To think like Socrates


The Socratic method of the liberal thinking


1Socrates once said ‘I know that I know nothing’ and he is claimed as one of the most influential people who ever live and one of the wisest man in the Greek philosophy. We all know these words , whether by word of mouth or from experience during our school years, but do we know the spirituality and wisdom they possess?! That giant of the Greek society put under consideration every statement or belief under the scrutiny of his critical eye, not for pleasure only, but for justification how we should treat the conclusion on which we often jump often too easily and with such hastiness. He handed down his wisdom and knowledge to us freely, the question is whether we are able to embrace such a provoking conception and make out of it the best we could.

The Socratic Method is named after the fallowed philosopher and in nutshell it is a way of critical questioning of statement, which main aim is to provoke and stimulate the logical reasoning or how you lead to one conclusion to another and what is behind it as reasons and justifications. The method opens the ‘Pandora’s box’ of new thinking by involving the participants in an open dialog in which the logical reasoning and deduction go hand in hand in order to explore in depths the given problem or the subject of the discussion. One of the key elements of that methods is in letting your ‘ contender’ to express their opinion freely without interrupting them , as doing so  you could see how his logical- thinking flows around and he introduces his ideas more openly. Moreover , very often it comes down to the point when there is a lot of contradictions in what he is trying to explain, but in these contradictions are the roots of his misunderstand or misinterpretation of the subject.

The second element of an utmost importance in this ,method is questioning. Instead of responding in kind to your opponent, you have to ask him question from which you could reach his basic statement and the flaws in his thinking could easily emerge on the surface.

Your question could seek different target and results such as making conclusive evidence of the statement, seeking logical explanation, assumption or verification. By these questions, it could be even possible to be explored the moral scruples and ethical boundaries of the participants in the dialog. The element of surprise should not be ruled out by you or even by them.

For giving explicit clarification of what I’ve said above I would like to put forward one ‘theoretically hypothetical argument from which I could give you examples of the questions’ aims in the method.

Supposing someone said ‘I’m against the war, everyone who is responsible for such a conflict should be punished!’

‘So you’re for the peace and prosperity, right? (Seeking Clarification)

‘Yes, of course!’

‘OK,So everyone responsible for some kind of worldwide conflict should be punished? Who exactly?’ (Again seeking clarification of the statement)

‘The world leaders …like Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler…’

‘Only the leader then, they are the most responsible for such actions to be taken?’

‘Yeah, I guess , they give orders…but they are not alone, I mean the most closest people around them.’

‘What about the soldiers in their armies? What about them? Should they be punished from what they did or not? ‘

‘Yes, of course!’

‘But what about the fact that they were only taking orders or were threatened with death if they wouldn’t have done it? Were they victims or not?’ (Questioning Ethical boundaries).

Indeed, the discussion could head another direction, this is only manufactured potted version of the real conversation that might take place. However, the place from which everything begins is the statement from it all other things follow. For instance, it could be questioned the original source from which the person forms his/her deduction or possible implication might be added by conditional statements like ‘If that’s true, then…’.

The beauty of the Socratic Method is partially hidden in the fact that there is no ‘right’ answer to the raised question during the discussion. The objective is not to be sought the ‘RIGHT’ answer and to be provoked heated discussions and endless quarrels, but rather to be explored the domain of the person’s knowledge and how that knowledge could be useful in the new way of thinking in order the issue to be looked from different perspective. The method is a new interpretation of the version of Socrates ‘ thinking regarding the moral reasoning and the common ‘sense’ as he said that we should achieve the “moral qualities of a high order: sincerity, humility, courage.”   The Greek philosopher said that ‘unexamined life is not worth living’ and we could see how his main object of curiosity was the human’s thinking and the limitations of it. Aristotle even said that only one arrow could reach the target, but millions to miss it, from which it is plainly clear how the truth could be veiled in deep mysteries and not so easy to be approached.

Even at that time when Socrates lived, he was able to see the dangerous and scandalous side of his method. He managed to acknowledge how it would shake the grounds under which the society lived at that time by saying ‘we have form conviction from childhood about what’s just and fair…but then lads get their first taste of arguments which they used only to contradict and refute others… (539 b.)’

However, the  Socratic dialoged lifts the veil behind the truth that no universal agreement on one problem is ever achievable as the philosophers use wide range of tenable and untenable justifications of the man’s actions. Moreover, it reveals the problematic and perplexing nature of our reasoning and put under consideration the circumstances under which we form our system of beliefs.

Moreover, the method creates the so called ‘creative discomfort’ in which the facts, ideas and inspiration flow together in order to create new way of thinking. The participants are prompted to expose themselves at such variation and degree that the truth behind their assumptions eventually come clear to everyone.



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