Philosophy and the Socratic Method’s Clearer Vision

“The Love of knowledge”, also known as Philosophy, may be one of the humanities finest attributes. It represents the search for fundamental truth about our lives, our relationships, our world and the great beyond. The Socratic Method, one of Philosophy’s finest tools, is an efficient and highly effective technique used to find those truths. It uses rational arguments and simple questions to uncover the fallacies of proposed known truths.

I once heard a lecture by a Mr. Fowler, and I loved how he made the analogy that each person’s philosophy is like the pair of glasses they see through. Like knowledge, sometimes our glasses get dirty and we need to re-examine them and clean them so that we can see clearly. This was an interesting concept for me that got me thinking. In this sense, those who refuse to re-examine their own knowledge are in a sense walking through life half blind and missing out on so much. I can look at my own truths over the years and see how my attempts to re-examine them from time to time have often left me with a much broader understanding and ‘Clearer vision’.

At the heart of Philosophy is the Socratic Method. The Socratic Method is and was a method, accredited to Socrates, of digging for the truth through questioning a particular statement. It is carefully examining and re-examining the known under a microscope while gazing deeply into a telescope to find the unknown. It is finding a piece of something known and dissecting it until there are no longer any parts to tare apart. After one of these in depth conversations one could seem to be left knowing less about a given subject than before the conversation started.

In Plato’s Euthyphro, Socrates is engaged in a Socratic argument with Euthyphro over piety and impiety. Throughout the story Socrates unravels the proposed truths from Euthyphro until Euthyphro appears to have no idea what he is talking about. It is a perfect example of how the Socratic method is used to uncover truth. It is as if untangling a knotted rope. The truth changed form as the knot of fallacies was undone. Socrates seemed to have a way of humbling a person, as he could make a person who thought they knew it all walk away thinking they knew nothing at all. He could humbly stomp a person’s over inflated ego into the ground with just a few short questions. How I would love to have been able to see him speak!

The Socratic Method is a valuable tool that never gets too old! I think it is extremely important in today’s society to use the Socratic Method to keep our selves knowledgeable about what is in our food, the products we use daily, and what we are putting into our environment. People need to start asking the questions instead of just excepting things how they are so easily. We are seeing so many different chemicals such as BPA being banned from foods and products, among other political lies and hidden agendas. We need to ask why we are having wars with other countries and use rational argument to determine where and what the truths of the situation really are. Nussbaum’s comment sums it up perfectly, “As Socrates knew, it is essential to a strong democracy and to any lasting pursuit of justice.  In order to foster a democracy that is reflective and deliberative, rather than simply a marketplace of competing interest groups, a democracy that genuinely takes thought for the common good, we must produce citizens who have the Socratic capacity to reason about their beliefs.  It is not good for democracy when people vote on the basis of sentiments they have absorbed from talk radio and have never questioned.” (17).

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3 thoughts on “Philosophy and the Socratic Method’s Clearer Vision

  1. Hey Joni 🙂
    While I don’t agree that the Socratic Method will help with the FDA, I do agree that people would benefit by thinking deeper into many problems rather than going along with what they’re told. I also like how you summed it up with a quote from Nussbaum, it really fits into explaining the importance of such things.

  2. Yeah, I probably didn’t word that very well. What I meant was if the people running the big corporations and government agencies would start asking themselves more questions about things, they might find deeper truths and realize how dangerous some of these chemicals are and not be so inclined to use them. Often I think people make a choice and they could probably come up with a better one, but they just don’t want to waste their time. Those using the Socratic Method would be re-analyzing that choice at some point and would likely improve it by deductive reasoning. If Society as a whole worked on improving their choices and beliefs society as a whole would probably make less mistakes.

  3. If anything, the people running the corporations are aware of the potential damage that some of their products may cause. The keyword here though is “potential”, and this is where the real philosophical discussion would take place, as I’m sure it has (probably more for legal reasons rather than that of community well being, but nonetheless). There is a philosophy to determining what is damaging and what isn’t, and I bet that when examined closely, the lines are as blurred as anything. You’ll notice most proponents for certain products deemed “damaging” have in fact researched their products, but have simply come to a different conclusion than that of their opponents. This same idea is why Dick Fuld was able to tell his shareholders that Lehman Brothers was a ‘strong firm’ only weeks before the bank completely collapsed. Sure, he could have been being sort of a cheerleader, but I would imagine that he and his fellow executives really believed the bank had a competitive chance. Monsanto claims that there is no difference between hormone-injected beef and natural beef. Others say the hormones affect the overall chemistry of the cow and must therefore change the beef. There’s probably just as much truth to both sides. It kind of reaffirms that we live in a world of greys.

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