SOCRATIC DISCUSSION …. PAPER TWO

The second of three papers

SOCRATES THE FOUNDER 469 BC – 399 BC

By James Mousa Year 6 Student, Alawa School June 1993.

Socrates was born in Greece in 459 bc and died in 399 bc. He was a Greek philosopher and teacher. His noble life along with his courageous death makes his page in history stand out most.

Socrates was a teacher who taught greats including Aristotle and Plato. One of his most budding students was Plato who would write down many of Socrates ideas.

When not teaching, Socrates dressed simple and spent his days walking around talking to friends and admirers. he loved to ask simple questions pretending to be ignorant himself so others would freely express their opinions on human behaviour.

He himself thought that humans were not willingly bad and could be taught to be good and happy. This was one of his thoughts, another was the introduction of universal definition which lead to the Socratic method.

Socrates believed that although humans and things come in different shapes, colours and sizes they still have common characteristics by which we identify them: For example, humans have common characteristics by which we recognise them as humans not as cows, camels or ducks. These common characteristics make them universal.

Socrates thought that the correct method by which to find common characteristics of anything would be to start with a group of people who each believe they know the answer to a key item. They would then find each thought differently and their assumptions were inadequate to back up the facts. They would then put their facts together to come up with a general idea about an item. The people then proceeded from less adequate definitions to more adequate definitions. This progressed from the definition of a few examples to a universal definition that applied to all examples.

It appeared that Socrates was brilliant but not all thought the same. He offended many Athenians by his freely spoken opinions. Socrates was accused of neglecting the Gods and putting wrong ideas into peoples heads. This was followed by a death sentence.

He didn’t listen to plans to escape, saying “I must obey the laws”. This was to be the last of the great many words spoken by this great philosopher. He died among his saddened followers after drinking hemlock.

This ended the life of one of the greatest men to live. He was much respected by many. His fate could have been different had people listened to him as he did to so many others.

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SOCRATIC THINKING AND DISCUSSION

AN ISSUES BASED APPROACH TO THINKING AND SPEAKING

Socratic discussion focuses on analysis of thought and meaning conveyed by text or information

A Starting Point

The beginning can be analysis of text messages (as interpreted) to us as individuals.
‘What the text conveys’ is the focus.

Viewpoints and perceptions are debated and defended. The focus must be the opinion, not the person offering the opinion.

In modern argument, the issues are often neglected, the presenter rather than his/her message being the focus. This reception, often negative, can take various forms. It may be gentle chiding, regular teasing or serious lampooning and derision. The end result is that of people being discouraged from putting forward their opinions on issues. This leads to ‘dominant’ (as in dominating the agenda) and reticent group participants.

Socratic dialogue encourages speakers to bring their own authority (through knowledge) to debate. All opinions on on the subject are sought and welcommed. Issue focussed shared participation is the aim.

Reflection (how we know what we know) is part of the socratic process. Saying what we have to say (rather than being reluctant and holding back) is part of the dialogue process.

Socratic discussion is enriching. It is a method through which respect for others is built.

A key outcome is the development within participants of critical thinking skills, together with an appreciation for the viewpoints of others.

WHAT SOCRATIC DISCUSSION IS

* Socratic Discussion is ‘issues honest’.

* Socratic Discussion is ‘anti scandal’.

* Socratic Discussion works to open the ‘Johore Windows’ of participants, so they share by giving of their feelings often held back and not revealed.

* Socratic Discussion is ‘sharing’ of information, opinion and belief.

* Socratic Discussion is ‘caring’ of the presenter and about the participants.

FACILITATING SOCRATIC DISCUSSION: HOW IT WORKS WHEN IN SESSION

A round of Socratic Discussion might follow the outline suggested. Before starting, assure that everyone is sitting in a circle with clear and unobstructed facial views of each other.

Remember the leader is a facilitator and a participation encourager. Before starting, remind the group of listening and discussion procedures. (More about that later)

1. Choose a piece of literature and read it to the group or
Introduce a topic and briefly speak to it.

2. Ask an open-ended focus question. Pause. Ask it again.

3. Make sure Socratic Discussion procedures are followed.

4. Stick to time so you don’t run out.

5. Offer each participant the opportunity to debrief.

Remember: Focus on issues, not personality.
Control time carefully

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