published on August 25, 2016
Becoming Like a Woman
Philosophy in Plato's Theaetetus
Interpreters of Theaetetus are prone to endorse the view that a god gave Socrates maieutic skill. This paper challenges that view. It provides a different account of the skill’s origins, and reconstructs a genealogy of Socratic philosophy that begins and has its end in human experience. Three distinct origins coordinate to bring forth a radically new conception of philosophy in the image of female midwifery: the state of wonder (1. efficient origin), the exercise of producing, examining and disavowing beliefs in the gradual cultivation of human nature’s lack of skill (2. material origin), and Socrates’ understanding of god’s assistance as an endorsement of his mental infertility and the benefit of a particular form of dialectical training (3. formal origin). The paper concludes by arguing that Socrates transforms philosophy into a pursuit of wisdom that has its telos in becoming like a woman.