What Can Socratic Philosophy Achieve? Plato’s Conception of Care in the Light of Christine Korsgaard’s Self-constitution

Morten Sørensen Thaning*, Johan Gersel

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    Can rational arguments convince a person to change from a commitment to living an unvirtuous life into striving after virtue? Or can rationality, even in the best cases, only help preserve an already existing commitment to virtue? Our paper throws light on this question through a discussion of the form of care for the self that Plato thinks is practiced through the engagement in Socratic philosophy, the practice of giving and asking for reasons. First, the Platonic conception of the soul as the object of care is described. Secondly, we consider what care of the soul is meant to accomplish. Thirdly, we consider the pedagogical role that can be attributed to Socratic philosophy in stimulating such care. This is discussed through a critical analysis of Christine Korsgaard’s interpretation of Plato which we draw upon in our previous reconstruction. The conclusion is that the engagement in rational discourse can at best function as a way of preserving the virtue of already virtuous souls, and not as a way of transforming the unvirtuous by rationally motivating them to pursue virtue for its own sake.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalInternational Journal of Philosophy and Theology
    Issue number3
    Pages (from-to)227-245
    Number of pages19
    Publication statusPublished - May 2020


    • Care
    • Plato
    • Korsgaard
    • Philosophical psychology
    • Alcibiades

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