The Socratic Method is a philosophical mode of questioning that involves the investigation of connotations of other situations that are related to the topic of inquiry itself (Benson, 2000). This approach, also known as the method of Elenchus, allowed rational judgments and enhanced the generation of a very clear idea. The Socratic method was also considered a dialectical method because it employed discussion of issues, both pros, and cons, and each point from each side was forced against the opposing point. Such contrasting comparisons thus facilitated the point of the investigator.
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The Socratic method was originally employed by the philosopher Socrates himself during debates and discussions in Athens. One of Socrates’ friends, Chaerephon, was often present at the venue of such discussions and he discovered that Socrates was very intelligent and probably the most knowledgeable person in the entire city. However, Socrates perceived such revelation of his talent as a paradox and used his style of debate as a tool to combat his friend’s statement. Analysts have explained that the Socratic method was not created by Socrates himself, but by the other philosopher Protagoras.
In the modern world, the Socratic method pertains to the technique of interrogation that employs questions as a form of an answer to a pre-existing question. Such double doses of questioning thus enhance the first interrogator to revise and review his initial question to progress through the entire examination. The Socratic method thus follows the central concept elenchus, which is the usage of several questions that are connected to finally conclude the investigation with an agreement that appropriate answers all the questions (Vlastos, 1983).
The Socratic method was also used by the philosopher Plato during his analysis of ethical issues, as well as judiciary cases. Such a method often starts with a simple statement and the other party will question the first statement. Should a disagreement ensue, a series of questions will be sent out to each other to oppose the statements and beliefs of the opponent. Further debate will take place until a single and agreeable idea will be achieved.
Another interesting feature of the Socratic method is that every claim that is first expressed in a debate will be examined and classified as either good or bad, or positive or negative. Thus, the beneficial and deterrent features of the claim will be discussed and even further supported or disclaimed, to finalize whether that initial claim is precisely good or bad. In simple terms, a positive claim is said to be anything that will provide more information or knowledge to the people, while a negative claim is exactly the opposite.
Other analysts describe that the Socratic method is a negative mode of screening hypotheses because this method largely depends on how knowledgeable a defendant is of the topic of debate. It involves the presentation of axioms or postulates which may strongly influence the thinking of society. The scrutiny of the debaters will thus influence the way the debate will progress and usually the more intelligent debater will generally win in such debates, no matter how insufficient, incomprehensible, or erroneous the claim may be. It thus mainly depends on how glib the debater is during the debate and how many positive statements he can present during the debate. The methods of definition and induction are commonly used during debates that employ the Socratic method.
Benson H (2000): Socratic wisdom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Vlastos G (1983): The Socratic elenchus. Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 1:27–58.