The characteristics of the “ Socratic Method of Dialogue” according to “The Origin of Philosophy” are as follows:
- The dialogue partners are people who are caught up in the various biases of the community.
- The purpose of dialogue is not to settle truth by argument (debate).
- The purpose of dialogue is to point out contradictions after initially accepting the premises and arguments of the other person.
- If the other person’s argument collapses due to self-contradiction, do not offer a positive suggestion, but let the other person think about what to do afterward.
- It is a kind of “education” to break the bias, but no payment is made.
- In Socrates’ mind, this “education by the method of question and answer” is a different kind of political activity that politicians in official positions cannot do.
- The reason why it is a political activity is that it indirectly influences politics through the unbiasing of influential public persons.
The Socratic method of dialogue is not a technique for defeating an opponent in an argument, like debate. Instead, it is a special kind of communication. The goal is to make the interlocutor recognize his or her contradiction by accepting the opponent’s argument and pushing the conclusion to the point of contradiction. After showing the contradiction, Socrates does not give a new guideline. This result means that the interlocutor’s belief in his value is invalidated. He left them in a state of limbo, which is the desired result.
The methods of dialogue are a kind of “education” that removes bias. Nevertheless, it does not require a fee. This stance contrasts to Socrates’ contemporaries, the Sophists, who lived off the price of debate training as an essential skill for success in life.
The dialogue method is a kind of “political activity” or a “one-man political institute” run by the free will of individuals. This political activity, the primary purpose of which is to de-bias, needs to be conducted by an entity independent of all stakeholders. Hence, it becomes impossible to realize it as a public profession. As a public position, a politician is forced to engage in position talk bound to various interests to keep his or her status. The art of debate is a technique to increase their odds of winning, so it is essentially used contrary to the dialogue method.
As Karatani points out, the Socratic method of dialogue is closer to counseling work and psychoanalysis than to debate. The goal is not victory or defeat and the establishment of a dominant relationship, but freedom from unnoticed biases and equality in how to utilize the results.
At first glance, the contradicted interlocutor appears to have been outdone by Socrates. However, Socrates has no opinion to assert, and both sides have the right to choose their attitude after the bias is removed. In this sense, they are both free and equal. This point will be important in contrast to the “Platonic philosopher-king,” which will be discussed next.
In “The Origins of Philosophy,” Socrates’ method of dialogue appears in the context of searching for an institution that actualizes exchange form D (i.e., emotional reciprocity (exchange form A) with the universal value of cancellation from communal bias) (see last entry). It is an ephemeral, minimalist “political system” called “one-person political action” to break the bias of those occupying public positions.
It is too fragile to rely on. His activities earned Socrates a grudge, and he was falsely accused of the crime in the end. Disarming bias, like psychoanalysis, is also an activity that can easily create a love-hate relationship between the interlocutors. The method of dialogue is a political activity that is too dangerous to be carried out alone. In fact, after the execution of Socrates, Plato felt that and proposed another institution called the “philosopher-king.”
In the following, the focus is on how to deal with this “unreliability.” However, before that, let us review the system of the “philosopher-king.”