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Virtue Is Knowledge: The Moral Foundations of Socratic Political Philosophyby Lorraine Smith Pangle
Synopses & Reviews
The relation between virtue and knowledge is at the heart of the Socratic view of human excellence, but it also points to a central puzzle of the Platonic dialogues: Can Socrates be serious in his claims that human excellence is constituted by one virtue, that vice is merely the result of ignorance, and that the correct response to crime is therefore not punishment but education? Or are these assertions mere rhetorical ploys by a notoriously complex thinker?
Lorraine Smith Pangle traces the argument for the primacy of virtue and the power of knowledge throughout the five dialogues that feature them most prominently—the Apology, Gorgias, Protagoras, Meno, and Laws—and reveals the truth at the core of these seemingly strange claims. She argues that Socrates was more aware of the complex causes of human action and of the power of irrational passions than a cursory reading might suggest. Pangles perceptive analyses reveal that many of Socratess teachings in fact explore the factors that make it difficult for humans to be the rational creatures that he at first seems to claim. Also critical to Pangles reading is her emphasis on the political dimensions of the dialogues. Underlying many of the paradoxes, she shows, is a distinction between philosophic and civic virtue that is critical to understanding them.
Ultimately, Pangle offers a radically unconventional way of reading Socratess views of human excellence: Virtue is not knowledge in any ordinary sense, but true virtue is nothing other than wisdom.
About the Author
Lorraine Smith Pangle is professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin, where she is also codirector of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Study of Core Texts and Ideas. She is the author of three books, including, most recently, The Political Philosophy of Benjamin Franklin.
Table of Contents
One / Education and Corruption: Apology
Two / The Critique of Retribution: Gorgias
Three / Virtue and Knowledge: Meno
Four / The Unity of Virtue: Protagoras
Five / The Socratic Thesis Applied: Laws
Bibliography of Modern Works and Editions
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