Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Socratic Method

I looked up some examples of the Socratic method and the more I learned, the more annoying his style of arguing became. These arguments definitely would have flustered whoever Socrates would have been arguing against. He questions you about things that you think know, but then forces you to question your beliefs. Here is a summary of how to use the Socratic method:

.    1
Locate the statement that sums up their argument. Socrates would often elicit such a statement by asking the person to define something, like "What is justice?" or "What is truth?" You can employ the Socratic method using any declarative statement which a person sounds certain of, like "This table is blue."


.    2
Examine the implications of the statement. Assume that their statement is false and find an example where the statement is false. Can you provide a scenario, real or imaginary, that is inconsistent with their statement? Wrap this scenario in a question:

                  "To a blind person, is this table still blue?"
                  If the person says no, proceed to the next step.
                  If the person says yes, ask: "What makes it blue to a blind person, and not green, or pink, or purple?" In other words, if someone can't see, what makes the table blue? This question might stump some people who regard colour as only existing in the perception of the human experiencing it. If so, proceed to the next step.
.    3
Change the initial statement to take the exception into account.
 "So the table is blue only to those who can see."

Challenge the new statement with another question.
E.g. "If the table is in the middle of an empty room, where no one can see it, is it still blue?" Eventually, you should come to a statement that the person has agreed to but that contradicts their original statement. In this example, you might end up pointing out the subjectivity of the perception of color and argue (using questions, not statements) that color only exists in a person's mind as a result of their perception; it isn't actually a property of the table. In other words, the table is not blue. Your opponent's perception of it is blue.
If the person rejects existentialism as a presupposed truth however, they may still disagree with your final assertion.

All during class on Friday when we were talking about Socrates I kept on thinking about how Coach Coleman lectures her students. Whenever she tries to show me a different point of view, she asks me multiple questions and lets me find her reasoning myself. This reminded of the way Socrates lectured because they both guide their students to find answers for themselves, rather than just tell them.

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