Transcribed by https://otter.ai (with additions).
Today is Wednesday, June 16th, and I’d like to talk about a topic today that’s very important for education (which is always my focus) but also in all areas of life, because it’s one of those issues where if we think falsely about this, it leads us into many errors–and these errors can be easily found all throughout modern thought. I’d like to answer the question, “What is the Socratic method?”
Errors Related to the Socratic Method
I. Justifcation for Fake Classical Education
One of the reasons why this question has to be answered is because there are many people today, well, I shouldn’t say many, there are a relatively small number of people today that are advertising. their teaching, their schools, their publications, and they claim that they use “the Socratic method” as a method of instruction. They say that their schools employ “the Socratic method”. These schools, and publishers who do the same thing, are part of the fake classical education movement that I’ve talked about in other videos, and one of their main selling points, is this false and unfounded appeal to “the Socratic method”.
Now, in these schools and in these publications, “the Socratic method” is simply a cover to hide the fact that the “teachers” do not have systematic knowledge of the subjects that they teach and do not teach as teachers who do. That’s what this is really about. When a teacher shows up to a classroom, to teach a group of students who are being required to pay tuition, he’s not going to give them a masterful, efficient, systematic, and certain lecture, teaching them some important topic in a scientific manner–when we use the word “scientific” in the ancient sense. You’re not going to have teachers who are masters who can explain things, scientifically, which means systematically, and certainly, you’re going to have poorly educated, incompetent, barely employed men and women, leading classes that they themselves don’t understand. And when you think, “How can we have people leading classes and teaching subjects which they have no mastery of? How can they produce lectures? How can they organize instruction?”
The answer is that they can’t.
And so this modern, fake classical education movement leaves these fake teachers free to just talk with the students every day, with no no organized lectures, no systematic knowledge of a subject, no real curriculum, no accountability. And they call this class discussion “the Socratic method”. They use the term “Socratic method” to justify charging tuition for students to sit with men and women called “teachers” who are not able to teach the subjects they’re being paid to teach. If we take a man who barely has a college degree in any field, or we take someone who has a relatively useless degree, like English or theology, and is working as a layman and we hire him as a teacher, and we barely pay him anything, because he’s not a competent worker (let’s say we pay him $40,000 a year), we have to explain to the parents paying all the tuition, how it can be okay to have someone who clearly can’t provide a systematic lecture on a subject with demonstration. And the way that the schools do this is by telling the parents who examine nothing and ask no questions is that he teaches with “the Socratic method”.
And this is total baloney.
The man is not a teacher, he cannot teach the subjects he pretends to teach because he does not possess what the ancients called science or systematic knowledge of the subjects. And therefore, what he does in class is merely babysits students and talks with them, acting like a teacher and telling them that his aimless babbling is some kind of ancient method that he learned from Socrates–one of the wisest and most influential philosophers who ever lived. It’s “the Socratic method”.
For example, the Angelicum Academy, speaking of classes for 3rd-8th grade children, asserts–with no evidence anywhere:
“The dialectical method is conversation between two or more people holding different points of view about a subject, who wish to establish the truth of the matter guided by reasoned (logical) arguments and critical thinking.”
No, the Socratic Method is not a “conversation”. What these classes are doing is nothing, at all, like anything Socrates did. Socrates didn’t have conversations with 3rd graders. A parent comments,
“My son is involved in the Socratic Discussion. The group he is involved in is the 3rd grade group. It has helped him to be more confident and secure in expressing his thoughts about things. He would always look to us after making a comment on something and say “Am I right?” Now he makes a statement about something and has more confidence in his answers and ability to think for himself. This new ability for him has lead us into some very interesting conversations, whereas before he would just listen and not express any thoughts on the subject. I would recommend it for anyone, child as well as adult.”
This has nothing to do with the real Socratic Method. Anyone who reads the dialogues of Plato or who has studied Aristotle’s Topics would understand how absurd this is.
Thomas Aquinas College, goes even further, referring to the Socratic Method as “the Discussion Method“, stating:
“In the classroom, students sit around a table with their peers and with a faculty tutor as a guide, and together they grapple with the greatest works of Western civilization. There are no lectures, no didactic discourses, no simple regurgitation of others’ conclusions. Instead, ideas are proposed, rebutted, and defended, until, through discussion and critical argumentation, the class discerns the meaning of a given text and, more important, its veracity or error.”
