Argumentation

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 1–17 | Cite as

Socrates on the Moral Mischief of Misology

Article

Abstract

In Plato’s dialogues, the Phaedo, Laches, and Republic, Socrates warns his interlocutors about the dangers of misology. Misology is explained by analogy with misanthropy, not as the hatred of other human beings, but as the hatred of the logos or reasonable discourse. According to Socrates, misology arises when a person alternates between believing an argument to be correct, and then refuting it as false. If Socrates is right, then misanthropy is sometimes instilled when a person goes from trusting people to learning that others sometimes betray our reliance and expectations, and finally not to placing any confidence whatsoever in other people, or, in the case of misology, in the correctness or trustworthiness of arguments. A cynical indifference to the soundness of arguments generally is sometimes associated with Socrates’ polemical targets, the Sophists, at least as Plato represents Socrates’ reaction to these itinerant teachers of rhetoric, public speaking and the fashioning of arguments suitable to any occasion. Socrates’ injunctions against misology are largely moral, pronouncing it ‘shameful’ and ‘very wicked’, and something that without further justification we must ‘guard against’, maintaining that we will be less excellent persons if we come to despise argument as lacking the potential of leading to the truth. I examine Socrates’ moral objections to misology which I show to be inconclusive. I consider instead the problem of logical coherence in the motivations supposedly underlying misology, and conclude that misology as Socrates intends the concept is an emotional reaction to argumentation on the part of persons who have not acquired the logical dialectical skills or will to sort out good from bad arguments. We cannot dismiss argument as directed toward the truth unless we have a strong reason for doing so, and any such argument must itself presuppose that at least some reasoning can be justified in discovering and justifying belief in interesting truths. The relevant passages from Socrates’ discussion of the soul’s immortality in the Phaedo are discussed in detail, and set in scholarly background against Socrates’ philosophy more generally, as represented by Plato’s dialogues. I conclude by offering a suggestive list of practical remedies to avoid the alienation from argument in dialectic with which Socrates is concerned.

Keywords

Argument Dialectic Misology Plato Socrates Sophists 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division for Logic and Theoretical Philosophy, Unitobler, Institute for PhilosophyUniversity of BernBern 9Switzerland

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