By RJ Snell, September 15, 2010 in Pedagogy and Teaching, What is Education?
Here's a question: Socrates begins with his interlocutors own beliefs and reveals their inconsistency; of course, the inconsistency results from the interlocutors confusion and ignorance, and as a result Socrates will at times use less than sound arguments to reveal the contradictions. Since he's not trying to establish a truth as much as reveal the confused state of the interlocutor these little "deceptions" are perhaps less problematic than they might appear.
Aristotle says in the Sophistical Refutations that the games of argument allow their students to begin to understand causes (for him this means middle terms). Socrates asks if a student will admit x, they do. Socrates then reveals their commitment to z as well because x leads to y and y to z. Now, what if Socrates has "tricked" them into it?
Doing this with some frequency, the student develops the habit of discerning middle terms and learns to not admit x, because they begin to realize that x will force them into z, even though there is no immediate relation but rather only a mediated relation. But they discern the mediation, and so now conversant, and perhaps converted, to the world of rational discussion.
And now ready to inquire.
I'm struck in the Platonic texts how often someone needs to be defeated or converted so that real inquiry can begin. Cephalus needs to be chased away with a question. Polemarchus must be made a friend; Thrasymachus must be shamed into blushing; Polus must be tamed; Meno must be stung. And often Socrates uses not great arguments to do this defeating, but the defeat allows the interlocutor to become a rational partner--eristic seems to be a tool to move someone into dialectic.
But eristic is not concerned with truth, its a game of tricks--but those tricks can and do educate people into the habits and capacity of the world of intelligibility, cause, and inquiry.
Ddoes Plato allow us to think that it is permissible to create aporia with arguments we know to be not very strong, or must an argument we know to be unsound not be used as it is a form of manipulation?