Dialectics and The Socratic Methods

The Death of Socrates, Jacques-Louis David, 1787

These are types of dialogue which I think are important to a healthy functioning society. Not so much in day-to-day chat, but in politics, decision-making, and debate. It is the kind of discourse I want to foster on TWP between people, so conversation is productive and not regressive.

I speak, of course, of Dialectics and the Socratic methods.

Dialectics

This is a mode of conversation where two or more people that hold opposing views on a particular subject and both want to discover truth through reasoned argument. This sounds much like a debate and it is similar in many ways. However, dialectics lack subjective elements such as appeals to emotion, anecdotes and personal opinion.

Socratic Method

The Socratic method can be broadly defined as:

“A form of cooperative argumentative dialogue between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presuppositions. It is a dialectical method involving a discussion in which the defence of one point of view is questioned; one participant may lead another to contradict themselves in some way, thus weakening the defender’s point.”

Named after Greek philosopher, Socrates, it’s the systematic breakdown down of an argument into basic assumptions and eliminating them. A method for discovering the truth through a series of questions and answers. For example:

  1. Person A asserts that “money is evil”. Which Person B believes to be false.
  2. Person B get person A to agree to the underlying premises that “money can buy hospitals, schools and feed the poor” and that “these acts are good, not evil”.
  3. Person B then argues that these underlying premises of are contrary to the original argument that “money is evil”.
  4. Person B has now shown that Person A’s original argument was false.

In government and politics more of this kind of conversation would increase transparency in policy-makers potential bias, but wouldn’t it be great to see politicians discussing issues like this, less of a conflict about being right or wrong, more about mutually discovering what would be the best course of action given the issue at hand. It doesn’t have to be as formal as presented here, just needs to apply the underlying principles.

Moreover, if people could talk to each other like this on public forums such as Facebook, maybe we could get through to each other, we would listen more, and we’d all be better off for it. Certainly better than what we have now which is just apes throwing shit at each other; seeing who can make the loudest noise.

This kind of dialogue between people I think plays a fundamental important part of building a united people. It allows people to express their opinion and for it to be listened too without fear of just being lambasted and dehumanised. In return, you agree to listen to people’s critiques and open to the idea that you could be wrong and you’re willing to grow from the discussion you have with people.

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