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The Socratic Method

6 years ago

Alright, so this really isn't a persuasive/argumentative piece, but I suppose I'll post it anyways.  The paper is of my description of the Socratic Method, its development, goals and uses, some background, justification, and then my opinion on the practicality of this method.

 

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The Socratic Method

The elenchus (Socratic Method) is characterized as both a method of refutation as well as a mutual search for the essence of virtue, or a particular virtue.  The Socratic Method requires two participants, the inquirer and the interlocutor, who presents his views and offers his definitions on a particular virtue, and is often of great reputable knowledge in society.  After examination, the inquirer poses one or two separate beliefs that his interlocutor holds to be true which serve to counter the initial claim or definition.  Provided that the interlocutor accepts the counter examples, he attempts broaden or narrow his definition accordingly in order to encompass both sufficient and necessary conditions to satisfy the definition.

While it may appear in several instances that Socrates is simply arguing semantics and using eristic against his opponent throughout many of the dialogues, his true purpose in trying to find a proper or exact definition is to hopefully grasp the essence of some of the most important things in life; which is, coincidentally, the main difference between eristic and the elenchus.  Whereas eristic utilizes a more dishonest method of debate, through intentional fallacies and “crowd pleasing” arguments, to make the opponent look bad, the elenchus is used as a vessel by which both participants can explore the most important things in life and engage in pure or honest philosophical discourse.  The idea is that of the “Rule of Good Method:” if one can understand the true meaning of particular virtuous concepts, then he can teach himself and others exactly what virtue is, or how to be virtuous, and ultimately achieve some sort of happiness of the soul, or eudemonia.

Further, Socrates’s goal in using the elenchus seems to be split several ways; there is of course the knowledge of virtuous living, and there is the acknowledgment of one’s own ignorance, which is known as Socratic Wisdom.  Unfortunately, throughout the Dialogues of Definition, we find that the former is never achieved as they all appear to end with the interlocutor in aporia, which is described as a state of “mental numbness.”  But even in aporia, we find that Socrates attains some form of answer in his quest to achieve his goal of trying to prove the Oracle of Delphi wrong.

In “Apology,” Socrates provides an account of his old friend, Chaerephon, who ventures to the Oracle and asks if any man was wiser than Socrates, to which the Oracle replies “no one was wiser” (Apology 21a).  When Socrates hears of this he is taken aback, as he’s all too aware of his own ignorance, whereas many others in his society are reputed solely on their knowledge and wisdom.  So, he sets about this “Socratic Mission” to try to disprove the Oracle and present him with a man who was in fact wiser than himself, which ultimately brings about the Socratic Method, as he develops it in his investigation for knowledge of the most important things in life.  He eventually comes to the conclusion that the Oracle was not mistaken, but rather that he used Socrates as an example, not in that Socrates was literally the wisest among all men, but in that the “man among you, mortals, is wises who, like Socrates, understands that his wisdom is worthless” (Apology 23b).

Throughout Socrates’s sessions in the Marketplace, where he conducts these philosophical inquiries, he develops the elenchus, which he unquestionably believes to be the best method for achieving his philosophical goals.  With the elenchus, Socrates utilizes arguments and questions that directly address and conflict with the interlocutor’s own beliefs, in order to allow him to reason through his own statements in a logical manor of his own production, rather than be told what “the answer” may be or why what his beliefs are “wrong” by another person.  Socrates’s best defense for this method appears to come from his belief that all people have the potential for expert knowledge in the most important things in life, in a sense, as he argues in favor of the “Theory of Recollection,” offering that knowledge of this sort cannot be taught by others, but is rather achieved though a personal search of one’s own soul, though he never explicitly establishes the relation himself in the dialogues.

This epiphany or realization of the most important things in life is, of course, the ideal result of the elenchus; although, we find that in aporia one establishes a foundation on which to begin true philosophical exploration.  Socrates believed that one could not seek the answer to something he already believed he knew, ergo, a state of aporia was considerably beneficial for the interlocutor according to Socrates. Although, several of his more powerful and influential interlocutors would disagree, and this would ultimately lead to the trial and sentencing of Socrates.

