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What is the Socratic Method? Essay

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Updated: Dec 3rd, 2021

The Socratic Method is also referred to as the Method of Elenchus or the Socratic Debate. This method drew its name after the Greek philosopher Socrates. It is a type of philosophical inquiry wherein the impact of other’s stance on various is explored to give way to rational thinking and illuminate ideas. The discussion often involves various participants contradicting each other and themselves at times. The mere purpose is to give even more authority to the inquirer’s point.

It was after his friend from youth Chaerpon paid a visit to the Oracle of Delphi and deemed Socrates as the wisest man in Athens did he began to involve himself in such discussions with his other fellow Athenians. Socrates felt the paradox and continued to use his Socratic approach to find an answer to his conundrum.

Plato took the plunge later and re-created the Socratic Elenctic style in prose. He presented Socrates as some inquisitive questioner of a famous Athenian interlocutor. Plato’s early dialogues for instance the Euthophyro and Ion have successfully incorporated the “Socratic dialogues”. The questions show Socrates applying his method as he questioned fellow Athenians about epistemological and moral issues. (Jaratt)

Generally speaking, the term “Socratic Questioning” is indicative of a type of questioning in which each question is answered as if it were the answer itself. This gives way to the first questioner to rephrase his question from a different perspective keeping into account the progress of the discourse.

Enkhos which is also referred to as “cross-examination” as indicative of refutation stands central to the Socratic Method.

“If you ask a question or series of questions in which your prospect can readily agree, and then ask a concluding question based on those agreements, you will receive a desirable response”.

According to Plato, the elenchos was the technique Socrates applied to investigate in his quest to find answers to numerous ethical concepts such as justice or virtue. As per Vlastos, the Socrates method follows these steps:

  1. The interlocutor puts forward a thesis for instance “Courage is endurance of the soul”. Socrates would treat it as false and target it for refutation.
  2. Socrates claims his point as he argues along while the interlocutor agrees. This results in further evaluation of the claim and eventually leads to a thesis that is contrary to the first one “courage is not endurance of the soul” in our case.
  3. This is followed by Socrates’ claim that the thesis put forward by the interlocutor is false while its contrary claim is true.

Thus in this way a comprehensive, critical examination quest is set forth producing more refined answers. Normally Socratic inquiries are regarded to be a part of a series of innumerable even chai and end up typically in aporia. (Eliyahu M. Goldratt)

Thus, the Socratic method is a negative method of evaluation in which a better hypothesis is structured after refuting the initial ones, eliminating any that are contradictory, and constructing proper hypotheses. The method pursued, is ergo a quest to look for axioms, assumptions, or hypotheses, scrutinize them, and follow a theory found that would be consistent with one’s beliefs. In its most basic form, a series of questions formulated for instance the tests of logic and fact which are aimed at exploring various beliefs associated with the topic.


Eliyahu M. Goldratt. It’s not Luck,. n.d.

Jaratt, Susan. Rereading the Sophists:Classical Rhetoric Refigured. Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 1991.

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