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Socratic questioning: creating engaging discusions

If you do a web search on Socratic questioning or the Socratic method. You will literally find tens of thousands of entries. This article summarizes a number of the most important, questions that you can ask of yourself and of people you’re having a dialogue or an argument with that will lead you to deeper understanding and a humble appreciation of the limits of our own beliefs and thinking processes. With practice, you will develop a questioning habit of mind that will sharpen your thinking and lead to more success in every endeavor in life. That’s not all bad!

The Socratic method is a technique for probing the beliefs, assumptions and positions that we take a particular argument. Here are some good questions to get you going:

  • How are you using that word?
  • What is your main point?
  • What is your evidence in support?
  • Is your source reliable?
  • What is your reasoning to get to that conclusion?
  • Are there any exceptions to your main argument?
  • What are the implications of your argument?
  • What are the negative side effects of your recommendation, if any?
  • How would your opponents view your position?
  • How are they likely to respond to your argument?

As you can see, this list of questions starts at the beginning of the argument with definitions and proceeds through assumptions, methods of reasoning,, alternative points of view, logic and reason for coming to a conclusion, and the reaction of people on the other side of the argument. A thorough examination of the discussion or dialogue using these questions will reveal any gaps of knowledge or procedure that might make our argument incomplete or less persuasive. By getting the answers to these questions out on the table we stand a better chance of strengthening our argument and through dialogue coming to a deeper understanding of the problem.

It’s necessary in this technique to respect the points of view of the questioner and your opponent in order to come to a common understanding of the issue. Intellectual honesty and respect for argumentation are essential. This is the philosophical style of the ancient Greeks of the Socratic school. They are the root foundation of our scientific method with all its limitations. It enables us to reflect on our own thinking and examine the quality of her own arguments in the light of day. It helps us resolve contradictory beliefs inside our own value system.

You will find this technique in these questions to be of immense value in almost any endeavor in life and school and business. Practice these techniques and you will definitely see excellent results. Good luck and good thinking!

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