Blog Post: Socratic Questioning

Linda Elder
Nov 21, 2019 • 3y ago
Socratic Questioning

{"ops":[{"insert":"See below an excerpt from an encyclopedia entry I recently wrote for "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Rutledge encyclopedia of education,"},{"insert":" in press. One might ask: Why are we still such a long way from realizing societies in which most people embody the skills of intellectual discipline through questioning as demonstrated and advanced by Socrates?\n\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Socrates as Questioner"},{"insert":"\nSocrates was a Greek philosopher and educator who was put to death by the Athenian state, having been found guilty of two crimes: 1) denying the existence of the gods sanctioned by the state, and 2) corrupting the minds of the youth. With regard to the first charge, though Socrates may have questioned conventional powers and ideas purported to come from the received gods, existing evidence implies that he accepted the established faith. The second charge was also blatantly false - that of corrupting the minds of the youth. Socrates’ accusers, prominent leaders within Athenian society, in fact perceived Socrates as a threat to their power, and could not countenance criticism of their own actions. Moreover, Socrates had a great disregard for arbitrary social conventions, social status and wealth, which irritated those in power, given that they themselves followed these practices and pursued these aims. Socrates’ lack of ambition and refusal to pursue material goods reduced him to a level of poverty throughout most of his lifetime. By refusing to compromise his principles, and by urging others to adhere to principles of ethics, he was considered an enemy of those in power, and hence had to be eliminated.\n \nIn living among the people, in the streets of Athens, Socrates systematically developed questions that predominately focused on understanding the meaning of a concept, often in connection with a significant issue; he invited others to think along with him, through his probing and insightful questions. He frequently tried to help people see that what they believed was illogical or absurd, and to understand deficiencies and self-deceptive tendencies in their thinking. His emphasis was on helping people correct problems in, and find best solutions for, their everyday decisions, when other philosophers (such as the Pre-Socratics) were using the new tools of knowledge chiefly in advancing mathematical and scientific understandings \n \nSocrates persistently questioned those who set themselves up as Sophists, teachers, or “Wise men,” because he recognized their power over the thinking of the people. He neither presented himself, nor supposed himself, to be in possession of "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"the truth"},{"insert":". He did perceive himself as answering to a higher power in his life’s work of helping people reason at higher levels of quality, and he sought to develop his own mind as fully as possible, in conjunction with assisting others in doing the same. He sought to transform the then prevalent intellectual tools of rhetoric, or "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"sophistic questioning"},{"insert":", into tools of open and honest inquiry focused on understanding deep truths and the best ways to live based on ethical concepts and principles.\n \nSocrates seems to have been meticulously disciplined in his questioning of others, as well as in his own personal lifestyle and habits. He embodied skilled reasoning as well as the cultivation of intellectual virtues such as intellectual humility, intellectual integrity, and confidence in reason. He continually clarified concepts, helped people follow out implications of their thought and action, argued for accuracy in reasoning, and called on people to worked toward the good for all citizens.\n\n\n"}]}

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Posted by: Aaron Jones

{"ops":[{"insert":"Comments from the Blog on Facebook: Rhonda wrote\n\" Hi! I am here because I have been looking for ways to improve my experience of life. A recent aha moment led me to realize a higher form of thinking than the egocentric/sociocentric form that we are used to was a path to having a more joyful life. Critical thinking offers a higher form of thinking that expands beyond the narrow constraints of egocentric/sociocentric thinking. It offers a forum where diverse peoples can converse without conflict. Shedding the biases, fears, judgements, etc. of egocentric/sociocentric thinking is not easy but it is necessary if we are to solve our problems for the highest and best good of all.\"\n"}]}

Posted by: Joseph Halter

{"ops":[{"insert":"Socrates has an inquisitive ability to extract fundamental beliefs from individuals based on their experiences, education and observation. It is a self-discovery method of finding our subjective truth and exploring objective truth. It takes much patience.\nI found this article"},{"attributes":{"link":""},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"bold":true,"link":""},"insert":"How to Talk to Your FoxNews Loving Relatives at Thanksgiving!"},{"insert":" as a timely reminder to us and it presents Socratic questions as a tool to help with intellectual empathy to individuals who do not share the same point of view as ours.\n"}]}