Republics of Conversation: The Normativity of Talk in Plato up to the Theaetetus

Chappell, Sophie Grace (2022). Republics of Conversation: The Normativity of Talk in Plato up to the Theaetetus. In: Zucca, Diego ed. New Explorations in Plato's 'Theaetetus'. Amsterdam: Brill, pp. 83–113.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004516014_006

Abstract

I explore the ways in which Plato experiments with an aspiration that I think is central for him: the aspiration to find a form of normatively governed talk such that its content will be completely governed by its form, and its content will be uniquely and universally rational. This aspiration is of course hopelessly over-ambitious. But its various failures in Plato’s oeuvre are exegetically important and philosophically instructive. Moreover something like the same aspiration remains in a key requirement on civic political discourse: the requirement that civic discourse be civil discourse, not violent or coercive or threatening or otherwise subversive of our rational autonomy. And so we get from the unattainable ideal of Plato’s Republic, a uniquely rational state of affairs that we are supposed to attain by a sort of coercive rationality, to the ideal of any of a multiplicity of possible conversational republics. And this latter, I argue, is both attainable, and the right political ideal for modern liberal humanists.

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