Monday, February 27, 2012

Socrates, The Socratic Method, and Introspection...

by: Les Carpenter
Rational Nation USA
Liberty -vs- Tyranny

Neoclassical statue of ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates, outside Academy of Athens in Greece

Spent a good share of the day reflecting on various philosophers. Greece has always been one of my favorite cultures, and I particularly enjoy Greek mythology and the great philosophers of the Hellenistic period. I also admit to enjoying Greek food and wine as well as having an attraction to Greek women back in the day.

It seems only natural given the above I should find myself zeroing in on one of the trio of great Greek philosophers, principally Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Mind you I am no expert on these great thinkers of antiquity, other than being humbled by their intellect and wisdom. Aristotle is for me the larger of the three giants. An opinion I am sure many might agree and equally as many might disagree.

Socrates is perhaps best known for his Socratic method of teaching, which is the questioning of others to expose their ignorance or reveal a truth that was (is) implicitly known by all rational individuals. The wisdom of the Socratic method lies in its ability to nudge people to examine their beliefs and though the process knowledge is achieved.

I found myself thinking about the above, engaging in introspection really, because it strikes me as foolish as well as self limiting with respect to gaining knowledge. In the area of politics both the left and the right are so certain of their ideology they have become almost incapable of seeing the forest for the trees.

Politicians and theologians specifically, and the general populace generally need to spend more time in introspective thought and less time being hyper critical of others. This applies to both the left and right leaning individuals. Three Socrates' quotes {my favorites} that I believe are especially apropos today...

To know, is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge.

Let him that would move the world first move himself.

A system of morality which is based on relative emotional values is a mere illusion, a thoroughly vulgar conception which has nothing sound in it and nothing true.

What strikes me is how these are so interrelated and connected. One would be hard pressed to consider them separately or claim one carries more weight than than the others.

It is true that if one's system of morality {or ethics} is based on emotions (raw emotional considerations and values) rather than logic and reason their entire system is corrupted by the irrational inherent in emotions. If one is to develop a rational and consistent system of morality {ethics) it is necessary to gain in knowledge. To grow in knowledge requires first one to admit to themselves they really know little. Which is really to say they need question everything, even long held and cherished beliefs. A person expecting to move the world {Obama or Santorum anyone} indeed must first move themselves through the process of first questioning themselves and the premises upon which their beliefs and principles stand.

Of course people do not have the time to spend their productive hours engaged in the kind of thought and self analysis/introspection the above suggests. However, given the political climate in America today and the resulting wall that has been constructed between the political, economic, and social ideologies it might very well be crucial politicians, theologians, and the general population consider spending a bit of time looking at themselves.

Via: Wikipedia


  1. You expect people to examine politics through your tunnel vision view of Randian thought. Socrates accepted thinking other than his own, to have rational qualities. Something your thinking does not allow.

    1. By what rational and reasoned process did you arrive at your premise?

      Socrates no doubt would have considered Rand's views (philosophy) and accepted those which he viewed as rational and questioned those he did not. His Socratic method would have resulted in Rand questioning her own premises (something she herself advised) and possibly arriving at different conclusions. The beauty of the Socratic Method of Teaching.

      Rather than merely criticizing me the person, although that is fine if you wish to do so, why not consider the post as written. Consider it's rational and reasoned premises, or lack there of, and provide a basis on which I and others might consider it's faults, if any.

      Consider this... Is it possible that because of your own insecurities you are either unwilling or unable to consider views outside those you hold? Is it possible that to expand beyond that which you now believe frightens you? Is it possible that the mirror into your own thoughts and soul has become clouded, thus you have difficulty looking into yourself. It is possible that you have by your own decisions shut yourself off from further growth?

      Intriguing isn't ANON?

  2. You are the one who goes around with the egotistical attitude that those who don't agree with you are to stupid to understand. That's an approach that should be criticized. Your stance is irrational and not worth discussing. Great philosophies are worth discussing. Your last paragraph described yourself to a tee. You know nothing about my ideology.

    1. Nor do you mine. The difference is... 1) I respect your right to disagree, 2) I question my premises, regularity, 3) I contimue to question in the light of new evidence, 4) I admit to being fiercely independent.

      I wonder what any truly thinking person might have to say on that subject.

      Your evading answering my inquiries is telling.

  3. What i find amusing is this reminds me of how Socrates was regularly treated, many saw him as egotistical but he was truly highly inquisitive and logical. I like the use of his method in you first comment it obviously touched home. Wish there were more people that bothered to delve into philosophy. That is how you truly teach critical thinking.

  4. Thank you for visiting and for your comment.

    Of two things we can be certain, change and death. As individuals we have direct control over whether or not we constantly seek knowledge that will open new horizons and often result in our drawing different conclusions based on the knew information (knowledge).

    As for the latter, we have no control, other than delaying death through applying medical science.


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