Plato's Laches

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During his lifetime Socrates’ various interactions with his fellow Athenians left his intentions debatable. Popular belief in Athens seemed to be that, “he [Socrates] was an evildoer, and a curious person, who searches into things under the earth and in heaven¸ and makes the worse appear the better cause” (Plato, pg. 5) as stated by the unofficial charges against him in The Apology. After discussions, his interlocutor’s were left confused in a state of aporia, with no conclusion. And so while negative views of Socrates became increasing popular in Athens right up until his death, Socrates was, on the contrary, serving as Athens’s benefactor, opening up their eyes to the truth of world in which they lived in. In Plato’s Laches, Socrates does in fact tear down his interlocutors’ claims but only to prove to them that they don’t know what they claim to know by exposing holes in their fundamental thoughts and to redirect them on a path to finding true knowledge. Through a method of elenchus, Socrates aimed to prove to his interlocutor that the ideas they held about certain topics were in fact false. When a person would come to him with a question, as Laches and Nicias do in Laches, Socrates would first direct the conversation in such a way that the question lying before the men is a foundational one, and not necessarily the original question. In his explanation of this Socrates states, “So, in a word, whenever a man considers a thing for the sake of another thing, he is taking counsel about that thing for the sake of which he was considering, and not about what he was investigating for the sake of something else” (Plato 185D) and redirects the question of whether or not young boys should learn the art of fighting in armor to how to care for the souls of young men. By doing this Socrates is able to expose the very source of his interlocutors’ belief system and demonstrate that if the basis of the system isn’t true nothing built on it can be true. Socrates goes on to...
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