Platonic dialectic

Plato’s dialogues lack a complete account of dialectic as a philosophic method. To contribute to such an account, I show how dialectic is a process of ethical cultivation and an ethical way of life. I argue that there are three distinct forms of Platonic dialectic. The first form comprises the asking and answering of questions, and it refutes inconsistent or false beliefs. The second form begins with a likely hypothesis, and then negates the initial hypothesis and any subsequent hypotheses until a true hypothesis is confirmed. The last form is noetic dialectic and it ascends to an understanding of the first principle, and descends from that understanding to derive Plato’s entire metaphysics and epistemology. When unified and understood in the overall framework of Plato’s philosophy, the three forms of Platonic dialectic are a method for balancing the tripartite soul so that one may grasp the first principle and act in accordance with justice. Thus, dialectic is a process of ethical cultivation.