This sounds simple, but why would this free discussion among peers seeking the truth for themselves cost Catholic students $35,000 per year? Why would Catholic students not be interested in learning the “regurgitation of others’ conclusions”, when those “others” are canonized saints and doctors of the Catholic Church? Is catechesis, then, a bad thing? Wouldn’t these discussions be able to be conducted in a chatroom, online, for free?
The more we think about this, rather than just running stupidly into it, the worse it gets. If this is the way of learning at a college named after Thomas Aquinas–did St. Thomas himself teach like this? Were Catholic schools ever run like this? Was St. Thomas Aquinas opposed to “lectures and didactic discourses”? No, this is exactly how he taught. We know this for a fact because we have his lectures!
How is anyone falling for this insanity?
The advantage that these teachers have, if they teach for multiple years, is that they have a chance to read through the book, or at least parts of the book multiple times. And they can participate in these live class discussions with knowledge that appears to be greater than that of the students who are often completely unfamiliar with the books and are just reading them for the first time. So there’s always this ability to show some appearance of knowledge, but what is not found in these fake teachers, in these fake classical schools, is any ability to teach a subject systematically. So they resort to this lazy, unprepared class discussion, which is the same thing that modern graduate schools do, which really have no purpose other than hand out degrees in exchange for tuition checks. These fake “classical” Christian schools and colleges do the same thing, charging families tuition, to have the kids come to school, sit in classes and talk about books with “teachers”, and I hate to even use the word teachers because they’re not teachers. They’re just employees of the school. They claim that this arrangement is some kind of “classical’ method called “the Socratic method”.
And this exploitation of parents and students is common through this fake classical education movement. You’ll see “the Socratic method” all through their catalogs and websites and school brochures. You’ll see “the Socratic method”, “the Socratic method”, “the Socratic method”–and all that means is that incompetent men and women are being paid as publishers and teachers who are unable to provide efficient, helpful, systematic lectures for the students who are paying tuition. Again, this is excused by pretending that these class discussions are “the Socratic method”. So that’s one reason why this discussion is very important to clarify, this advertising gimmick of false classical Christian Schools and publishers.
II. Division in Modern Society
The other reason why this this question is important is because modern society modern democratic society. And many of the devil’s temptations, in general, make use of a fallacy. That’s called a false dilemma, a false dilemma. And understanding the Socratic method rightly will help us to understand the false dilemma and will greatly assist us in our thinking and decision making. So for the sake of exposing the fake teachers in the classical education movement, who claimed to use the Socratic method. And to help with thinking in modern democratic society, I’d like to answer the question:
What is the (real) Socratic method?
Let’s begin by simply looking at the name, the Socratic method. And this name implies two important things.
I. It is a Method of Philosophical Investigation
First of all, it’s a method. We’re talking about a method or a procedure, something that can be practiced, that has a certain characteristic. It’s a certain method. And everyone knows what the word method means. If I were to ask you, how do you handle your family’s laundry? What’s your method? You might be a well organized housewife and say, Oh, well, here’s what I do. First of all, I have these three hampers in the bathroom, and the children put their dirty clothes into one of these three. And you can go through the details of the method or procedure that you use to handle the laundry. Or the same could be true grocery shopping. A man may have a method for how he goes about exercising. He may have a workout, he may have a certain weekly routine. And if I were to ask him, How do you stay in shape, he would explain. This is my method. for staying in shape. We understand what a method is. It’s a method, a way of doing something A set of procedures which are followed to accomplish some desired end. That’s a method everyone understands that.
