The Socratic method was developed by none other than Socrates—the godfather of western philosophy. The objective of it is to break down what we think, and to see reality with fresh eyes. It is done through a dialogue between people, where someone states something as true, and other individuals ask questions to critically assess whether the claim is correct. Socrates developed this method through his informal talks with a wide range of people. Eventually, through his questions, the individuals he talked to began to doubt their answers to fundamental inquiries, such as, “What is justice?” Thus, the Socratic method penetrates deep into thinking processes and exposes the flaws of our essential reasoning. In the following paragraphs, the method will be discussed in detail, from its development, process, and applications.
Socrates (c. 470– 399 BC) believed that learning was not so much about gathering information, but more about keeping an open mind. His style of teaching was through dialogue, whereby the student would think he or she knows something, but was shown that his or her knowing was not exacting. Socrates started to teach through these dialogues after a friend of his, Chaerephon, had visited the Oracle of Delphi—the high priestess of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. The Oracle told Chaerephon that no person was wiser than Socrates in Greece. When Socrates was told of this incident, he began to use a method of inquiry to see if this was in fact true. Famously, Socrates is quoted as saying, “I know that I know nothing.” He determined through many dialogues with thinkers and many professionals in Greece that he may indeed be the wisest simply because he knew he knew nothing, while others thought they knew something. Examples of his dialogues were recorded and expounded on his Plato’s works. Though Socrates may have come off as pretending not to know anything, through his wisdom and philosophical introspection, he understood that knowledge cannot be attained (Jarratt, Susan C.).
It requires two people: one person with a claim, and one person who asks questions about the statement. It follows several steps:]
Throughout this process, it is key that both sides do not become angry or frustrated—especially the questioner. The Socratic method is done with mutual respect, decency, and diplomacy.
The main application for the Socratic method is showing how concepts that are vague or lack concreteness can be exposed as false. These are often general principles we hold dear. It makes us reevaluate our foundations of thought and values. This method is also good for breaking down philosophical theories one has or other people have. It is a way to test theories of the intellect. Modern usage of the Socratic method can be found in not only philosophy but also in tutoring and teaching. Instead of telling students what to fix in their assignments, many teachers believe it is better to employ the Socratic method so that students arrive at the answers themselves. This process allows learners to resonate strongly with answers (“Socratic Method of Teaching: Pros and Cons”).
The Socratic method was developed by one of the founders of western philosophy, Socrates. After hearing he was supposed to be the wisest person in Greece according to the Oracle, he tested out the claim by having dialogues with prominent thinkers of the time. He determined through his questions that his wisdom lay in knowing that he did not know anything, whereas other people thought they knew something. These dialogues formed the Socratic method, which was later adopted by Plato. This tool is not used to prove anything. Rather, it is for breaking down thoughts and concepts that are taken as facts or true, and showing that knowledge is essentially non-obtainable.
Jarratt, Susan C. Rereading the Sophists: Classical Rhetoric Refigured. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1991., p 83.
“Socratic Method of Teaching: Pros and Cons.” Portland, 15 Feb. 2018, education.cu-portland.edu/blog/classroom-resources/should-educators-use-the-socratic-method-of-teaching/.
wikiHow. “How to Argue Using the Socratic Method.” WikiHow, WikiHow, 28 Mar. 2019, www.wikihow.com/Argue-Using-the-Socratic-Method.