Wisdom in practice: Socrates' conception of technē
Roberts, Clifford Masood
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The word ‘technē’ frequently appears in the argument and discussions of Socrates and his interlocutors in Plato’s early dialogues; the concept of technē as well as instances thereof often play a crucial role in effecting and rendering plausible Socrates’ argument and discussion. It is curious, therefore, that there are so few studies devoted entirely to examining Socrates’ conception of technē; this is a deficit that this thesis aims to play some role in correcting. The first chapter is concerned with elaborating some of the problematic questions connected to the philosophical integrity and originality and the historical actuality of Socrates as he appears in Plato’s dialogues. Part of this project involves responding to questions regarding which dialogues count as ‘early’ and ‘Socratic’ – and what these designations mean; part involves elaborating and articulating the character of Socrates’ person and methods in the dialogues and here the importance of the concept of technē to Socratic reflection is introduced. The second chapter examines the connection in Socratic thought between the concepts of wisdom, knowledge, and technē, and aims to bring out both their close connection as well as how they serve to illuminate each other. In this chapter, a difficulty connected with the ordinary philosophical concept of wisdom or knowledge is examined in light of the curious Socratic thesis of the sufficiency of virtue. The third chapter discusses a controversy between two ways of understanding the significance of technē in Socratic thought and attempts to avoid the controversy by suggesting a third way of understanding the concept. The fourth chapter develops and examines Socrates’ own explicit account of technē in Gorgias. The fifth, and final, chapter connects Socrates’ own account to the controversy discussed in the third chapter and the difficulty examined in the second chapter and suggests a way of overcoming these controversies.