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Thread: Socratic Method

  1. #1 Socratic Method 
    Forum Masters Degree organic god's Avatar
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    Could someone explain what the socratic method is to me?

    i looked on wiki and some other websites but it was written in quite complex language

    thanks in advance for any help


    everything is mathematical.
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    Socratic Skepticism

    'Moral skeptics are often take to be cynics. Doubt is equated with disbelief. The most famous victim of this was the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates (470-399BC)'
    Adam Morton - Philosophy in Practice, Blackwell

    Socrates had a strong faith in an objective right or wrong, but he insisted that nobody really had clear ideas about such things as virtue and justice.

    'Socrates' moral skepticism adopts a skeptical attitude to basic moral beliefs, including those which it is hard to doubt. The method depends on the fact that when people express moral beliefs, they use words such as 'right' 'wrong' 'fair' 'good' 'virtue'.
    Socrates argued that we do not usually know what these words mean, let alone explain what they mean. So according to Socrates, we are not capable of defending our beliefs about 'virtue' for example, because we do not know what 'virtue' is.

    Socrates arguments based on these premises go like this-

    He would initially demand a clear definition of the moral idea in question.
    He would then attack the definitions proposed, demonstrating that they really did not define the concept.
    He would then conclude that we really do not know what ideas, such as 'virtue' or 'good' or 'fair' really is.

    From this Socrates discovered an important realization - often we find ourselves unable to define ideas that are essential to the beliefs we feel certain about.

    Personally i think what Socrates discovered here was the fact that we all have our own definitions as to what constitutes 'good', 'bad', 'virtuous' or 'fair' etc.
    In an argument, if such terms are not clearly defined and agreed upon, then it is very difficult to ascertain a true definition of these ideas.

    Here are some examples of Socrates' arguments

    http://cda.morris.umn.edu/~okeefets/...-argument.html
    http://www.philosophypages.com/hy/2d.htm
    http://www.princeton.edu/~rmeeks/fundamentals.html

    Hope that's helpful.

    The Adam Morton book, Philosophy in practice is a book i was recommended by the Open University on a preliminary course in philosophy and is an excellent introduction to the main questions and practices of philosophy and very easy to read and helpful in grasping and understanding the ideas. One that i often reach for first in understanding philosophy.


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    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Selene
    So according to Socrates, we are not capable of defending our beliefs about 'virtue' for example, because we do not know what 'virtue' is.
    seeing some of the discussions on this forum, especially in the Religion section, i think Socrates had a point
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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    Quote Originally Posted by marnixR
    Quote Originally Posted by Selene
    So according to Socrates, we are not capable of defending our beliefs about 'virtue' for example, because we do not know what 'virtue' is.
    seeing some of the discussions on this forum, especially in the Religion section, i think Socrates had a point
    Yes and the only recourse on these occasions is to agree to disagree.

    The whole point of argument is to reach a state of clarity and determine if there is any certainty by eliminating fallacy, and there often comes a time in arguments when it becomes obvious the argument is going nowhere except round in a circle and the only certainty is the fact that true freedom means we are all at liberty to ascertain our own definitions.

    The problem with this is that it makes it far more difficult to argue effectively, so it's important to try to at least reach a common ground and understanding with definitions before you even start the debate, or else you are likely to discover you have completely wasted your time and effort!
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    Forum Professor sunshinewarrior's Avatar
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    To add to the moon-goddess' points regarding Socrates, it is also worth remembering that his name, and the idea of the 'Socratic Method' is frequently associated with the way in which he conducted his philosophical investigations: through a dialogue in which Socrates asked questions and the person questioned provided answers.

    The point about this, according to Socrates, was to allow the other person to discover for himself what the truth of the matter was.

    Famously (or apocryphally) Socrates used this method to teach a young boy the Pythagorean Theorem and then used that to claim that, since Socrates had only asked questions without adding to the boy's overall stock of knowledge, the 'knowledge' of the theorem had therefore been 'inside' the boy all the while.

    Today we would consider Socrates' questioning method to have made unwarranted use of 'leading' questions, but his method, often called the method of the dialectic (though even that, vide Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance achieves specialised meaning/use) is still one of the favourite techniques of philosophy (check out Hume's Dialogues on the Natural Religions to see a more modern variant).
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope mitchellmckain's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sunshinewarrio
    Famously (or apocryphally) Socrates used this method to teach a young boy the Pythagorean Theorem and then used that to claim that, since Socrates had only asked questions without adding to the boy's overall stock of knowledge, the 'knowledge' of the theorem had therefore been 'inside' the boy all the while.
    I think Socrates (or Plato) actually justified this method of teaching with a belief that we already know everything but have only forgotten and so it is the job of the teacher only to remind the student of what he has forgotten. Today we still value this method even though we do no believe in this idea of having forgotten everything, and I think it is because those in education have come to realize that the most important part of learning is not found in knowing the right answers but in learning to ask the right questions.
    See my physics of spaceflight simulator at http://www.relspace.astahost.com

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  8. #7  
    Forum Masters Degree organic god's Avatar
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    so two people having an argument/lesson called A and B

    A would ask B a question
    B would give an answer
    A is then the devils advocate and forces B to defend his argument?

    that usually how it works?
    everything is mathematical.
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    Quote Originally Posted by organic god
    so two people having an argument/lesson called A and B

    A would ask B a question
    B would give an answer
    A is then the devils advocate and forces B to defend his argument?

    that usually how it works?
    Yes that's the way

    It also forces B to consider exactly what he means.

    This method doesn't just necessarily remind us of what we already know, as mitchellmckain pointed out. What it serves to demonstrate to us is that we often use terms and ideas in arguments with the assumption that we and the other person know what we mean. Yet when we actually do analyze these ideas we often find out how difficult it is to define them let alone agree with the other person what their real meaning is.
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    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Selene
    It also forces B to consider exactly what he means.
    which - strange enough - does not happen all that often in this forum
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by marnixR
    Quote Originally Posted by Selene
    It also forces B to consider exactly what he means.
    which - strange enough - does not happen all that often in this forum
    aYe

    Perhaps most of us have been guilty of that sometimes?
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  12. #11  
    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    me ? never !
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (Philip K. Dick)
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