The Socratic Dialectic
In this lecture, Andrew Kern discusses the Socratic Dialectic, a free-flowing preparatory form of logic that uses questioning to seek truth. Socrates developed this method of questioning after witnessing the decline of Athens, following Athens’ defeat in 404 BC at the end of the Peloponnesian War. Seeking answers, Socrates visited the Delphic Oracle and learned that he was the wisest man in the world. The prospect of this overwhelmed him, and he returned to Athens. Once there, he questioned everyone he met, from ox-cart makers to authorities, hoping to find someone wiser than himself. However, he found others unwise, as they believed themselves wise while he recognized how much he did not know. To gain wisdom once more and save his Athens, Socrates adopted a method of questioning founded on the belief that knowable truth exists.
Use this logic skill of asking questions with your own students and yourself! When a student makes a false statement, or when you recognize discord in your own thought process, do the following:
- Make a statement.
- Ask questions that expose the inconsistencies in the argument.
- Continue to ask questions that rebuild harmony and truth.
- Once the truth is reached, continue asking questions. As Andrew Kern says, “there is no limit for how far into truth we can press.”
Socrates’ opinions and methods met with critique and condemnation. In 399 BC, a jury of Athenians sentenced Socrates to death, and he died by drinking hemlock poison.