The Philosophy Department presents
Marta Jimenez, Emory University:
“Plato’s Mixed Feelings About Experience”
In Plato’s Gorgias, Socrates emphatically rejects experience both as a source of knowledge and as a reliable guide for life choices. While Callicles criticizes philosophers for being inexperienced in the important matters of life, Socrates criticizes orators and politicians for having mere experience (as opposed to art or knowledge) and for producing persuasion on the grounds of mere guesswork. This view seems to conflict with Republic IX, where experience is seen positively and has a central role in two of the three major arguments in defense of the life of philosophy. In those arguments, Socrates specifically appeals to the experience of philosophers as one of the main advantages they have for making correct judgements about pleasures and pains, and the good life in general. The goal of my paper is to explain and resolve this apparent conflict and to spell out how the arguments in Republic IX offer a direct answer to Callicles’ criticisms of the philosophical life in the Gorgias. They do so, not by rejecting experience altogether, but by establishing rules for when experience can be reliable.