This chapter treats five dialogues, all of which attempt to answer determining questions about what virtuous actions are in general as opposed to what the virtuous action is in the here and now. Three of these – the Laches, Charmides, and Euthyphro – are so-called “dialogues of definition” in which Socrates asks a specific “What is F?” question, where F is a specific virtue: courage, temperance, and piety, respectively. The other two, the Protagoras and Euthydemus, do not present a “What is F?” question so starkly, although I shall argue that they too attempt to determine what virtue in general is. It is to be expected that Socrates turns to the question of what virtue is, given that he is committed to, argues for, and claims to know SV. It should also come as no surprise that these dialogues contain the majority of Socrates' disavowals of knowledge, and that, consistently with such disavowals and with Cleitophon's criticism of Socrates, these dialogues never succeed in successfully answering the question for virtue in general or for any particular virtue. The Apology, Crito, and Gorgias, by contrast, do not end in aporia – typically considered one of the hallmarks of “early” or “Socratic” dialogues – because they are primarily concerned with SV and/or determining what the virtuous action is in the here and now.
I proceed in this chapter as follows. I begin with a brief general discussion of these five dialogues, highlighting two of their common features (4.1).