By Michelle Kristine Jenkins
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Additional resources for Seekers of wisdom, lovers of truth: A study of Plato's philosopher
Plato conceives of moral knowledge as a type of craft knowledge and the way that one learns a craft is by going to someone who already has knowledge and learning from him. In this way, then, we can see how and why the philosopher, motivated by a love of wisdom, pursues it. 48 This is a quite common phenomenon. When we are motivated by something we come to have certain behavioral dispositions that result from that motivation. If I am motivated by a desire to become a good singer, say, then I will be tenacious in pursuit of that desire.
34. Nicias says that in any conversation with Socrates one will inevitably subject his own beliefs and life to examination (Laches 187e). Frequently Socrates tells his interlocutors to say what they actually believe (Protagoras 331cd; Gorgias 495a, 500b; Republic 345b, 346a, 348e). But almost as frequently, Socrates tells his interlocutors that he wants to continue to investigate a position, regardless of whether they believe it or not (Republic 349a; Protagoras 333c; Charmides 169cd, 172d). What seems important to Plato is not that his interlocutors actively endorse some particular position but that, once they are investigating some position they do not arbitrarily choose various positions simply to win the exchange.
Given the philosopher’s motivations, then, and the fact that intellectual dishonesty impedes the philosopher’s ability to acquire wisdom, it’s clear that the philosopher (when he is acting qua philosopher) will engage in intellectually honest investigations. While we have good prima facie reason to think that the philosopher will characteristically engage in intellectually honest inquiry, there’s serious doubt about whether this is, in fact, the case. And that doubt stems from Socrates’ behavior throughout the dialogues.
Seekers of wisdom, lovers of truth: A study of Plato's philosopher by Michelle Kristine Jenkins