II. It is the Method Used by Socrates
Secondly, we have an adjective that describes this method. And we say that it’s Socratic. It’s a method that is Socratic. And what that means is that this method is a method that we claim was used and taught by Socrates. So the Socratic method is a method that was taught and used by Socrates. Now another question that arises is, what is the end or purpose of this method? In the examples that I used, such as doing the laundry, the end of that method is to wash all the clothes and put them away and keep the house clean. So the kids have clean clothes to wear. That’s the end of the method for a man to be physically healthy, and in good. Cardiovascular shape is the end of his fitness method. But when we come to the Socratic method, we have to ask what is the end that’s sought with the Socratic method. And if we look back to the life of Socrates and into the history of philosophy we find when we talk about the Socratic method, we’re talking about a method that allows us to show that certain opinions are false. And that helps us to advance in the pursuit of truth and wisdom. So the end of the Socratic method is wisdom. The Socratic method is a method taught and used by Socrates in the pursuit of wisdom. It is a philosophical method of investigation. And it’s the philosophical method that belonged to Socrates. Socrates, is a real historical person. We can learn about Socrates from a number of different sources. The most important source from which we can learn about Socrates is the writing of the philosopher Plato. Plato was a student of Socrates, who used the Socratic method that he learned from his teacher in his own philosophical studies, and teaching. We can also learn about the Socratic method from other writers like Xenophon, who was a friend of Socrates and writes about Socrates and his method. We can also learn about the Socratic method in a more formal way. Through the study of Aristotle’s Organon, Aristotle, was a student of Plato. So Aristotle was in this line of Socratic philosophers. And Aristotle teaches and explains, systematically the method of Socrates in his work on the topics in the Organon. So we have a number of sources, from which we can learn about the method that Socrates used and developed in his pursuit of wisdom and this method that Socrates used is the Socratic method.
Now just by knowing that much We can already be certain that what schools and publishers are claiming to be the Socratic method has nothing to do with any method ever employed by Socrates, in his philosophical pursuits, to have a group of students reading a book, sitting around a table or in a classroom, talking about the book is certainly a method. But it’s not any method that has anything to do with Socrates. It’s not a philosophical method at all. And it has nothing to do with Socrates. It’s a method. As I said, it’s an alternative to formal class lectures. And the reason why a school will charge tuition, but not provide formal class lectures is that the teachers are unable to provide formal class lectures. They’re not experts. What student in the entire world wouldn’t prefer and benefit more from a formal class lecture from a wise experienced teacher than from some class discussion? When St. Thomas Aquinas taught in the 13th century? Do you think that he spoke with organized formal lectures? Or do you think that he opened up class discussions and talked with the students about the books they were reading? Ask their opinions. And let the kids argue about what the meaning of the book is? No, we don’t have to wonder about what St. Thomas did, because we have examples of his lectures, his systematic formal lectures. If you would, like I can show you how St. Thomas Aquinas taught his classes, because we have his lectures. Some St. Thomas Aquinas did not use class discussion as a way of teaching. He was an expert teacher, he was a master. And when his students gathered for classes, he didn’t ask them for their thoughts. He delivered to them the fruits of his own study, experience, and meditation. And this is actually the mission of the Order of St. Dominic, to be a contemplative order that studies praise and meditates and then shares the fruits of that meditation. And true teaching is the work of sharing in the most efficient way possible. The fruits of a Wise Man’s studies, experience and meditation. class discussion is not the Socratic method.
So let’s talk about what the Socratic method is positively. If we want to learn what the Socratic method is, instead of reading the websites of homeschool publishers selling books and schools, marketing their programs for the sake of tuition payments from parents who don’t know any better and don’t ask any questions. Let’s look to the actual sources, where we find Socrates speaking, and teaching. Let’s look at the dialogues of Plato. What do we see Socrates doing? We don’t see Socrates sitting at a table with a group of students talking about some book they’re reading. We don’t see Socrates using the Socratic method as a way to lead class discussions in exchange for tuition payments. We see the Socratic method being used as a method by which Socrates investigates a question. A question that at the time of investigation, doesn’t have a known answer. The Socratic method is the method, the method that Socrates uses to answer a question–a philosophical question.
If you were to ask Socrates, “What is the nature of man?”, or “What is man?”, Socrates would begin the investigation by asking questions, but these are not questions for people’s opinions or class discussions. The questions Socrates asked were a very specific kind of question. And this is the difference between this nonsense about the Socratic method in fake classical schools and the real thing. Socrates does ask questions. That’s true. But he asks a specific type of question. And this question, this specific type of question, is what makes the Socratic method to be the Socratic method.
