The Groundwork for Dialectic in Statesman 277a-287b

In: The International Journal of the Platonic Tradition
Author: Colin C. Smith1
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  • 1 University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, USA
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In Plato’s Statesman, the Eleatic Stranger leads Socrates the Younger and their audience through an analysis of the statesman in the service of the interlocutors’ becoming “more capable in dialectic regarding all things” (285d7). In this way, the dialectical exercise in the text is both intrinsically and instrumentally valuable, as it yields a philosophically rigorous account of statesmanship and exhibits a method of dialectical inquiry. After the series of bifurcatory divisions in the Sophist and early Statesman, the Stranger changes to a non-bifurcatory method of dividing to account for the statesman, but does not explain the reason for this change. I argue that the change is prepared by the elements discussed in the digression from 277a2 to 287b2. Here the Stranger makes use of four concepts that are crucial for understanding this change: the notion of paradigm, the paradigms of care and the weaver, and the notion of due measure. I claim that the notion of paradigm clarifies the nature of dialectical inquiry, care and weaving act as paradigms appropriate to dialectical practice, and an account of due measure offers insight into the constitutive ratios that govern the structuring of kinds pursued through dialectical inquiry. I suggest that the non-bifurcatory method is intended to articulate knowledge in the strictest sense, or knowledge of the forms, presenting a method of inquiry into being and its structure that will foster the turning of the soul from things to forms that Socrates describes in the Republic.

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