"The Socratic Way of Questioning" by Thinknetic

Review by Borodutch

First, if you want to learn more about the book's contents, I recommend reading the book description on any of the websites where it is sold and then reading the book itself. It is pretty short, at 172 pages, including illustrations.

Second, I finished this title because I've been using the Socratic Method for as long as I remember, and it was time to brush up on the procedures. I got what I wanted from this book — under 2 hours of 2x audiobook speed.

But does using the Socratic Method require reading so much material? Of course, not. If you want to learn the Socratic Method, read a Wikipedia article or a few blog posts. It's pretty self-explanatory when you get the hang of it. The basic premise is:

  • You can be wrong and are wrong more often than you think
  • You need to examine all premises of the conclusions to be certain conclusions are sound
  • You can explore all premises by consequently asking questions uncharged toward any conclusions
  • It helps to talk through all of this with another person, but you can use the Socratic Method alone too
  • When using the Socratic Method, the goal isn't to persuade or prove that you are right — but to explore the topic together and check who is right
  • The trick is in what questions to ask and how — this comes with practice

The Socratic Method is a bit more formal than the above, especially when considering logic. But you must remember that the Socratic Method was most likely why Socrates was executed by drinking poison. It annoys people, some up to the boiling point — no matter how often the method says, "be nice, don't be condescending, you're not fighting." The Socratic Method is inherently aggressive because, most of the time, people are not seeking truth but a validation of their existing opinions.

When you use the Socratic Method in a public setting, you will either waste your time or lose. For instance, if you participate in loosely moderated public debates, the Socratic Method will do nothing to strengthen your position. We — rational people — think that if we provide logic sound enough to interlocutors, they will instantly agree. In reality, it is not what happens — even worse, the more evidence you provide, the fewer people trust you, and their initial beliefs become stronger.

The right strategy in public debates isn't to pursue the person you're debating with — this rarely happens due to the nature of most debates — but to "win" in the eyes of the public. You're not presenting your arguments and asking the interlocutor. You are talking to the public. In the phrase "public debates," the word "public" is 99% of the meaning and "debates" is 1% of the essence.

So don't just start using the Socratic Method everywhere you go. You will annoy people and worsen relationships. You will come out as condescending and a pain in the butt, even if you take every precaution not to do so. Not because it's just or because your logic is terrible — but because humans are irrational and are not hard-wired to use the Socratic Method.

In conclusion, make sure that you know how to use the Socratic Method and absolutely sure that you know when to use it. Don't waste your time and alienate people. Always remember that when you're wasting time pursuing people who will never change their minds, you make an active choice not to pursue people who could benefit from better reasoning.

And robbing people of benefits they can quickly and cheaply get is wrong.