Saturday, March 11, 2017


The introductory scene of book five follows the same pattern as the introductory paragraphs of book one--the way that they're structured suggests that what we should be looking for is the way in which the interlocutors have changed since the first encounter. I brought this up in the last class, and was very happy with where the conversation went, but I don't think we actually explored it in depth before branching off.

So, have Glaucon/Adeimantus/Polemarchus/Thrasymachus changed since the first encounter? Or are the legal formulas/forceful language that they employ to goad Socrates still enforcing the same sporting attitude with which they began? Is the scene pessimistic or optimistic concerning Socrates' ability to educate the young Athenians? If they have changed, in what ways have they changed? If they haven't changed, what tactics might Socrates employ next to urge them on to their own conclusions?

I'll offer my own answer in the comments if they get off the ground.


  1. I think its optimistic about Socrates ability to teach, but somewhat pessimistic about the youths ability to learn because he has to trick them repeatedly throughout the dialogue.

  2. I think that each character has changed according to what his original motivation for engaging in the conversation was. Adeimantus and Glaucon, who along with their own egoism seem to have a genuine interest in learning from Socrates, I think are egging him on because they sincerely are enveloped in what he's saying.
    As far as Polemarchus, his motivation begins by taking the place of his father and continuing to defend his father's position. Thrasymachus, of course, is looking for new students. I think these early barriers these two had to being fully engaged in the conversation makes it so that they cannot change too much in their outward views, even if they agree with Socrates.

  3. I believe I agree with Mike. I am also a little pessimistic on their ability to learn. That said, I believe they are learning even though it may seem hard for Socrates at points to have any influence on them

  4. Brilliant question, and very interesting answers. What's your answer, Brett?

    1. I think that the youth demonstrate at least a minimal level of progress from the opening scene. They have, as yet, to seriously challenge Socrates or throw him off balance with their own critical reflection (although, if I recall correctly, we are soon going to see Glaucon make some bold attempts).

      The success, however, lies in Polemarchus' attitude--although his actions mirror the use of force in the introduction, he compels Socrates to continue by virtue of a newfound investment in the conversation. He is no longer concerned with the amusement of sophistry but with not letting Socrates "get away" with making a poor argument. Socrates may not succeed in teaching, but he may already have succeeded in replacing a desire for entertainment and amusement with an earnest investment in at least a minimal level of critical self-reflection. If we compare this progress with the analogy of the cave that comes later, this might be an optimistic sign, as it indicates the capacity for self-reflection to grow and eventually leave behind (as the historical Glaucon and Adeimantus left behind the 30 tyrants) the flickering shadows of amusement.

  5. I'm not convinced there is any other measure of successful teaching than such a change: "...replacing a desire for entertainment and amusement with an earnest investment in ... critical thinking."