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How the Socratic Method can change your life

Socrates, one of the most if not the most known philosopher to have ever graced this earth. He left no writings whatsoever making him a rather strange character. We know him mostly from the dialogues of Plato, but also from writings of Xenophon and even a comedy by Aristophanes. But there is one method that bears his name: the Socratic Method.

            The Socratic Method is a way of achieving knowledge. By asking questions and posing hypothesis’s and then criticizing those hypothesis’s and thus coming to better ones, we can find true knowledge according to Socrates. And in a way we can, but it also has many personal implications one can use the Socratic Method for. Like he said: an unexamined life is not worth living.

            If you want to explore ideas further, you might want to use the Socratic Method into going to the bottom of the subject. If you have an idea or a worldview, you don’t want it to fall down easily like an ill-build house, because of a light breeze. You would want a strong home which can endure the worst of all storms. The Socratic Method is perfect to build a strong house. Whenever you have an idea or worldview, question yourself. Why is it that you have that idea? Is it a good idea? Is it an idea worth pursuing? Does my idea have faults? Answering those questions will strengthen your ideas and make them nearly invulnerable to destruction, because you have thought of the most obvious rebuttals already. If the idea is a bad one or one that doesn’t uphold towards criticism, you know to throw that idea away. For it is best to change your opinion than to persist in the wrong one.

            This will give you confidence in your way of viewing the world. But because you still ask questions, you will feel good when one succeeds in criticizing your argument, because that would mean your idea or worldview is now slightly better built than before. If your foundation is strong, the strongest hurricane will not be able to move it. But if your foundation is weak, then even a brittle breeze will blow it away.

            But the Method isn’t only valuable for you alone. It is the perfect way of getting people to approve of what you say in an honest matter. Say you’re having a discussion with someone about something; for example, that he forgot to bring something. You could be direct and just plainly say he was wrong, making him all defensive and grumpy about the situation, or you could try to come to a conclusion together by getting yes-answers. The Socratic Method is based on getting a consensus with both parties. By asking questions and forming hypothesis’s, you can get yes-answers and slowly but surely come to the right answer of the discussion. And maybe it wasn’t the answer that was in your head in the beginning, but it will be closer to the truth.

            But this is what is used to get people on your side of the argument, which you do by making them come up with idea by themselves, there is no force in this argument. No heated debate, only a consensus. This will make your interpersonal relationships much easier and more likeable. You won’t fight with your friends or anyone for that matter. You’re searching for the truth, and there are few nobler things to do than that. The Socratic Method thus strengthens your bond with each other, because you never disagree in sense, even when you do. You’re trying to achieve the same thing, together.

            This basically what human beings want anyway. Most of the time people don’t really disagree on what is important. They disagree on how to do it. Most people agree that something has to be done to save the climate, but the disagreement lies in how to save it. Most people agree that humans should have a decent way of living, but most disagree on how to achieve this. When you think about it, there isn’t that much of a disagreement fundamentally among people and the Socratic Method is a way to find that mutual agreement. It could possibly be a way to find a consensus of how to do things. But this requires an open mind and no prejudices. This is what Socrates means when he says that he knows nothing. He only tries to reach the core of the matter.

By elenchusphilosophy

Philosophy student from Ghent, Belgium. I write about what I find interesting which is about nearly anything. Though my guiding question in life is how to be a good person.

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