Aporetic state and extended emotions: The shameful recognition of contradictions in the Socratic elenchus

Laura Candiotto

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The Socratic elenchus is a procedure which tests out the consistency of the interlocutors’ beliefs. To this end, it is necessary to carry out, alongside the renowned Socratic strategies (questioning, examples, definitions, etc.), also an emotional process acting inside reasoning and where shame has a leading role. The aporetic state is a good example of the collaboration of emotions and reasoning, growing from the shameful recognition of contradictions. It is a cognitive and emotional acknowledgement of errors that pushes the subject to transform his/her behaviour. The use of emotions is not merely a rhetorical strategy for argumentation; emotions are the elements that embody knowledge into a practice capable of transforming life into a good life thereby determining the rational way of living for flourishing.
The recognition of mistakes does not happen just “in the head” but is “extended” in the public environment that permits the generation of shame. This is the case, not only because shame is a “collective emotion” but because the audience is a necessary component of the catharsis.
My main thesis concerns what I call the “extended elenchus”, a process based on the extended nature of the aporetic state. The first section highlights the “necessity thesis”, or the role of emotions in reasoning; the second focuses on shame as an epistemic emotion and on the cognitive role played by the audience in the implementation of the “system of shame”; the third addresses the role of cathartic and zetetic aporia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-248
JournalEthics & Politics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Socrates
  • elenchus
  • aporetic state
  • shame
  • extended mind
  • extended emotions


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