Alain de Botton has been in Australia recently to promote his latest book, The News: A Users Manual. He is well know for some other titles such as Religion for Atheists and The Consolations of Philosophy. In The Consolations … he notes that Socrates claims that: “What is declared obvious and ‘natural’ rarely is so.” “The philosopher [Socrates] does not only help us to conceive that others may be wrong, he offers us a simple method by which we can ourselves determine what is right.” Known as The Socratic method of thinking, it allows us to arrive at a conclusion that is superior to intuition.
- Locate a statement confidently described as common sense.
- Imagine for a moment that, despite the confidence of the person proposing it, the statement is false. Search for situations or contexts where the statement would not be true.
- If an exception is found, the definition must be false or at least imprecise.
- The initial statement must be nuanced to take the exception into account.
- If one subsequently finds exceptions to the improved statement/s, the process should be repeated. The truth, in so far as a human being is able to attain such a thing, lies in a statement which it seems impossible to disprove. It is by finding out what something is not that one comes closest to understanding what it is.
- The product of thought is, whatever Aristophanes insinuated, superior to the product of intuition. (pages 23-25)
Note: Plato singled out Aristophanes’ play The Clouds as slander that contributed to the trial and subsequent condemning to death of Socrates. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristophanes
And so we try to practice The Socratic method of thinking, as it relates to the content within the Die-alogue Cafe.