Doctor of Philosophy
Henry, Devin M.
Ancient philosophers are preoccupied with the idea of craft (technê)—art, expertise, skill, and not infrequently translated as knowledge or science. The idea is often seen by ancient thinkers as the pinnacle of rational agency and offers them a vital paradigm for thinking about the world and our place within it. One longstanding tradition is the view that virtue shares important features with the sort of expertise involved in practicing a craft. In this thesis, I investigate the relationship between craft and virtue in Plato, focusing especially on the early dialogues. The overarching aim of this thesis is to demonstrate that Plato’s thinking about craft is central to his views on virtue, including how he develops particular virtues like wisdom and justice as the basis for political rule. In the first half of this thesis (Chapters 1 and 2), I present the ways in which Plato’s understanding of craft (and the diverse and wide set of examples that come to embody the idea for him) serves as a fruitful model of knowledge for developing the nature and structure of virtue, as well as illuminates key psychological features of the virtuous person. In the second half of this thesis (Chapters 3 and 4), I focus on another important way in which Plato relies on the idea of craft to think about virtue. This is in the context of his account of political rule. Here, I focus not on the idea of craft as a model of knowledge, but on how the sort of knowledge fit for political rule (e.g. wisdom, justice) relates to ordinary crafts, the latter represent the existing branches of expertise in various areas of human pursuit. I make the case that Plato understands the nature of political rule as an architectonic form of knowledge—a master knowledge fit to preside over ordinary crafts for the sake of promoting human welfare.
Summary for Lay Audience
Ancient Greek philosophers are preoccupied with the idea of technê, the Greek root from which we derive words like technical, technology, and technocrat. Though the concept of technê lacks an ideal translation in the English language, “expertise”, “craft” or “skill” come closest to capturing its meaning. It is the application of reason and intelligence to some specific area. One longstanding tradition in ancient Greek philosophy is the view that virtue—the kind of knowledge required for developing the excellence of one’s character and for living well—shares important features with the sort of expertise involved in practicing a craft. This idea is most prominent in the works of Plato (427–347 B.C.). My thesis investigates the relationship between craft and virtue in Plato’s early works. I show that Plato’s understanding of craft is central to his views on the nature of virtue and political rule. He relies on the idea of craft as a model of knowledge for developing the nature and structure of virtue, as well as the psychological features of the virtuous person. He also holds the view that political rule should be understood as a governing knowledge fit to manage all other expertise or crafts in order to promote human welfare.
Li, Cecilia Z., "Craft and Virtue in Plato's Early Dialogues" (2022). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 9063.
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