Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Plato's Philosophical Style

In Plato's anti-tragic theater, we see the origin of a distinctive philosophical style, a style that opposes itself to the merely literary and expresses the philosopher's commitment to intellect as a source of truth. By writing philosophy as drama, Plato calls on every reader to engage actively in the search for truth. By writing it as anti-tragic drama, he warns the reader that only certain elements of him are appropriate to this search. This, we can now see, is the real meaning of the Protagoras's tension between dialectic and elitism, between its appearance of offering us a choice and its announcement that only a superior being ought to choose. Each of us has the choice, in fact: but it will be an appropriate choice only if it is made by the highest element in us, viz. intellect. We now begin to understand that Plato's style is not content-neutral, as some philosophical styles are sometimes taken to be; it is closely bound up with a definite conception of human rationality.

[Martha Nussbaum, The Fragility of Goodness, Cambridge University Press (New York: 2001) p. 134.]

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