Propose questions and encourage others to support and expand position
The Socratic Method
In Plato's early dialogues, the elenchos is the technique Socrates uses to investigate, for example, the nature or definition of ethical concepts such as justice or virtue. According to one general characterization (Vlastos, 1983), it has the following steps:
Socrates' interlocutor asserts a thesis, for example 'Courage is endurance of the soul', which Socrates considers false and targets for refutation.
Socrates secures his interlocutor's agreement to further premises, for example 'Courage is a fine thing' and 'Ignorant endurance is not a fine thing'.
Socrates then argues, and the interlocutor agrees, that these further premises imply the contrary of the original thesis, in this case it leads to: 'courage is not endurance of the soul'.
Socrates then claims that he has shown that his interlocutor's thesis is false and that its contrary is true.
One elenctic examination can lead to a new, more refined, examination of the concept being considered, in this case it invites an examination of the claim: 'Courage is wise endurance of the soul'. Most Socratic inquiries consist of a series of elenchai (a cross-examination) and typically end in aporia.
The Socratic Method
The teacher and student must agree on the topic of instruction.
The student must agree to attempt to answer questions from the teacher.
The teacher and student must be willing to accept any correctly-reasoned answer. That is, the reasoning process must be considered more important than pre-conceived facts or beliefs.
The teacher's questions must expose errors in the students' reasoning or beliefs. That is, the teacher must reason more quickly and correctly than the student, and discover errors in the students' reasoning, and then formulate a question that the students cannot answer except by a correct reasoning process. To perform this service, the teacher must be very quick-thinking about the classic errors in reasoning.
If the teacher makes an error of logic or fact, it is acceptable for a student to correct the teacher.
Since a discussion is not a dialogue, it is not a proper medium for the Socratic method. However, it is helpful -- if second best -- if the teacher is able to lead a group of students in a discussion. This is not always possible in situations that require the teacher to evaluate students, but it is preferable pedagogically, because it encourages the students to reason rather than appeal to authority.
Renaissance humanism did not, however, spring fully grown from Classical philosophy. It emerged over a period of over a century as a fusion of Christian and Classical thought.
Typical of the early Renaissance Humanists was Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472), who was at the same time an artist, philosopher, architect, and mathematician. His attitude to the wisdom of the ancients, and to its combination with Christianity, was primarily pragmatic and rationalistic - his Humanistic religion rejected most of the mystical overtones of contemporary Christianity.
Connecting to our Renaissance Unit
Where Alberti is the direct forerunner of later Renaissance Humanists is in his ideas on beauty, drawn from Plato's Classical theories on love, beauty, and the nature of the universe. Alberti insisted that beauty has objective reality, and is not dependent on mere subjective opinion.
Where he differed most strongly from the later Humanists ('Neoplatonists' as they came to be known) was in his refusal to indulge in abstract speculation on his ideas. "Everything is attributed to reason, to method, to imitation, to measurement; nothing to the creative faculty." 2
Review The Golden Section and The Divine Proportion
Read the entire Adler handout
Write summaries and clarifying notes in the margin