McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Wilhelm S. Wurzer
Plato's Sophist and Statesman articulate the limits or definition of philosophy. My selective interpretation begins with a problem from Sophist 259e-260a and 252e-253e: Is it possible to express correctly (in logos) the necessary conditions of logos? This is an instance of a universal problem: Is it possible for any expertise to define itself and have expert inspired confidence in this definition? I articulate this universal problem with recourse to Kantian meta-philosophy, Chomsky's generative grammar and Schoenberg's theory of harmony. Rudolph Carnap's distinction between questions internal and external to a scientific framework is the means of addressing this universal problem. Questions about the definition of an expertise are external to that expertise; thus, an external capacity of an expertise is competent to determine the limits within which the internal capacity of the same expertise functions. This distinction is comparable to Plato's distinction between nous (external) and dianoia (internal) in Republic vi. Normally, the external capacity achieves expert agreement about first principles; the internal capacity justifies conclusions with recourse to first principles. Plato addresses an exceptional situation in the Sophist and Statesman; expert disagreement about first principles. Such disagreement results in genuine questions about what counts as the relevant expertise; this forces the problem of self-definition. Plato's treatment of misology, in the Phaedo, illustrates the problem and Plato's indirect means of addressing it. In the Statesman, due measure (external) and releative measure (internal) are mutually dependent capacities: relative measure presupposes due measure as this later is for the sake of the former (Statesman 283c-287a). Relative measure alone makes the arts impossible. The strict rule of law also renders the arts impossible (Statesman 297e-300a). Plato's Crito reveals the identity of Reason and Law. Reason and Law are the internal capacities of philosophy, measuring logoi and nomoi relative to first principles. Inquiry, or Dialectic, is the external capacity of philosophy, determining first principles and duly measuring the limits of philosophy. Thus, Reason and Law presuppose some prior and authoritative decision about first principles or ultimate boundaries just as the determination of these boundaries is always for the sake of Reason and Law.
Brouwer, M. (2005). The Limits of Philosophy: Plato's Sophist and Statesman (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/350