How to think for oneself

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.

  1. Locate a statement confidently described as common sense.
  2. 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.
  3. If an exception is found, the definition must be false or at least imprecise.
  4. The initial statement must be nuanced to take the exception into account.
  5. 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.
  6. The product of thought is, whatever Aristophanes insinuated, superior to the product of intuition.   (pages 23-25)

Note:   Plato[8][9] singled out Aristophanes’ play The Clouds as slander that contributed to the trial and subsequent condemning to death of Socrates.

And so we try to practice The Socratic method of thinking, as it relates to the content within the Die-alogue Cafe.

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