What Socrates asks, are called dialectical questions, and the method that Socrates uses is what Aristotle called the dialectical method. And the dialectical method is different from the demonstrative method, which Aristotle developed and taught a century later. The dialectical method asks a question that allows only one of two answers. I’ll repeat that. The Socratic method or the dialectical method asks a question that allows only one of two answers. So for example, if we were to say, What is man? And we were to say, well, let’s begin by asking the question whether man is mortal, or not mortal? This is a dialectical question. This is the kind of question Socrates would answer in his philosophical investigation, and notice the nature of the question: Whether man is mortal, or not mortal? The nature of the question allows for only one of two possible answers. And the reason why only two answers are possible, is because the answer choices are one positive answer, and then it’s contrary. “Is man mortal?” That’s the positive, or “Is man not mortal?” That’s it’s contrary. The dialectical question is a question that allows only an answer, or it’s contrary A or not A. Those are the only two options. And this is very important.
So using that example, the first question we’d investigate is whether man is mortal, or not mortal. And we would seek to look for arguments or evidence that proves that man is mortal or not mortal. And we’d like to see that man is taken as a genus, as a class, and we’d like to speak universally if we can. When we say “man”, we mean “all men” and ask whether all men are mortal. And the contrary to that, is that No, all men are not mortal. The discussion that would follow would be a dialectical discussion. And that would be an example of the true Socratic method asking questions, which allow only an answer and it’s contrary.
It’s not simple questioning and discussion, and this is where these modern fake classical schools are wrong. Socrates did not teach by discussion. Socrates investigated philosophical questions by asking a very specific type of question, a question which allows only an answer. And it’s contrary. By collecting the answers to these questions, one by one by one. Over time, results would begin to appear. It would be seen that these answers to these dialectical questions were leading to a certain general conclusion. Or they were leading into contradictions. And if it could be shown that the answers that were being given to the dialectical questions were leading to contradictions, then one or more of the previous answers must be false. And so the Socratic method then, when it found itself trapped? In a contradiction that resulted from answers to previous questions. It would walk back through the conversation and find that question whose false answer led to the contradictions? And it would know that that answer cannot be right. And that’s how this method would lead to the truth. That’s the Socratic method. When we read Plato’s dialogues, that’s what Socrates is doing. And we see exactly that method. Exactly this procedure. As Socrates investigates, whatever question is proposed to him, by the men with whom he’s speaking in the dialogues. And often, what’s most beneficial about the Socratic method is that we find that answers to questions that we or our society takes for granted, are actually false, and impossible. And this leads us to a state of mind that’s called the doubt. And we begin to doubt whether we actually know what we think we know. And if you remember, Socrates, his whole message was that he was the wisest man in the world. Because he was the only man who knew that he didn’t know anything. He was the only man who doubted his own knowledge. And his self doubt was his wisdom. His self doubt is that which made him the only wise man in the world. That’s what he taught people. He told him he told others that the Oracle at Delphi told him that he was the wisest man in the world because he was the only one who doubted himself and actually examined the truth of things which men assume they know. But when examined can be shown to actually not know them. This is the Socratic method. the means by which it works are questions which admit contrary answers one of two options. The answer is either true or false, both cannot be true. We learn in most logic classes, even bad logic classes, like those taught at fake classical schools. We learn the law of non contradiction, which is an axiom that both a statement and its contrary cannot be true. The reason why that’s important is because the whole entire Socratic method is based on that axiom, that a statement, and its contrary, cannot both be true at the same time. That’s the foundation of the Socratic method. And the reason why it works.
So how does this affect modern life? Before I said that this issue is at the heart of modern errors in thinking. How does this Socratic method, how does a true and right understanding of the Socratic method affect modern life? How can it help us? Well, the danger that people face who don’t study the actual art of reasoning, and who don’t spend their time in the pursuit of real scientific and philosophical knowledge. And when I say “scientific”, I’m not talking about modern science experiments. When I say scientific, I’m using the word in the ancient sense, which means knowledge that is absolutely certain and systematically organized. When men don’t study the art of reasoning, and don’t work to develop in themselves, in their own souls, science or true systematic knowledge, they’re vulnerable to many deceptions. They’re easily deceived. And in our society, deceiving people is like taking candy from babies.
