“In Plato’s time, dialectics was a debating technique subject to precise rules. A “thesis” was proposed-an interrogative proposition such as: Can virtue be taught? One of the two interlocutors attacked the thesis; the other defended it. The former attacked by interrogating – that is, he asked the defender skillfully chosen questions with the aim of forcing him to admit the contradictory of the thesis he wanted to defend. The interrogator had no thesis, and this was why Socrates was in the habit of playing that role.” – What is Ancient Philosophy – By Pierre Hadot
Platonic dialectics ‘was a spiritual exercise which demanded that the interlocutors undergo an askesis, or self-transformation.’ (Hadot – p.62)
“When two friends, like you and me, are in the mood to chat, we have to go about it in a gentler and more dialectical way. By ‘more dialectical,’ I mean not only that we give real responses, but that we base our responses solely on what the interlocutor admits that he himself knows.” – Plato, Meno, 75c-d.
“Being a better dialectician meant not only being skillful at invention or at denouncing tricks in reasoning. Before anything else, it meant knowing how to dialogue, together with all the demands that this entails: recognizing the presence and the rights of one’s interlocutor, basing one’s replies on what the interlocutor admits he knows, and therefore agreeing with him at each stage of the discussion. Above all, it meant submitting oneself to the demands and norms of reason and the search for truth; finally, it meant recognizing the absolute value of the Good. It therefore meant leaving behind one’s individual point of view, in order to rise to a universal viewpoint; and it meant trying to see things within the perspective of the All and the deity, thereby transforming one’s vision of the world and one’s own inner attitude.” (Hadot – p.178)
Complete written commentary on the Dialectic (Ennead I.3) will be posted next weekend.