Socrates certainly was not ignorant of their disdain, as he indicates in “Apology” (30e) he is like a gadfly, prodding, arousing, and provoking the city of Athens, which he likens to a horse, in order to help it wake from its moral and philosophical slumber.  He attributes it to be a calling from god, or the gods, not only to engage in philosophical discourse and inquiry, but also to serve the higher purpose in promoting the concept internal moral values and instilling in them a manner of determining, and eventually achieving, a virtuous lifestyle.  Because of this, he states, he does not fear death or danger; only a life of disgrace (Apology 28d-28e).  And so Socrates is convicted and sentenced to death.

The Socratic Method, while at times seemingly comparable to sophist practice and eristic, appears to be an ideal procedure for philosophical inquiry.  As the inquirer provides counters examples and puzzling questions regarding the claims, he is allowed to witness the philosophical development in his interlocutor, as well as formulate his own beliefs, opinions, and further questions.  And because the interlocutor’s own beliefs are in question, he is given an opportunity to assess and establish the grounding for his claims.  While both parties (and any spectators) may not have expert knowledge on a particular matter, both are given the opportunity to evaluate external reasoning, bearing in mind and reflecting on various scenarios, arguments, and beliefs, and ultimately experience personal growth on a profound level.  Should the inquiry end in a state of aporia, nothing desirable, according to Socrates, is ever lost, as ‘ignorance of one’s own ignorance’ is not something to be preferred, and a new path toward eudemonia is cleared.

The Socratic Method

6 years ago
Only skimmed, but I really like it, I'll get to it in depth later.

The Socratic Method

6 years ago

Cool, cool.  I don't know what grade I got, but given what we talked about in class, I have all the elements I needed to make it work.  Generally, so long as I explained the Socratic Method, the Socratic Mission, and made the connection, I was good.  And if I added further insight on particular things,etc.  Yeah, haha

As long as someone, who previously had no idea what the elenchus was, can read the paper and gain some understanding, I've done what I set out to do.

The Socratic Method

6 years ago

That was the dubest thing I'be read all day. And I just read a page of the bible. Ugh, that shit is discusting.

The Socratic Method

6 years ago

I don't know what Socrates has to do with Dubstep, but I like your style, fag.

The Socratic Method

6 years ago
This is the only post of his that I won't delete just because your response is so fucking hilarious.

The Socratic Method

6 years ago

I just realised only the first paragraph or so is a description of the method itself. I don't really like it myself - if someone can counter your claim, bending over backwards to redefine terms and chucking out ad-hoc hypotheses to support them just throws up a smokescreen of bullshit.

Terms should be clearly defined at the outset of a debate, and when a position is refuted the refutation must be refuted for the position to be held valid.

The Socratic Method

6 years ago

Yeah, that certainly is a criticism of the Socratic Method.  And, to an extent, I agree.  The SM is supposed to take beliefs from the interlocutor, in order to counter the initial claim - however, the beliefs themselves are often wrong.  So, any conclusion your reach will result from a fallacious premise; thus, the conclusion itself is fallacious.  The only defense for this is that it's intended to get the interlocutor to realize that he can't hold two conflicting beliefs simultaneously, so he must either reject his initial claim, or the belief brought up in the example (either way, he realizes a fault in his beliefs, and is brought closer to achieving Socratic Wisdom [knowledge of one's own ignorance], and thus eudaimonia).

In regards to defining terms in a debate:  The debate itself is about how to define particular virtues.  I had the same problem, as I figured that there was no way that Socrates was just out to argue semantics, and I was right.  The idea was, and I suppose still is, to grasp the essence of a word (give the Rule of Good Method) in order to able to teacher ourselves how to be virtuous.

Also, if we keep in mind the setting in which Socrates used this method, it makes sense why he had to argue this way (using the interlocutor's personal beliefs).  The people he argued were like republicans, haha, they didn't deal with facts.  If the gods made rain, then that's the way it was, or you got tried for Atheism.  Didn't matter evidence to the contrary you had to offer.  Instead, Socrates had to take his interlocutor (and audience) into account, when engaging in these philosophical inquiries.

