Charmides

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How can you think that I have any other motive in refuting you but what I should have in examining into myself?

This is Socrates's response (166c) to Critias's accusation that he is only interested in refuting whatever Critias proposes. Socrates suggests that Critias mistakes both the point and the process of philosophical debate (the elenchus) because he identifies hypotheses with the debater who came up with them and refutations with an attack on that person. Socrates argues that the discussion should be free from personal motives, and that a refutation is of an argument, not a person—as such, refutations, though negative, only advance the participants' mutual progress toward knowledge. There is a remarkable sense in which Socrates sees the process of debate as a melding or exchanging of selves, a kind of dialectic in which, when one person asks a question of the other, he is also asking something of himself.

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