When I taught in private schools, every year, I gave a presentation that was well known among all the students. And in this presentation, I demonstrated to the students how easily they could be deceived. What I did was every year, I made the same presentation. The older students already knew the presentation. And younger students heard it for the first time each year. I would have students coming back who had graduated to attend this annual presentation because it drove the kids crazy. And in this presentation, I would demonstrate how they could be deceived. And they would have no way to know how I did what I did. Because they don’t know. They don’t learn the art of reasoning. They have no way to discern false arguments And they the education that they received, even though they paid an incredible price for their private school education. Close to $20,000 a year. The education they received in a modern school did not lead them to a systematic knowledge that protected them from deceptions. And so they were easily deceived. The presentation that I gave every year was one that the kids could appreciate. It was a very athletic school, the kids were healthy, very interested in health and fitness. And the presentation I gave every year was that Diet Coke is healthier than orange juice. Everyone knew that this was not true. Or they think they did. But as the presentation went on, one by one, the kids faces would change. And they would start to think, and they would look confused. And by the end of the presentation, I’d have the mall convinced the Diet Coke was healthier than orange juice. Now, I can do this by using a number of different fallacies. But they’re not able to detect especially in a discussion.
But the most important and most useful fallacy that’s used all through our society, and I believe it’s the devil’s favorite fallacy, is the false dilemma. I can guarantee that you have been influenced by the false dilemma, and here’s what the false dilemma is. When we look at a true dialectical question, we saw that the question allows only one of two answers an answer and it’s contrary. And in dialectical questions, we have true dilemmas. In dialectical questions, we have true dilemmas, because there really are only two possible answers: “A or not A?” That’s it.
There are many questions which cannot be investigated as dialectical questions, especially when the question relates to something that exists more like a spectrum, and not as contraries. If you study the art of reasoning, you can learn about all of this in detail. But it’s enough for this talk to say that there are true dilemmas like those we see in a dialectical question. Choosing between a statement and it’s contrary. And we can create an appearance of a dilemma. We can we can create an appearance that a person must choose between two things and cause this to look like a dialectical question cause this to look like a true dilemma. But it’s actually a false dilemma.
Examples of Problems in Modern Society
The most glaring example of this is in democratic politics, especially in America, where people are asked to choose between the Republican Party and the Democrat Party. This is a false dilemma. Our society is divided in half and is ready to go to war with each other because of this evil false dilemma, which is a fallacy and is effective because the people do not have a true education. The people of the United States have college degrees, all kinds of professional licenses, years and years and years of schooling, and yet they’re completely uneducated. They’ve never studied the art of reasoning. They’ve never studied true philosophy. They’re easily deceived by things that in the ancient world would have affected only the ignorant common people who had no formal education. And yet, everyone thinks that in choosing one of the two sides, they think that they’re clever, because they can come up with all kinds of arguments. And both sides or each side, mocks the ignorance of the other side, imagining that they are wise and reasonable. By admitting this false dilemma, both sides prove themselves to be unreasonable and easily deceived. So what’s what’s actually wrong with this question?
The false dilemma doesn’t present us with a true dialectical question. It presents us with a question that’s not the right question. And therefore the answer is not the right answer. And this leads to a false view of the reality of a situation. Let’s look at this political example. If someone asks you, who do you vote for? The implication is that you vote for either the Republican party or the Democratic Party. In the last election, it was either Trump or Biden. If you say in answer to that question, I am not voting for Trump. You will immediately be attacked by Republicans. for supporting Biden, if you were to say to a Democrat, asking the question, I am not voting for Biden, you would immediately be accused of supporting Trump. And this is the false dilemma. The question is asked Trump or Biden, Republican or Democrat, conservative, or liberal? And all of these questions are false dilemmas. Let me explain and show why. The question that we should ask is not are you voting for the republican party or the democratic party? The question that you should ask is, do your beliefs and principles agree with those of the republican party or not? This is a dialectical question. Do your principles and beliefs agree with the republican party or not? That’s a dialectical question. The answer is either yes or no. There’s no other possible answer. If you were to write out the principles of your religious beliefs and philosophical convictions, and make a list of them on paper, with no thought of what anyone else thinks or says, or does, just your own beliefs, and your own convictions, and you made a list and took that list and held it up to a list of the beliefs and principles of the Republican Party, they would either match those of the party or they would not. And so the answer to the question is either yes. The Republican Party represents my views, or no, the republican party does not represent my views, a simple question of contrary answer choices. Republican or not Republican. As soon as one says this in modern society, he’ll be accused of being a Democrat or a liberal. But that’s not true. Because the second question needs to be investigated. The second question is, do my principles, my beliefs and convictions agree with those of the Democrat Party, enough to take my list of beliefs and principles, my convictions? And I’m to hold them up next to the list of the democrat party’s principles? And ask, do my principles agree with those of the democrat party? The answer is either yes, or no. democrat or not democrat? And if I hold my principles up and see that they don’t match, then the right answer is no. I am not a Democrat. And so I will have answered both questions negatively. Because the decision between Republican and Democrat is a false dilemma.
