Rachana Kamtekar, Plato's Euthyphro

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  • Edward Moore
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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
      > (zgiannop@...)
      > Word count: 1932 words
      > -------------------------------
      > To read a print-formatted version of this review, see
      > http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/2005/2005-09-65.html
      > -------------------------------
      >
      > [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).[[1]] 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
      > proposition).
      >
      > 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).[[2]] 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.'
      >
      >
      > CONTENTS
      >
      >
      > 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
      > Apology'
      >
      > 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'.
      >
      >
      > ------------------
      > Notes:
      >
      >
      > 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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