Socrates Vs. Plato Essay, Research Paper
One of the areas of greatest disagreement between Plato and Socrates was on the issue of incontinence and how the idea manifests itself in people s lives. This was one of the first areas in which Plato made a point of disagreeing with his teacher. As a consequence he develops a very different theory of motivation as compared to Socrates. We will look at Socrates theory as well as Plato s and then decide if Plato succesfully proves his theory correct.
Socrates believes that the argument most commonly used to support the idea of incontinence is illogical. He then begins to develop an idea of motivation as separated from the tradition weakness of the will approach. There is a certain style that Socrates uses to disprove the idea of incontinence, or at the least prove it illogical. The type of argument he uses is called a reductio ad absurdum in which the theory is put through different scenarios until it is found to be contradictory or nonsensical at which point it is thought that the theory has been disproved. The popular argument of incontinence is that one sometimes does what is worse, even though it is avoidable, because they are overcome by the pleasure of that thing. One can also use good to describe pleasure so it is the case that people are overcome by the good. The first argument Socrates makes is that the good in something outweighs the bad and the person knows this so they do what will be good. This contradicts the above statement so it isn t a possible theory. Secondly, Socrates says that perhaps someone would take the greater harm in something for the lesser pleasure that came with it. But this defies the basic definition of pleasure. People strive to maximize pleasure and minimize pain as discussed in the debate hedonism also in the Protagoras so that theory is also faulty. So Socrates only comes to the conclusion that any scenario put to the concept of incontinence is implausible so he considers the theory the same.
While Socrates denies that we can have desires that run counter to our value judgements Plato makes the argument that people may have desires that don t follow a logical decision making path. For example, consider someone who wants something to drink but cannot because of an ailment that prevents them from drinking. This person has no rational reason to want to drink, it would only cause them pain, but yet the desire still exists. Thus, Plato draws a line between rational desires which make sense to the logical part of our brain and desires that go contrary to our thought process but continue to manifest themselves nonetheless. Plato in fact takes the argument a step further and hypothesizes to different parts of the soul, the rational and the appetitive. He bases this on the priniciple of opposites which states that a single thing cannot be drawn in opposite ways at once and, therefore, there must be two different parts of the soul. He also notes that this theory of opposition only applies to things that are directly contrary, in that they make no logical sense existing within the same soul and in fact cannot be reconciled or dealt with by the brain because they exist independent of each other.
From here we must compare Socrates complete denial of incontinence with Plato s theory of a rational and an appetitive soul. To sum up their opinions it can be said that Socrates denies that incontinent action is possible because free will only takes into account the value of the proposed action. Socrates believes that nothing else has any motivational force. Plato, on the other hand, has developed a more sophisticated method for discerning between rational and appetitive desires. With those qualifiers he can distinguish between strength of motivation and assessment of goodness. This explains perfectly how someone would choose what is less good according to the rational self but is more desired by the appetitive self. However, it doesn t make any sense unless one realizes that the appetitive desire is developed strictly without influence from the rational soul.
Finally, we have to determine whether or not Plato succesfully unseats Socrates denial of incontinence. It seems that this idea was always a problem for Socrates because he always felt that it was a very intuitive idea and that there wasn t really a need for explanation. Plato came to understand this problem on a more intellectual level than Socrates ever did. So from an explanatory standpoint Plato definitely outlines his case much better than Socrates ever did but Socrates was really only ever arguing based on his intuition regarding the subject.