Review: “The Socratic Method” – By Farnsworth

August 27, 2022

Review: The Socratic Method
By Ward Farnsworth

Many months ago, I decided I needed to get into some classic books that I had never read in school.
One such book was “The Republic” by Plato.
Well, that didn’t last long. I was overwhelmed by the archaic language and ancient Greek names.
I can be pretty thick sometimes, and it just didn’t click with me.

But I didn’t want to give up, so I got a copy of “The Socratic Method – A Practitioner’s Handbook”.
“The Republic” consists of long conversations and arguments that describe “The Socratic Method”.
The Socratic Method” was a good primer for me, and I have a better understanding of where Plato was trying to go with “The Republic”.

The author, Ward Farnsworth, is Dean of the law school at the University of Texas, and you can see how this critical thinking method would be used in a court of law.

I don’t pretend to completely understand everything about the Socratic method (named after Socrates, who -allegedly- was forced to kill himself by drinking poison).
What the book gave me was a road map to the method, which basically consists of questioning and agreeing on parts of an argument between parties, finally reaching some kind of consensus.

Farnsworth lays out the basic parameters of creating useful arguments, one of the key tools being “the Elenchus”, loosely described as “refutation and cross-examination”.
He patiently shows us various building blocks for this classical method of thought, culminating in chapters on the Stoics and the Skeptics – legacy methods practiced today – and “Finding and Testing Principles”.

As the subtitle suggests, this is “A Practitioners Handbook”. This type of thinking and dialogue requires practice and considerable meditation. I certainly haven’t reached this skill yet, but the book will be there for me to consult and consider.

Most of my philosophic study in the past revolved around Taoist thought related to martial arts training, but after reading “The Socratic Method”, I picked up a copy of “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome in A.D. 161.
At some point, I will try to tackle Plato’s “The Republic” again.

All-in-all, “The Socratic Method” has given me a new way to approach conflicts in discussion, even in self-thought.
It’s going to be a long haul, but I’m off to a good start.

– John Titus

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One Response to Review: “The Socratic Method” – By Farnsworth

  1. Tex Renegade on September 19, 2022 at 2:13 pm

    I’m glad I am not the only one who has trouble slogging through “the classics.”

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