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1 This is not mysticism or secret doctrine. It is, in fact, the avoidance of dogmatism. but that is not all. Plato could not be expected to insert a treatise on dialectical method here, or risk an absolute definition which would only expose him to misinterpretation. The principles and methods of such reasoning, and the ultimate metaphysical conclusions to which they may lead, cannot be expounded in a page or a chapter. They can only be suggested to the intelligent, whose own experience will help them to understand. As the Republic and Laws entire explain Plato's idea of social good, so all the arguments in the dialogues illustrate his conception of fair and unfair argument. Cf. What Plato Said,Index s.v.Dialectics, and note f below.
3 On Plato's freedom from the dogmatism often attributed to him Cf. What Plato Said, p. 515 on Meno 86 B.
4 On Plato's freedom from the dogmatism often attributed to him Cf. What Plato Said, p. 515 on Meno 86 B.
5 The mystical implications of φήνειεν are not to be pressed. It is followed, as usual in Plato, by a matter-of-fact statement of the essential practical conclusion (γοῦν)that no man can be trusted to think straight in large matters who has not been educated to reason and argue straight.
6 Plato anticipates the criticism that he neglects experience.
7 i.e. dispute our statement and maintain. The meaning is plain. It is a case of what I have called illogical idiom. Cf. T.A.P.A. vol. xlvii. pp. 205-234. The meaning is that of Philebus 58 E, 59 A. Other “science” may be more interesting or useful, but sound dialectics alone fosters the disinterested pursuit of truth for its own sake. Cf. Soph. 295 C, Phaedr. 265-266. Aristotle, Topics i. 2. 6, practically comes back to the Platonic conception of dialectics. The full meaning of dialectics in Plato would demand a treatise. It is almost the opposite of what Hegelians call by that name, which is represented in Plato by the second part of the Parmenides. The characteristic Platonic dialectic is the checking of the stream of thought by the necessity of securing the understanding and assent of an intelligent interlocutor at every step, and the habit of noting all relevant distinctions, divisions, and ambiguities, in ideas and terms. When the interlocutor is used merely to relieve the strain on the leader's voice or the reader's attention, as in some of the later dialogues, dialectic becomes merely a literary form.
8 Cicero's “via et ratione.”περὶ παντός is virtually identical with αὐτοῦ γε ἑκάστου πέρι. It is true that the scientific specialist confines himself to his specialty. The dialectician, like his base counterfeit the sophist (Soph. 231 A), is prepared to argue about anything, Soph. 232 cf., Euthyd. 272 A-B.
9 Cf. 525 C, 527 B.
10 The interpreters of Plato must allow for his Emersonian habit of hitting each nail in turn as hard as he can. There is no real contradiction between praising mathematics in comparison with mere loose popular thinking, and disparaging it in comparison with dialectics. There is no evidence and no probability that Plato is here proposing a reform of mathematics in the direction of modern mathematical logic, as has been suggested. Cf. on 527 A. It is the nature of mathematics to fall short of dialectics.
11 Cf. Phileb. 20 B and on 520 C, p. 143, note g.
12 Cf. on 531 E.
13 The touch of humor is the expression may be illustrated by Lucian, Hermotimus 74, where it is used to justify Lucian's skepticism even of mathematics, and by Hazlitt's remark on Coleridge, “Excellent talker if you allow him to start from no premises and come to no conclusion.”
14 Or “admission.” Plato thinks of even geometrical reasoning as a Socratic dialogue. Cf. the exaggeration of this idea by the Epicureans in Cic.De fin. i. 21 “quae et a falsis initiis profecta, vera esse non possunt: et si essent vera nihil afferunt quo iucundius, id est, quo melius viveremus.” Dialectic proceeds διὰ συγχωρήσεων, the admission of the interlocutor. Cf. Laws 957 D, Phaedr. 237 C-D, Gorg. 487 E, Lysis 219 C, Prot. 350 E, Phileb. 12 A, Theaet. 162 A, 169 D-E, I 64 C, Rep. 340 B. But such admissions are not valid unless when challenged they are carried back to something satisfactory—ἱκανόν—(not necessarily in any given case to the idea of good). But the mathematician as such peremptorily demands the admission of his postulates and definitions. Cf. 510 B-D, 511 B.
15 Cf. on 519 B, p. 138, note a.
16 Orphism pictured the impious souls as buried in mud in the world below; cf. 363 D. Again we should not press Plato's rhetoric and imagery either as sentimental Platonists or hostile critics. See Newman, Introd. Aristot.Pol. p. 463, n. 3.
17 All writers and philosophers are compelled to “speak with the vulgar.” Cf. e.g. Meyerson, De l'explication dans les sciences, i. p. 329: “Tout en sachant que la couleur n'est pas réellement une qualité de l'object, à se servir cependant, dans la vie de tous les jours, d'une locution qui l'affirme.”
18 Cf. on 511 D, pp. 116-117, note c.
19 This unwillingness to dispute about names when they do not concern the argument is characteristic of Plato. Cf. What Plato Said, p. 516 on Meno 78 B-C for numerous instances. Stallbaum refers to Max. Tyr.Diss. xxvii. p. 40ἐγὼ γάρ τοι τά τε ἄλλα, καὶ ἐν τῇ τῶν ὀνομάτων ἐλευθερίᾳ πείθομαι Πλάτωνι.
20 The next sentence is hopelessly corrupt and is often considered an interpolation. The translation omits it. See Adam, Appendix XVI. to Bk. VII., Bywater, Journal of Phil.(Eng.) v. pp. 122-124.
21 Supra 511 D-E.
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