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 Class Forums - Spring 2013
 PHIL 200-001 - Sokrates and Plato
 Socrates' Questioning
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Jessica Shadowen
Fledgling

7 Posts

Posted - Apr 08 2013 :  10:28:40 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hey all,

For my essay I am looking at Socrates' way of questioning, and I thought it would be a good discussion topic. I thought maybe I would get some insight from you guys. Focusing on the Euthyphro, do you believe Socrates' question is more analytic or more of a test for individuals? Do you think that Socrates knows the answers to the questions he is asking, or do you believe that he is also wondering what the answers are and trying to figure that out also?

What do you guys think?

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Tom Trelogan
Forum Admin

1431 Posts

Posted - Apr 10 2013 :  09:29:53 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Excellent topic for discussion, Jessica! Concerning your first question here: when you ask "[D]o you believe Socrates' question is more analytic or more of a test for individuals?" are you just asking about the question he puts to Euthuphron in the ''Euthyphro'' about the essence of the holy, or are you asking about his "What is it?" question quite generally? And either way, isn't it possible that the question is both analytic and a test for individuals?
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Jessica Shadowen
Fledgling

7 Posts

Posted - Apr 21 2013 :  09:32:47 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
What I'm wondering about is why Socrates is always asking "What is it?" I'm not specifically interested in the question about holiness. I'm just trying to get an understanding in general of why Socrates asks the questions he does!

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Tom Trelogan
Forum Admin

1431 Posts

Posted - Apr 21 2013 :  10:41:48 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Well, in the Meno, Sokrates tells Menon, who's just asked him about whether virtue can be taught or not: "So far from knowing whether it can be taught or can't be taught, I don't know even the least little thing about virtue. I don't even know what virtue is" (71b, Rouse 22). He then asks, speaking still more generally, "[W]hen I don't know what a thing is, how can I know its quality?" (ibid.). Assuming that what he's asking here is how he can know anything that's true of a thing in general -- i.e., what features are characteristic of it by virtue of its being what it is -- if he doesn't know what it is, this is a really big clue, don't you think? Doesn't it suggest that Sokrates asks those "What is it?" questions of his because he wants to put himself (and his interlocutors too, assuming that they're at all philosophically inclined) in a position to learn (and/or really understand) the essential features of whatever it is he's asking about? Isn't Sokrates actually giving you the answer to your question here -- your question about why he asks those "What is it?" questions of his?

I myself am still inclined, by the way, to say that such a question can be simultaneously analytic and a test.
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Josh Barreras
Fledgling

6 Posts

Posted - Apr 23 2013 :  11:30:55 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I agree with Tom. I feel that in most of the conversations that we've gone over he seems to both analyze the topic in detail with the "what is it" question, only accepting clear and very concise answers, and test the cross-questioned on the great knowledge that they claim to have. I don't think that Socrates knows that answer, but he has thought about various possible answers in some detail and cannot himself find an answer he's convinced is true and hopes that these people who claim to know the most about holiness, virtue, etc. can tell him what they are in the most basic form.

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Margaret LeBlanc
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4 Posts

Posted - Apr 24 2013 :  1:59:20 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I agree that Socrates could be asking "What is it?" questions to get those clear and concise answers from all he speaks to, but then I think about it in a different way. I think he might be asking these questions not to educate himself but just to try to prove that people never really know everything they think they know. He probably doesn't know the answers to these questions himself, and maybe this is why he makes others question themselves too because he knows that they never know everything about the things they think they know about, if that makes sense.

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Sarah Chavez
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4 Posts

Posted - Apr 24 2013 :  11:49:06 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Socrates has created somewhat of an art of "question asking" if you will. In my view, Socrates asks questions to make people think -- think about whether they truly know what they think they know (which is arguably what philosophy is all about). Given Socrates' admission that he really doesn't know all that much, he can't possibly know all of the answers to the questions he asks. Especially in the conversation about "Eros" in the Symposium. Eros could be a controversial subject because it is a matter of "belief," which can differ from one individual to the next. I think Socrates questions Agathon's speech not because he knows what Eros really is, but to expose the inconsistency in Agathon's reasoning.

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Shanay Hadd
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2 Posts

Posted - May 07 2013 :  7:22:07 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I agree. I don't think Socrates knows the complete answer to every question he asks, but he is aware of how to ask questions in a consistent manner ever time. I think that in his questioning he aims to get to the most basic answers to the questions he asks through probing others' responses and challenging them. His Socratic questioning, though circular at times, peels back the layers that can mask and complicate a basic issue.

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Josh Barreras
Fledgling

6 Posts

Posted - May 07 2013 :  11:51:27 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
After reading the Symposium I've started really thinking about Socrates' way of asking questions. What I've got is really just a theory based entirely on the feel of the conversations between Socrates and Diotima. Knowing that what we've got here is a number of different conversations between the two, and assuming that they are reported in the order in which they happened I think Socrates learned his "Socratic" method from Diotima, and in these conversations it seems that she treats him in a way that closely resembles the way he treats the people whom he cross-questions. But it seems that thanks to his persistence in his conversations with her, she seems to lead him to many new and different ways of thinking about Eros. Now we can't know if she has a clear and concise answer to the question of who Eros is either, but the fact I want to focus on here is how her conversations seemed to change over time. At first they showed Socrates that at least some of the things he thought had to be wrong and broke down his confidence, and then slowly the conversations seem to turn into something more like a series of lessons on Eros. Still, the question remains: does Diotima knows an answer to which she is slowly leading Socrates? Is that the way to think about what she is doing?

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