Negative Foundations & Socratic Metaethics (Abstract and section headings)

by metalogike

Negative Foundations & Socratic Metaethics


While it is undesirable to separate Plato’s ethical theory too sharply from the elenctic practice of his Socrates, it is difficult to see how any notion of ethical objectivity could be commensurate with Socrates’ relentlessly negative dialectic. Fortunately, like events, relations, and other distinctly non-object-like aspects of reality, negative truths can be understood as independent of human opinions and social arrangements in important ways, without being assimilable to or reducible to any positive model of objectivity. I suggest that the most important ethical truths for Plato’s Socrates are indeed negative truths, and that these resist the distribution of presence characteristic of both objectivity and subjectivity, and especially of the schema by which these two are distinguished and correlated. Following out this idea, I argue on the basis of the dialogues for a Platonic version of negative foundations as a third position opposed to both foundationalism and antifoundationalism in metaethics, and for an Idea of the Good at once hyper-subjective and hyper-objective in its negativity.


  1. Traditionalists, Sophists, and Socrates (makes three)
  2. Objectivity of the Lost Object
  3. The Unseparation of Pragmatics