Tuesday, July 11, 2006

First Impression of Socrates

By doubting and questioning his acquaintances, Socrates carefully and humbly searches for the meaning behind justice. Instead of offering, or even pretending to offer an answer, Socrates skillfully dissects his companions' responses to his questioning in order to arrive at a solid conclusion. This method directly relates to Socrates' ethos, wherein doubt and questioning are not merely his tools, but his character traits. Because Socrates makes no effort to define justice, he asserts his humble ignorance. When given a response, Socrates further questions the answer not out of argumentative pleasure, but rather because, "[...] his meaning, though probably clear to you, is the reverse of clear to me"(The Republic, p.5). The purpose for this humble but curious ethos directly relates to Socrates' logos and his sensitivity to pathos. By carefully avoiding direct confrontation with his "opponents", Socrates helps persuade them to believe that concepts like justice are not so easily defined as people tend to believe. Socrates invokes the pathos of his audience by appealing to the ideas of justice vs. injustice, friends vs. enemies, and good vs. evil (words with strong emotional ties). When Socrates notes "[...] Do not persons often err about good and evil: many who are not good seem to be so, and conversely?" (T.R. p.8), he is trying to get his audience to realize the contradictions present in defining justice. Even still, Socrates angers Thrasymachus with his question-filled logos, who remarks "you should not only ask but answer [...] for there is many a one who can ask and can not answer" (T.R. p.11). At first this criticism seems fair, yet it ignores Socrates' purpose for using a humble ethos. He does not know the answer, and responds "[...] You people who know all things should pity us and not be angry with us" (T.R. p.11). Socrates' ethos of humble doubt and his logos of syllogistic reasoning, irony, and exposing contradiction allow him to tactfully invoke his audience's pathos. With no answer at hand, Socrates has to be careful to expose his audience's misunderstandings without appearing arrogant. Without an ethos of humility and selective logos (to fit the audience's emotional state), Socrates would fail in his persuasion.


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