What is Socratic Dialogue?
Socratic dialogue, but what do we mean when we use the title? Is it question driven instruction? Is there some pre-determined answer the teacher is looking for from the student? Well, Plato is not a writer for either the overly serious (no sense of humor? Don't read The Symposium) or the vacuous (don't care about justice? Don't read the Republic) so there is no simple answer to this question. If you have drawn a firm conclusion about what Socrates meant by a given argument, chances are you missed the point! But that doesn't mean it isn't worth reading Plato's works. On the contrary, it's what makes them so breathtakingly insightful and profitable. They reflect reality: you know, that place where we keep thinking we understand things only to discover that we were thinking like mere neophytes, that place where we live. But you can't conclude from this that Socrates/Plato didn't believe in anything. On the contrary, it was their conviction that truth was knowable that compelled them to contend with the Sophists, who believed that truth was relative or unknowable. They were so confident that the truth was knowable that they developed strategies for discovering it, and these strategies have proven to be stunningly effective. The post-enlightenment world, however, does not believe that the truth can be known. As a result, they don't teach the tools of the classical tradition, the lost tools of learning, as Dorothy Sayers called them. Socrates was aware that people were not open to the truth and that they had many barriers to reaching it. He knew that we all spend most of our time living in error. So he developed a procedure by which he was able to rise from error himself and to raise others from error as well. It has come to be called Socratic Method, though I think that Socrates would not agree that there is a "method" being followed. His approach, when fully realized, passes through two stages, which are most clearly demonstrated in the passage in the Meno when he teaches geometry to an ignorant slave boy.
Mar 24, 2011