We do the same today, when we talk to people who don't want to listen.  When the facts don't work (ie. Equal Protection is in the constitution, and there's no reason to ban gay marriage other than to take away rights from a group of individuals), you resort to "Ok, well the bible also says to stone women who have sex before marriage."  While the bible has nothing (or should have nothing) to do with the way the US makes laws, it's an argument that is often utilized in order to get the other person to realize his faults (and in this case, stupidities).

I think I addressed your points, haha, I'm not entirely sure.

In regards to the paper itself, it wasn't a lot of description, because I had to address 9 question things, on of which was "briefly describe the Socratic Method in your own words," and I didn't figured I needed more than a paragraph.  Still, I was not happy with the way I organized it.  It started off as a sort of outline, and I wrote myself into a conversational type of paper - so the order in which I explain things is all whacked.  When I finished, I should've gone back and reordered the paragraphs, and fixed it up to make it flow better, but I was kinda lazy to do so.  As a result, I got a B. haha Which is kinda lame, but I'll know better for next time.

 

The Socratic Method

6 years ago

Sorry, man. I goofed and didnt read the purpose properly. Although most of the time I find if you propose a reasonable definition it will get accepted, there are times (like when dealing with the wording of laws) that you can't get agreement. The way you described it in your previous post is similar to Reductio Ad Absurdum - you take your opponent's argument structure, substitute different premeses and get an obviously false conclusion. It's also a nice touch to take beliefs from the interlocutor to refute his claim, because then he has to give somewhere.

Although, if you are not using evidence in this type of debate, it's possible, however unlikely, that both the inquirer and the interlocuter are wrong.  I guess that's why it's intended to provide refutations rather than arguments in favour of something. If both are wrong, then the refutation holds, I guess.

The Socratic Method

6 years ago
Just want to point out that this relies on the interlocuter not being a giant douchebag.

The Socratic Method

6 years ago

But less so than, say, an empirical debate, or one involving fallacy calls. The thing is, by using the interlocutor's own beliefs against him it is far harder to avoid conclusions, since he would have to relinquish the belief you specify if he wants to maintain consistency.

The Socratic Method

6 years ago
Unless the interlocutor denies your argument without providing reasoning as to why.

The Socratic Method

6 years ago
IE:

You: This belief and this belief contradict eachother.
Interlocutor: No.

The Socratic Method

6 years ago

I find that at that point, it's expedient to just proceed to mockery.

The Socratic Method

6 years ago
haha, yup.

The Socratic Method

6 years ago

Rommel, it's all good. haha  And yeah, while ideally you'd like to reach a grand conclusion, there are flaws because you're using your interlocutor's beliefs.  So, in that sense, it's much more efficient as a method of refutation, also as provided by the fact that Socrates never actually ever reached any firm conclusions about any of the virtues. haha

JJJ, actually, most of Socrates's interlocutors were massive douchebags, haha.  That's why they put him to death - because he exposed their ignorance in public, and given that they were people of great power and influence in his society, they were able to try, convict, and sentence him to death.

Unless you mean, like, a douchebag in regards to logic... Hm.  Reminds me of someone, but I can't quite remember... haha

Like, they provide an arguement, and then you use a belief or previous argument of theirs that directly contradicts the claim they're posing, and they say something like "Uhh, I don't see how that's the same thing at all.  Nope, nope, totally different."

The only check on this type of douchebag is a public forum like Socrates had... and like we have.  I mean, a check in the sense that the people recognize total douchbaggary, but not in that he or she ceases to be a douchebag.  After all, Socrates was still put to death, and we still have shit getting deleted sporadically.

So... yeah, I didn't really read what came after your post. haha  And yeah.  You kinda summed it up pretty easily there, haha.  And Rommel, yes.  Just yes. haha

The Socratic Method

6 years ago
hahhahahahahaha