Dialectic – The Socratic Dialogue 

This is FREE sample
This text is free, available online and used for guidance and inspiration. Need a 100% unique paper? Order a custom essay.
  • Any subject
  • Within the deadline
  • Without paying in advance
Get custom essay

There are few major schools of thought on dialectic, some more cohesive than others, but for the sake of a productive conversation, I will focus on the Socratic and Platonic formulation of dialectic, specifically, the Socratic dialogue as portrayed in Plato’s “Dialogues”.

The necessity of good dialogue is based in the importance of truth and in correcting your own perceptions. Your perceptions effect your judgement and that effects your decisions, and we all would like to make good decisions.

Who is Socrates?

Socrates was an ancient Greek philosopher (470-399 BC) who sought to get to the foundation of his colleagues’ and students’ views by asking continual questions until a contradiction was exposed, thus proving the fallacy of the initial assumption.

What is a dialectic?

  • Base level description
  • Different schools of thought
  • Socrates thoughts on dialectic

The Socratic dialectic can be described as the art of investigating or discussing the truth of opinions, or as the inquiry into metaphysical contradictions and their solutions. It is very effective at dismissing false beliefs and is a tool for refining your beliefs.

When discussing dialectic, a distinction has to be made from sophistry and rhetoric.

What is the Socratic Dialogue and how can it improve conversation?

What are the core elements?
Its use as a tool for teachingIts use as a tool for inquiry

Defining the Socratic dialogue isn’t easy, or even particularly useful. It is better to understand that this dialogue is an iterative process with a few soft guidelines.

Socratic inquiry is not “teaching” in the conventional sense of the word. The leader in a Socratic inquiry is not delivering information for memorization, but works as a guide, pushing the dialogue, with the help of students, in a productive direction. The inquiry progresses interactively in an open-ended manner with no pre-determined argument or terminal point. This is perhaps the most fundamental of Socrates “rules” for dialectic – We should follow the argument wherever it leads.

The code of manners governing a Socratic dialectic are quite different from a dinner party, where politics and religion are sensitive topics for fear of damaging social relations, and where interrupting a speaker or even a long-winded empty speech is forbidden. In dialectic, a quick question is analogous to “point of order” in political assemblies. “Do I understand you to be saying…?” always has the floor. The exchange of declarative monologues tends to be dialectically unproductive. Attempting to be too complete can be self-defeating. An adumbration often contributes more to a dialectic than a rotund speech. Brevity stimulates dialectic (Stringfellow Barr).

It is not important who speaks, but that everybody listens, and each member can exercise the freedom to interrupt with a question if they do not understand. In dialectic, the opposing team is composed only of the difficulties all men face when they try to understand. When this approach to conversation is first applied, it is guaranteed to cause discomfort, but this is the goal, to operate in a state of productive tension. The confrontational manner of dialectic stems from what it asks of an individual, it calls upon you to account for yourself, in a way that calls into question the underlying values and beliefs upon which you have been leading your life.

What is eristic?

Socrates holds the opinion that you want to participate in a dialectic not an eristic. Whereas the dialectic aims to enlighten and reveal, the eristic is characterised by argument or debate, without a good faith approach.

Book I of Plato’s Republic has Thrasymachus and Socrates in conversation, discussing the nature of justice. Thrasymachus uses eristic; Socrates, Dialectic. Thrasymachus’ purpose is to win points and to win applause. The purpose of Socrates is to try, through dialectical discussion with Thrasymachus and others, to understand better the essential nature of justice (Stringfellow Barr).

Significance of the Socratic Dialogue

The Socratic method uses questions to examine the values, principles, and beliefs of students. Socrates dogmatic approach to probing the underlying values and beliefs of each enquirer comes from a place of deep consideration. He and his method are most concerned with a moral education and how one ought to live.

Socrates is famous for saying “the unexamined life is not worth living.” So strongly did Socrates hold this conviction, that he would rather death than being coerced to stop his foundational questioning. This is shown in Plato’s Apology, where Socrates was sentenced to death for putting Athens to the question.

Examples of the Socratic Dialogue

Where is it used properly?

In modern times, use of the Socratic dialectic is restricted to law schools and the few people who bother to learn this way of philosophical inquiry. Law schools discovered its usefulness as a tool to engage large groups in discussion, while using probing questions to get at the heart of the subject matter (Uni Chicago). These law schools focus on participatory learning and discussions with a few students whom they call (often randomly) to explore difficult legal concepts and principles. Socratic discourse requires participants to articulate, develop and defend positions that may at first be imperfectly defined intuitions (Elizabeth Garrett).

This process teaches reasoning skills, and the process of discovering a correct answer is often more important than the answer itself.


Cite this paper

Dialectic – The Socratic Dialogue . (2020, Sep 19). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/dialectic-the-socratic-dialogue/



What is dialectic conversation?
Dialectic conversation is a method of discussion where two or more people with differing viewpoints engage in a back-and-forth exchange of ideas to arrive at a deeper understanding of the topic at hand. It involves questioning assumptions, exploring contradictions, and seeking a synthesis of opposing perspectives.
What is Socratic dialectic method?
The Socratic dialectic is a method of inquiry in which one attempts to get to the truth by asking questions and testing the answers against one's own understanding. It is named after Socrates, who used this method of inquiry to great effect.
What is Socratic dialogue example?
Socratic dialogue is a type of philosophical discussion in which participants attempt to arrive at truth by questioning one another. It is named after Socrates, who was known for his use of this method.
What is the meaning of Socratic dialogue?
The Socratic method (also known as method of Elenchus, elenctic method, or Socratic debate) is a form of cooperative argumentative dialogue between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying presuppositions.
We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Peter is on the line!

Don't settle for a cookie-cutter essay. Receive a tailored piece that meets your specific needs and requirements.

Check it out