Saturday, November 28, 2009

File: The Socratic Method

(from Scarlet Mark’s files)


The Socratic Method (or Method of Elenchus or Socratic Debate), named after the Classical Greek philosopher Socrates, is a form of inquiry and debate between individuals with opposing viewpoints based on asking and answering questions to stimulate rational thinking and to illuminate ideas. It is a dialectical method, often involving an oppositional discussion in which the defense of one point of view is pitted against the defense of another; one participant may lead another to contradict himself in some way, strengthening the inquirer's own point.

Socrates began to engage in such discussions with his fellow Athenians after his friend from youth, Chaerephon, visited the Oracle of Delphi, which confirmed that no man in Greece was wiser than Socrates. Socrates saw this as a paradox, and began using the Socratic method to answer his conundrum. Diogenes Laertius, however, wrote that Protagoras invented the “Socratic” method.

Plato famously formalized the Socratic Elenctic style in prose—presenting Socrates as the curious questioner of some prominent Athenian interlocutor—in some of his early dialogues, such as Euthyphro and Ion, and the method is most commonly found within the so-called "Socratic dialogues", which generally portray Socrates engaging in the method and questioning his fellow citizens about moral and epistemological issues.

The term Socratic questioning is used to describe a kind of questioning in which an original question is responded to as though it were an answer. This in turn forces the first questioner to reformulate a new question in light of the progress of the discourse.


* A and B agree on the topic of instruction.
* B agrees to attempt to answer questions from A.
* A andB are willing to accept any correctly-reasoned answer. That is, the reasoning process must be considered more important than pre-conceived facts or beliefs.
*A’s questions should expose errors in B’s reasoning or beliefs, then formulate questions that B cannot answer except by a correct reasoning process. A has prior knowledge about the classical fallacies (errors) in reasoning.
* WhereA makes an error of logic or fact, it is acceptable for B  to draw attention to the error.

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