Why give this form of questioning such a fancy name? Is not Aristotle or even myself as great a logician as him? Oh…Aristotle is a student of Plato, who is a student of Socrates.
Is this not simply logical questioning?
Why does it deserve the name ‘Socratic’? What is the big deal about this guy? The big deal is that people are usually not deep. Superficiality is the curse of our age. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people. Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” We live in a wonderful age, but it has a dark side. Many of us today are in a “structural hurry”.
When Chaerophon told Socrates about this, he didn’t believe in at first. It really puzzled Socrates. ‘ How can I be the wisest man in Athens when I know so little?’ he wondered. He devoted years to questioning people to see if anyone was wiser than he was. Finally, he realized what the oracle had meant and that she had been right. Lots of people were good at various things they did – carpenters were good at carpentry, and soldiers knew about fighting. But none of them are truly wise. They didn’t really know what they were talking about.
Socratic questioning is systematic, disciplined, and deep, and usually focuses on fundamental concepts, principles, theories, issues, or problems.
The basic form is a series of questions formulated as tests of logic and fact intended to help a person or group discover their beliefs about some topic, exploring the definitions or logos, seeking to characterize the general characteristics shared by various particular instances.
And why, when my teachers/professors used this pedagogical term, not bring up the meaning or motivation behind crediting Socrates with such an obvious process of reasoning or inquiry?
When he (Socrates) is on trial for heresy, he uses his method of elenchos (aka Socratic questioning) to demonstrate to the jurors that their moral values are wrong-headed. He tells them they are concerned with their families, careers, and political responsibilities when they ought to be worried about the “welfare of their souls”.
Socrates believed the best way for people to live was to focus on self-development rather than the pursuit of material wealth. He always invited others to try to concentrate more on friendships and a sense of true community, for Socrates felt this was the best way for people to grow together as a populace.