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The What is X Question 1 Socrates asked a simple kind of question that revolutionized philosophy What is it 2 Usually raised about significant moral or aesthetic qualities eg justice courage wisdom temperance beauty 3 Such questions are the central concern of the Socratic early dialogues of Plato 4 A so-called Socratic definition is an answer to a What is X question 5 Socratic definitions are not of words but of things Socrates does not want to know what the word justice means but what the nature of justice itself is 6 A correct Socratic definition is thus a true description of the essence of the thing to be defined Ie definitions can be true or false II The Importance of Socratic Definitions A They are objective 1 Socrates was opposed to the moral relativism of the Sophists 2 He believed that there were objective moral standards that they could be discovered that there were right and wrong answers to moral questions that went beyond mere opinion and popular sentiment B They are fundamental for knowledge 1 Socrates claims that until you know what a thing is you cant answer any other questions about it 2 So any inquiry into any moral question presupposes an answer to the relevant What is X question Not just that there is such an answer but that the inquirer is in possession of it 3 Eg in the Meno Socrates claims that you cannot answer a question about virtue Can it be taught until you have answered a more fundamental question What is it 4 In general he thought that a persons having knowledge involving a concept X depends upon his knowing the correct answer to the What is X question C They are fundamental for morality 1 He thought that the possibility of morality moral character moral behavior depended on knowledge of definitions 2 Virtue is knowledge if you know what is
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