“…okay, we’re back at the library as you asked, it’s always an interesting challenge to see if I can keep my voice down to library volume. I’ll jump into it right away to simply ask you about the dialogue form and how that relates to philosophy.” A little out of breath Maze looks to Mr. Diamond who, of course, has been reading the whole time Maze was talking. It’s not clear if he heard him. The stack of books Mr. Diamond has is on Plato and the Greeks—this puts Maze a little more at ease.
“You’ll have to excuse me Maze, I’ve become transfixed with a passage from the Republic, because I had already predicted that you would want to talk about dialogue, and there is no better place to start than with Plato, the master of writing Socratic dialogue. Let’s remember that the dialogue form was important because it offered a way for philosophy to be tested in a real world context. What’s of primary importance is the mind or specifically the soul as it acquires knowledge and wisdom apart from the senses. How the soul of a person who has knowledge can express himself through reasoned dialogue through the spoken word onto the pure intellect, is just as important if he can express himself with good recollection, eloquence & confidence.”
Maze thought about this and remembered that the dialectic could be a refinement of this way of exchanging and receiving ideas to get to higher knowledge through dialogue. The acquisition of knowledge is not something to be attained by the senses, but by the intellect.
Back to his reading, Mr. Diamond seemed distracted as Maze asked him, “So, what about the dialectic? How does this work with dialogue?”
Mr. Diamond looks up and quickly answers, “Well, we could think of the so-called ‘Socratic method’, where Socrates works to argue, question and refute commonly held beliefs, and in this case we’ll call them opinions. As we know opinions are not the same as knowledge, the real effort becomes the goal to work this out through dialogue. For Plato the art of dialogue is where knowledge is found. This doesn’t mean that every dialogue produces truth. Truth, the access of truth really has more to do with how it’s arrived at, and it’s about the method of inquiry by which it’s examined. Truth is discursive and is brought about via philosophical conversation.”
Maze nods in agreement, “that’s wonderful, this runs counter to our everyday notion of truth as definitive and static, looking at truth in this way positions it as always changing, opening and transforming—an education of the soul.”
Mr. Diamond pulls out the Republic, flips through to his bookmarked place and reads, “As being is to becoming, so is pure intellect to opinion. And as intellect is to opinion, so is science to belief, and understanding to perception of shadows.” (VII 534a)
Plato, The Republic, Intro. and notes Elisabeth Watson Scharffenberger, Trans. Benjamin Jowett, New York: Barnes and Noble Classics 2004, p. 247.