Read The Kyrios Dialogue

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Synopsis of the Kyrios Dialogue:

In the Kyrios Dialogue, the Socrates character is the Socratic questioner.  John and Paul are two Christian men.  After John and Paul communicate a belief in their authority over their wives, Socrates then establishes the need to define that authority through defining its jurisdiction.  What is jurisdiction?  There are three types of jurisdiction in a legal perspective, personal, territorial and subject matter.  Legally these types of jurisdiction are used to define where, and in what circumstances a court is authorized to make decisions in cases.  The Kyrios Dialogue handles these types of jurisdiction in a broader way to assess authority generally. 

Personal jurisdiction is the first type to be brought up when John says that, "A husbandís authority is God-given and covers his wife throughout their lives."  This is a very comprehensive idea of personal jurisdiction that covers the whole of a person's life and is quickly eliminated by showing it encroaches on the various territorial and subject matter jurisdictions that society grants to women. 

John then try's to define a Christian husband's authority with territorial jurisdiction.  He says, "A man has authority in the home, over his wife and children."  For any personal or territorial jurisdiction to be complete it must concur with some form of the third type of jurisdiction (subject matter).  The Socratic Method is used to draw out the problematic nature of Johns definition of authority through territorial jurisdiction by showing the difficulties of establishing a concurrence with subject matter jurisdiction.  Because John is initially wanting to embrace the authority to rule on all subject matters in the home, he makes a realistic concurrence with subject matter jurisdiction impossible.  This is because there is a built in presumption of special knowledge and skill that is part of subject matter jurisdiction.  Therefore, all authority must have as part of its basis some form of expertise to the extent that its personal or territorial jurisdiction must concur with subject matter jurisdiction.  As John realizes his failure, he tries to redefine his territorial jurisdiction to formally exclude subject matter jurisdiction.  This ends up incorporating the concepts of ignorance and triviality into his definition of a husband's authority in a way that causes Paul to take over the conversation.

The dialogue then focuses on subject matter jurisdiction.  In subject matter jurisdiction, a particular field of knowledge or practice is defined.  For example, a bankruptcy court has the authority to specialize in hearing only bankruptcy cases.  To say that a biologist speaks with authority on the subject of biology is also to define authority on the basis of subject matter.  Paul claims that the "knowledge of God" is the basis of his authority over his wife.  As the process of Socratic questioning proceeds, Paul is unable to show where this knowledge applies in a way that can constitute a definition of subject matter jurisdiction.  Paul then tries to use "authority by appointment" as a way to circumvent the need to define a jurisdiction but fails. 

The conclusion of the Kyrios Dialogue is a failure to reach the goal of finding a viable definition.  Two men, who believed in a certain authority, were unable to define that authority.  This failure, a hallmark of the early dialogues of Plato, serves an important purpose.  It lets people know what they do not know.

If you know of another Socratic dialogue, which applies the Socratic Method to a modern subject and is comparable to the early dialogues of Plato with regard to it dialectical style and effectiveness, please use the contact link on the home page to send me information about it.