The Dialectical Cut in Socrates\' Soul


Within the spectrum of the political realm, one of the most
important philosophical questions arises, "What is the best regime?" It is
obvious that the best regime is one of complied consent. There still seems
to be difficulty in deciding the best means to the desired end. Politics,
the ruling force, operates in the realm of opinions. Its counterpart,
philosophy, is an attempt to replace opinions about political things. This
"political science" is the process of acquiring political knowledge for the
guiding of political life. The transformation from opinions to knowledge
is through the dialectic method. This "political science" is not without
its problems. It is plagued by relativism and nihilism. These problems
tend to make politics unreceptive to philosophy. What philosophy is is
best seen in a confrontation between the philosopher and the city. It is by
no small coincidence that these two conflicting views are seen in different
characters in The Being of the Beautiful. The obvious question now becomes
"Why does Plato make a dialectical cut in Socrates\' soul between Theaetetus
and Young Socrates?" In answering this question it becomes central to
assume that the being of the beautiful is not contained in one character,
and for that matter, may not be a character at all. It is crucial then to
take up the characteristics of both Theaetetus and Young Socrates in
relation to what the beautiful is. In so doing, it will provide the basis
for political knowledge. To begin, Theaetetus is a youth just returned from
battle. War, being the harshest of all teachers places one under the duress
of necessity. This is a foreshadowing of the struggle, both internal and
external that are about to occur. The exteral battle is the undermining of
the beliefs and opinions of the many. This undermining is very dangerous
for it leads to one of three options: death, madness or philosophy. As
different as all of the beliefs are, the basis is faith butressed by reason
to make it friendly to philosophy. The internal struggle, at first glance,
seems to be the easier to construct. The internal struggle is Theaetetus\'
gripping the concept of the idea (eikoi). Socrates acknowledges that
Theaetetus grasps the idea by saying "Gosh, that\'s good by Hera, and
divine" (Theaetetus, 154d). Socrates apparently implicates that Theaetetus
has the mind of a philosopher. He is one of the few who can have his
opinions undercut and still be willing to learn. Although Theaetetus adds
substantive meaning to the discussion, he soon becomes "dizzy" (Theaetetus,
155d). Again, Socrates encourages Theaetetus saying that "this experience
is very much that of the philosophers" (Theaetetus, 155d). Throughout the
Theaetetus, Theaetetus cannot seem to move out of the language of the city.
He constantly answers "it seems likely" and "it appears". Socrates does not
correct this apparent flaw. Socrates is very patient with Theaetetus,
stopping at many points to let Theaetetus grasp the point. It is not until
the Sophist that Theaetetus moves from the language of "it appears" to "of
course" (Sophist, 222e) cutting off the Stranger in the middle of a
sentence. The Stranger treats Theaetetus very differently than does
Socrates. Perhaps this is the reason for Socrates\' qualified
recommendation of Theaetetus to the Stranger. "Well, its possible to select
anyone you want of those present, for everyone will gently comply with you,
but if you take me as your adviser, you will choose one of the young,
Theaetetus here, or anyone of the rest who suits you" (Sophist, 217d). The
Stranger does believe that Theaetetus can become the philosopher. "Since I
understand your nature, and it will advance by itself, I will let it go...
for time would be superfluous" (Sophist, 265e). The stranger teaches
skepticism that one must have to become the philsopher but at the same time
teaching Theaetetus not to give up altogether. In contrast to Theaetetus\'
moderation, Young Socrates is excess of courage. Where Theaetetus is
timid, Young Socrates is courageous. Young Socrates first fault is that he
has trouble following the dialogue. It is important to make Young Socrates
sympathetic to philosophy, by discouraging him, but not making him the
philosopher. Although Young Socrates gets lost in the speech, he continues
to follow in an attempt to understand. He even goes to the extreme of
reproaching the Stranger when he says "... but we went around in a circle
distinguishing very many things in vain" (Statesman, 283b) by saying "Just
speak" (Statesman 283c). He does not get angry like Callicles and is more
perseverant than Polus. Spirited citizens, such as Young Socrates and Polus
are not philosophers nor are they direct enemies