Essay on Philosophy: Socratic Method
Why was the Socratic Method so controversial and unique?
Because it had never been truly considered before, at least, not to this extent. However, it would seem to me that the idea behind "questioning everything" was a fundamental one, and that the ability and willingness to formulate opinions and pursue knowledge on an individual basis would be recognized as a common and natural tendency-- but it wasn't. Infact, the structure of society was not only opposed but contradictory to it: "truth" was a fixed property, passed down by those in authority, and accepted by subordinates with little contemplation. To them, the idea of individual thought was absurd.
Controlled System of Thought
This controlled system of thought can be observed in today's society as well. From birth we are taught how to think and act, as we are both directly and indirectly influenced by the thoughts, opinions, and actions of those around us. This is apparent in my own history, and a common scenario in many American households. Raised in a family with strong religious background, I was told what to believe and why to believe it, why things were and how they should be. My family was strongly opposed to questioning anything, and any beliefs contrary to theirs were scorned and repudiated. Addressed in class as what I now understand to be "moral absolutists"-- people that would never accept the legitimacy of another perspective-- I realized that the Socratic Method was something they would have benefited from if they were willling to apply it.
Though, persistent questioning applies to more than morals, ideals, and preconceived notions. It applies to crude meaning and the simplest understanding of everything. The other day I was listening to the radio in my car and thought, "What is music?" Different arrangements, forms and patterns of sound, perpetuated and unified through melody, harmony, and rhythm. Simple enough, but, as Socrates pointed out, it was more than a matter of definitions. So I extended my questioning: "What makes these combinations of sounds so appealing?" "Why are people and cultures attracted to certain combinations over others?" "Why is music so powerful and what gives it this power?" In other words, "What is the essence of music?" I pondered these questions for some time before it struck me: I had barely even begun to understand the real properties of my own existence and the practical nature of what made such important contributions to my life.
Considering this, I believe it is important to understand why we so easily accept commonly asserted views of the world. Fear of the unknown? Perhaps there is a certain level of comfort within our limited realities. Avoidance of outstepping our boundaries? Iconoclasm is not something so easily accepted. Laziness? Our inability to recognize or acknowledge what we do not know? Personally, it has been the combined forces of fear, risk, and vulnerability that prohibited me from challenging familiarity and taking knowledge into my own hands. The system of beliefs that I had accepted for so many years were more than just a system of beliefs, they were a vested interest. Maybe that's why the Socratic Method has been collecting dust.
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