One of the most obvious marks of the foolishness and ignorance of the people behind the fake classical education movement is that almost universally, you will find them wrapped up in this modern political controversy, you will find them going all in usually on the republican party because they are unable to discern the false dilemma. And this is a clear sign of how unreasonable and ignorant they actually are. They claim to be teachers of reasoning, and yet, commit the simplest fallacies in their own personal political lives. This is the danger of the false dilemma. And this political example is just one of many.
Advertising always uses false dilemmas. If you become conscious of the false dilemma, you’ll see false dilemmas every day. And you should always be asking, when you’re asked to choose between one thing or another, you should always be asking, Is this the true question? Or am I being misled to imagine that a dilemma exists, that actually does not exist. And here’s why this is important. What the person wants you to think, is that if you reject their opponent, you must accept them. That’s the goal of the false dilemma. To make you think that if you reject their opponent, that you must accept them. Whereas I showed you, both their opponent and them need to be examined in the same way, and it’s possible to reject both. So we need to be aware of the false dilemma. And the Socratic method when we’re trained in the Socratic method and we understand the nature of true dialectical questions. We understand what a dialectical question is and what the two possible answers answer choices are in a dialectical question. It protects us from these ignorant, misleading false dilemmas. And very, very few Christians to today keep themselves free from false dilemmas. And this is one way that people are easily deceived. And that’s why I said, it’s as easy to deceive someone in modern society because of their lack of true education. As easy as taking candy from baby, because they just don’t know what to look for. They’re undiscerning. They’re not cunning, not shrewd, as Jesus tells us. We should be. This becomes especially dangerous when we consider as St. Ignatius of Loyola taught that the devil is a Sophos. This is what the devil does. This is what the devil does in our society. This is what the devil does in our own mind. This is how the devil deceives us, one of the methods that he uses in us, among us, is the false dilemma. This is the means by which communities are divided. It’s why there’s never a solution to these questions. Do you ever notice that these debates and fights and quarrels among the two parties just go on forever? Why didn’t Socrates his dialogues go on forever? Why did they end with no controversy? Why did the truth become clear when Socrates asked his questions? But why do things become more and more confusing? In modern discussions? The reason is because these modern discussions are themselves fallacies and deceptions and the confusion and the anger, the emotion, even violence that results from these discussions is all the fruit that shows us that the people engaged are ignorant and unreasonable. And that something is wrong. And yet no one is willing to address the issue. Americans are not willing to come together and realize that what we’re doing is not good for our country, it’s not good for our own souls. And that there has to be a problem somewhere in the way that we’re thinking. They can’t do that. They can’t understand what the problem is. Because the problem is actually a logical fallacy. And they’re not trained in the art of reasoning, they have no idea.
I’ll give you another famous example of the power of a false dilemma–the pro-life movement–and I talk about this all the time. And everyone argues with me because they assume that if I don’t support the pro life movement, I must what I must be a pro abortion. But that’s a false dilemma. The error that the Christians made, the error that the pro life movement made was that they allowed the abortion proponents, the people promoting abortion, the people who wanted abortion to be legalized, they allowed them to create and get away with a false dilemma. Because the pro life people were not discerning enough to deal with this evil force in our society. their lack of reasoning, skill and discernment allowed them not only to lose the argument back in 1973, when Roe vs Wade was decided But I believe that that error has actually cost America the abortion debate forever. Unless the Christians reorganize their position, expose the false dilemma, and start the discussion all over again, with true questions. This is why I don’t support the pro life movement. I will never go to a pro life March, I will never support anyone because they claim to be pro life. All of this talk is false dilemma. It’s why the Christians can have the true position, which is of course, that we should seek to prevent abortion as much as possible. That’s the true position. And yet, that position is losing in every debate. And what Christians will imagine is that somehow, their opponents must just be more and more evil, or our society must be getting worse and worse, or the devil must be. Whereas what they’re not willing to see is that the actual cause of their trouble is a simple fallacy that has them in a stranglehold. That’s the problem. That’s why abortion is legal in America. And that’s why it’s becoming more and more unlikely that Roe vs. Wade will ever be overturned every cycle of decisions, court cases, judgments, sets that decision deeper and deeper in cement, as it were. Recent support supreme court justices that have been appointed have explained this when asked do you intend to overturn Roe versus Wade. They’ve explained the last few even those appointed by Donald Trump explained that Roe versus Wade is now in 2021 supported by precedent after precedent after precedent, because the pro life movement has continued sticking with the same false position and losing case after case after case and every time they do so. Roe versus Wade becomes stronger and stronger as an established principle in our judicial system in the precedents of the Supreme Court. And they just keep going. The people leading the movement just call for more action, more money. And we see as we saw last year, more violence. Because the error can’t be discerned. The poison air in the room can’t be discerned. That’s another example of how false dilemmas very significantly affect modern society and we see them all through our life. We see them in relationships. We see them in parenting. We see them in religion. All through our society, we find false dilemmas. The Socratic method–if we understood it truly, studied it, and practiced it–would protect us from all these things.
