Socratic Questioning For Noobs

When: First semester at Parsons.

Socratic Questioning Noobs (First Look)

Just some research I did for a drawing and imaging class, I thought some of you would find interesting -- let me know if I got a fair grasp on this.

Socratic Questioning from what I’ve gathered through a number of different sources (and not just Wikipedia) is a technique of deeper questioning, or rather, a more focused form of questioning in an attempt to unravel or fully understand an idea from a number of different viewpoints.

An example: When information is presented to you, you could ask, is this useful for (whatever the reason, tests, exams, presentations etc.) OR you could ask more focused questions surrounding the information...

“Why is this information useful?”

“Why isn’t this information useful?”

“Do I agree or disagree with this information and if so, what reason would someone have for choosing a different stance?”

This is the nature of Socratic Questioning -- many sources consider it as the core of acknowledging what you truly understand and what you truly don't. It is often used by teachers, psychologists and many other professionals as a tool of assessing the way in which a person’s mind ticks -- to get a grasp on their true understanding of things.

I see it as a deep unraveling or seeking of an idea.

Socratic Questioning can be broken up into 6 types:

1.) Conceptual clarification questions:
 

These are questions designed to get the subject thinking further about what they’re asking for or questioning.

Below are some examples from http://changingminds.org/ (for reference purposes.)

• Why are you saying that?
• What exactly does this mean?
• How does this relate to what we have been talking about?
• What is the nature of ...?
• What do we already know about this?
• Can you give me an example?
• