19 January 2007

Off Point

A curious couple of paragraphs in a recent review of a book by Naomi Reshotko:

Penner's account of the Dominance theory of desire has been most forcefully expressed through his interpretation of Gorgias 466a-468e in "Power and desire in Socrates,"Apeiron 24 (1991) 147-202. In my "Rhetoric's Inadequate Means: Gorgias 466a4-468e5", Classical Philology, forthcoming, 2007, I argue, among other things, that Penner grossly misinterprets Socrates' claim that everyone desires the good in the Gorgias argument. In "The Desire for the Good: is the Meno inconsistent with the Gorgias?" Phronesis 39 (1994) 1-25, Penner, in collaboration with Rowe, attempts to extend his account of Socratic desire in Gorgias to Meno. Among other things, I criticize their interpretation of the Meno argument in "Desire for Good in Meno 77B2-78B6, "Classical Quarterly 56 (2006) 77-92. (See also Anagnostopoulos' article "Desire for the Good in the Meno," in Socrates and Plato: Desire, Identity, and Existence, Reshotko, ed., Academic Publishers, 2003, 171-91.)

Reshotko's treatment of Socratic intellectualism in chapter four depends upon Penner's account of Socrates' argument against akrasia in Protagoras in "Socrates on the strength of knowledge," Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 79 (1997) 117-49. Among other things, I criticize Penner's interpretation of Socrates' account of akrasia in Protagoras in "The Ridiculousness of Being Overcome by Pleasure: Protagoras 352b1-358d4, "Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 31 (2006) 113-36. Finally, my view of desire in Lysis, in Trials of Reason: Plato and the Crafting of Philosophy, OUP, forthcoming, 2007, chapter 2.vi, diverges from that of Penner and Rowe in Plato's Lysis, CUP, 2005.

I thought this was supposed to be a review of a book by Naomi Reshotko.

As a reader of the review, I don't care that the reviewer somewhere disagrees. (I suppose all of us disagree with almost everyone else on almost everything.) And I certainly don't care if he disagrees with someone besides the author of the book.

(Oh--check for yourself--it's not that you'll find a discussion of the book elsewhere in the review.)


Anonymous said...

Dear Michael,

I thought similar things when reading this review this morning. Its more of an announcement of articles and a book of his own, a barebones summary of Penner, and a dismissal of Rudebusch. All the more reason for you to take up the suggestion in one of the comments to 'Instrumental v Beneficial' that says Naomi's book may be of some use here.


Eric Brown said...

(I apologize if I am posting this twice. The Blogger interface is not cooperating well.)

Well, this is not Wolfsdorf's finest piece. But it is not quite fair to say that he does not provide a discussion of Reshotko's book. After summarizing the contents of the book (surely the start of a discussion) and noting its dependence on work by Penner and Rudebusch (thus licensing the wider target of the rest of the review), Wolfsdorf makes three moves. First, he advertises his work opposing the "Dominance" theory of Socratic desire as that is developed by Penner. This is inadequate, I agree: he should say *why* he rejects the "Dominance theory" and save the advertisements for the notes. Second, he discusses the weakness of the evidence for identifying eudaimonia with modal pleasure in the Socratic dialogues. This might be quick, but it is a substantive point that goes to the heart of Reshotko's book. Last, he queries Reshotko's methodology. There is no argument for or against this or that methodology, but at least these remarks place the disagreements in a larger context for the otherwise ignorant reader. Moreover, these closing remarks might suggest *why* Wolfsdorf has not worked through his reasons for rejecting the "Dominance" theory of desire more fully but has only cited his work. I suspect that Wolfsdorf takes his reasons to require close attention to a large range of texts, and it would not be unreasonable of him to think that a brief review does not wlecome such attention.

So although Wolfsdorf does not handle this optimally, I don't think that his review misses the point of Reshotko's work or refuses to engage with it.

If anything in the neighborhood misses the point and refuses to engage, it would be Michael's curt dismissal of the review. But then that is the prerogative of the blogger, and the chief hazard of his genre.

Michael Pakaluk said...


You're right, I exaggerated. Thanks for keeping me honest!