So I’ve answered the question, “What is the Socratic method?”. The Socratic Method is a method of seeking truth and wisdom that was developed and used by Socrates as a method of philosophical investigation. It is not a “class discussion”. It is not mere debate. That’s not the Socratic method. The Socratic method asks a specific kind of question and serves a specific end. It has nothing to do with teaching class lessons or organizing a curriculum. It has nothing to do with that, especially in the 21st century, where these questions have already been investigated by wise men centuries ago and require no new investigation. The answers have already been demonstrated and Christian teachers should be teaching them authoritatively to students rather than pretending that we are are living 2000 years before Christ and asking these questions for the first time.
We should be investigating new dialectical questions with the Socratic Method. That’s what it’s for.
When the church wanted to teach the faithful the Christian religion, they gave us catechisms. They gave us questions and answers that ask the question and answer it authoritatively. The church doesn’t give us discussion questions, to share our own opinion, as these people are doing in this fake classical education movement. All these fake classical homeschool publishers are just duping the ignorant Christian parents who don’t ask questions–and we can see they don’t ask these questions because of the way they talk about politics, the way they talk about abortion, the way they fall for all the marketing gimmicks that use false dilemmas. They’re suckers, and they don’t examine things and they don’t ask for proof. These schools and publishers get away with this nonsense, telling them not only that they’re “restoring classical education” (which they’re not), but that this method, which is no method, is actually “the Socratic method”, when all it is, as I said, is an excuse to hire people who are not masterful teachers, who cannot produce systematic class lectures, because they’re not experts in their fields. They collect the tuition money for the school, they put the kids in classrooms, and they just let them have class discussions, lazy class discussions, in exchange for tuition being paid for formal education, pretending that this method is some kind of ancient method used by the famous Socrates, which is just a lie. They have no historical proof that what they do in their classes was ever done by Socrates. It can be proven that what Socrates did, was not anything like what they’re doing. And yet none of these foolish Christian parents has the guts to call them out for it, or ask for proof that what they’re doing is, in fact, the Socratic method.
I hope this helps you to understand, but what I want is to invite you to study the dialogues of Plato. Go and read Socrates’ dialogues. You can see for yourself what the Socratic method is. You can see that it’s exactly what I’ve explained. Socrates asks dialectical questions, which admit an answer and it’s contrary. Look at the Summa Theologica. Look at the articles in the Summa Theologica and look at the type of questions that St. Thomas Aquinas asks–they are dialectical questions. He’ll ask “Whether God is simple (or not)?”. They’re dialectical questions. That’s not only the Socratic method, but that’s also a part of the Scholastic method. That’s the Catholic method.
The lies and false advertising I’ve described here are the greatest obstacle to the progress of the work of restoring true classical Catholic education. The challenge that we face is not from the public schools. It’s not from the world. It’s from the confusion and error that’s being introduced by people who are sophists, pretenders who have made and continue to make money selling things to lazy parents who do not ask for proof. This is the greatest obstacle to the restoration of classical Catholic education, and I hope that we can get over it.
If you’d like to discuss this any further or have any more questions about the Socratic method, please ask them I’d be happy to help you get the answers you need.
William C. Michael
Classical Liberal Arts Academy