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How to Do Things with Fictions$
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Joshua Landy

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780195188561

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195188561.001.0001

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Fallacy and Logic

(p.95) 4 Plato
How to Do Things with Fictions

Joshua Landy

Oxford University Press

Plato’s character Socrates is clearly a sophisticated logician. Why then does he fall, at times, into the most elementary fallacies? It is, this chapter proposes, because the end goal for Plato is not the mere acquisition of superior understanding but instead a well-lived life, a life lived in harmony with oneself. For such an end, accurate opinions are necessary but not sufficient: what we crucially need is a method, a procedure for ridding ourselves of those opinions that are false. Now learning a method is a very different business from learning a set of ideas. It requires not just study but practice, and practice is precisely what Plato’s dialogues, thanks to the layer of irony between author and protagonist, make possible. If we have a predisposition for detecting and are interested in resolving conflicts within a set of beliefs—if, that is, we instinctively posit logical consistency as a desideratum in life—then we stand to learn, when we read the dialogues, not only what to think but also, and far more important, how to think.

Keywords:   Plato, Platonic irony, fallacy, rhetoric, sophistry, reason, logic, Gorgias, Symposium

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