Article published in:Bochumer Philosophisches Jahrbuch für Antike und Mittelalter: Band 20
Herausgegeben von Manuel Baumbach und Olaf Pluta
[Bochumer Philosophisches Jahrbuch für Antike und Mittelalter 20] 2017
► pp. 18–48
Aristotelian dialectic as midwifery
The epistemic significance of critique
In Topics I.2, Aristotle famously claims that dialectic, as a critical inquiry, affords the path to the primary principles of science. This article sets out from the assumption that Aristotle shares with Plato the suspicion that dialectical critique cannot contribute to the advancement of scientific knowledge as long as it is of the Socratic, elenctic kind, since its only benefit is to refute false beliefs. But when Plato in the Theaetetus has Socrates act as a midwife to his fellow men, he offers an alternative picture of dialectical critique that also, it is argued, captures the spirit of Aristotle’s dialectical work, especially as pursued in the Metaphysics. In Aristotle, however, the mission of Socratic midwifery, to help other individuals give birth to knowledge that was already innate to them, is transformed into a project that centers on the liberation of the as yet dormant and inarticulate truth of the tradition.
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Published online: 26 March 2018