Critique and enlightenment: Leonard Nelson on Socratic method and the shared project of Kant and Plato

Cameron, Blaise W. (2021) Critique and enlightenment: Leonard Nelson on Socratic method and the shared project of Kant and Plato. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

[img] [English] PDF - Accepted Version
Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.

Download (459kB)


In this thesis I examine Leonard Nelson’s (1882-1927) theory of Socratic method as a lesser-known contribution to Neo-Kantian literature on the relationship between Kant and Plato. To do so, I look at Nelson’s 1922 essay on the subject, “The Socratic Method” – analyzing it within the context of philosophical problems Nelson wanted to solve, and as an extension of concerns found throughout Nelson’s wider thought. Although the pedagogical side of Nelson’s Socratic method is familiar to us from its use in various educational settings – most notably in law school instruction – contemporary practice of this technique is very far removed from how Nelson himself understood and practiced it and as such, I argue, cannot satisfy Nelson’s original goal of training a responsible, philosophically-adept citizenry. I argue instead that the best way to appreciate these aims is to examine the Kantian and Platonic context Nelson works within, and why he saw these two philosophies as being in agreement. I organize my thesis around Nelson’s propositions that Kant and Plato alike are critical philosophers and that both are concerned with realizing enlightened societies, i.e., societies whose laws and ideals proceed according to a pure, rational basis reached through the practice of philosophy. Nelson takes Plato’s use of Socratic dialectic to be the model on which Kant’s project of enlightenment and moral education can be actualized, and in turn, he views Kant’s theory of knowledge as the framework within which Socratic method can accomplish the tasks Socrates and Plato originally set for it. My thesis shows that scholarly inattention to Nelson’s work not only holds back our understanding Kant and Plato’s relationship, but our conception of philosophy’s proper aims and priorities.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 15122
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 111-115).
Keywords: Socratic method, Epistemology, Education
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Philosophy
Date: October 2021
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Nelson, Leonard, 1882-1927; Plato; Kant, Immanuel, 1724-1804; Questioning; Neo-Kantianism.

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over the past year

View more statistics