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THE MOTIVE AND THE EMOTIVE
Plato therefore wrote in dialog form,
and never speaks as a character in his dialogs so as to make the reader think
for himself. The dialogs are a kind of living speech that farces the reader
towards self-examination. The reader must enter into these conundrums and
be forced to think for himself."
........ TTC.. D. Roochnik
Socrates was insisting upon the dialectic as the foremost kind of discourse to investigate fundamental issues like virtue, justice etc simply because the method included the use of reason, whereas the Sophists by their reliance on rhetoric, which primarily appealed to the emotions at the exclusion of reason, was insufficient as also incomplete in dealing with the fundamental issues concerning human ethical behavior - especially in public affairs and governance.
Socrates was clearly more interested in going into the depths of the motives of those who wanted to use language only for its artistic and emotive effects ( the professional Sophists ) with utter disregard to it's rational, analytic contents. The mistake most people are prone to make is to equate "motive" and "emotive", whereas there is a world of difference between the two. The "motive" is the moving force ( can also be called will ) that directs our actions, whereas "emotive" is the emotional result of any action, which then effects or feeds-back the motive positively or negatively. But apart from emotional effects the only sure positive feedback is to direct motivations towards the exercise of intelligence : constructive or creative - irrespective of emotional results, for then and only then can not only motivations sustain themselves, but also possibly generate a positive feedback and growing stimulus for creativity.
Emotions can be a powerful positive feedback medium, but these are basically not primary to initiation of creative activity. The motive or will is primary for any initiation. Only under exceptional conditions do emotions act as initiators, and here too, the negative emotions of irritation and anger are the ones that are the likely initiators of creative activity.
Socrates had an acute sense that pure motives ( without the need to please or persuade anyone, even gods ) were the key to "virtue" and his dialogs probed the depths of human motivations by stripping off the fake motivations of seeking wealth and fame. Virtue and wealth do not go together - of this he was convinced, as also he was convinced that virtue was an inner resource that could not be traded, and thus could not be taught, especially by charging a fee for it. Thus he came into conflict with the ideas and methods of the Sophists.
If virtue, ( which was the chief quality required in the affairs of the state ) can be taught, it becomes another profession, and the whole process of law making, politics, judiciary and all governing bodies become dominated by "professionals of virtue", rather than a participatory process where all people are involved, irrespective of their professions or backgrounds. But once you start preparing or teaching people specifically for politics, then politics eventually becomes exclusively dominated by professionals ( those who earn their livelihood itself from politics ) and businessmen ( those who trade in anything, especially favorable laws for maximizing profits ).
While there is no definitive method ( and definitely not rhetoric, for the aim of rhetoric is to persuade, not to make common cause ) by which it can be agreed upon what is good and what is not, nor is it desirable that what is good need be agreed upon, but what is the bare minimum common truth can only be found and given shape and form in terms of rules and laws by a process of dialog ( dialectic ) between people who are determined or bound by a common cause - for example : efficient governance, effective justice, managing and ensuring basic rights. The dialectic is therefore the only method by which a minimum common denominator of what is a common or shared truth for a given social condition. What else, for example, is the constitution of a nation ? it is a set of commonly acceptable or agreeable set of laws that purport to govern the people within a geographical area - a common truth formulated by and for the people of that area. Now this does not mean that everyone must absolutely conform to these laws in their commonly acceptable interpretations. In any case, Reality is bound to come up with exceptional conditions where these laws and their common interpretation run into all sorts of trouble in which conflicting personal truths of people cannot be satisfactorily resolved and it is then that a fresh look at the laws and their exceptional condition becomes necessary.
The jokes and the irony in the dialogs teases us and forces us to ask defensive questions of the dialogs, and what's most remarkable and miraculous about them is that when we ask the right questions, they answer. The dialogs speak to us. The dialogs are a memesis, a representation of the living voice. They point towards the living voice - push us towards our desire for communication and connection with other people that refines us and improves us. That's what's immortal about Socrates, and immortal about the dialogs - they represent the immediate articulation of persistent human questions and problems, And that's why they never go out of style. But the joke played on us here is that there is no direct teaching in the dialogs - the standing joke played on us is that we only get out of the dialogs what we bring in. In a strange way this joke benefits us. Socrates then is the greatest philosophical jokers, and I would say that the Platonic dialogs are a huge comedy - a human comedy that gestures at the divine, but never brings us to it ( for that has to be accomplished by one's own self). A comedy is about people who don't know themselves. Foolish, ridiculous people, because of their lack of self knowledge, and lack of self understanding make the kind of mistakes that are human, all too human. TTC..M. Sugrue