19 March 2005

The Social Life of a Dualist

In an earlier post I asked whether it made sense to ask what political view was implied by the Phaedo. Suppose it does. Then can we argue in the following way?

If a political view is implied by the Phaedo, then a fortiori a social view is implied—that is, an outlook on life with others. But the social view that Plato would have had, if Bobonich is right about his political view, would be both (i) mad, and (ii) not something we have any reason to attribute to him. Therefore either he did not hold that political view, or, if he did, he was inconsistent, and any attribution of a change in outlook to him would be hazardous.

The political view (according to Bobonich) is that no non-philosophers have any virtue whatsoever. They cannot be happy. They live ‘lives unworthy of being lived’. No philosopher can take a genuine interest in a non-philosopher. Philosophers and non-philosophers have no shared basis for genuine human fellowship.

It’s clear that the ‘social’ view would be just the same—but take it to apply to neighbors and associates rather than citizens.

Now is this the outlook of the person who wrote the Phaedo and sketched the character of Socrates there? Is it the outlook of the character Socrates?

My sense from reading the Phaedo is that these suggestions are incredible. (But what's the textual evidence? Help me out here.) The Phaedo seems humane and broad in its appeal, and Plato portrays Socrates as having genuine goodwill towards others generally and exhorting others without restriction to virtue.