Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Principles of Socratic Questioning

So I'm over at Zenpundit really enjoying this post and there I find a link to this, which links me to this and there I discover a link to the Principles of Socratic Questioning. This is exactly why I like the internet. One thing leads to another and that to another and so on. Below are the basic principles, but there is a lot more worth reading at the link. It is presented as a guide for teachers and thus should serve as a useful tool in countering PC's stifling of free inquiry. This should be a cornerstone of education in this country.

Respond to all answers with a further question (that calls upon the respondent to develop his/her thinking in a fuller and deeper way).

Seek to understand, where possible, the ultimate foundations for what is said or believed.

Treat all assertions as a connecting point to further thoughts.

Treat all thoughts as in need of development.

Recognize that a thought can only exist fully in a network of connected thoughts. Stimulate students, by your questions, to pursue those connections.

Recognize that all questions presuppose prior questions and all thinking presupposes prior thinking. When raising questions, be open to the questions they presuppose.

One of the areas of inquiry that complexity theorists are exploring is how "very simple rules...generate patterns of startling dynamism and complexity." I would suggest that these principles of Socratic questioning are an example of simple rules that over the course of Western civilization's development have indeed generated "patterns of startling dynamism and complexity."

If there is anything that characterizes the uniqueness of Western civilization since the 18th century it is the relentless and uncompromising questioning of everything. Many of the great cultural conflicts within the West have been about whether people would be permitted to question religious belief, custom and tradition, political power, conventional morality, ideology and so on. Today there are two movements that seek to stifle this kind of questioning. One is radical Islam and its ongoing effort to intimidate anyone who would question their religious beliefs and the other is the global warming movement which is seeking to squelch any deviation from the "consensus" they are promoting. We are in need of the principles of Socratic questioning more than ever today.

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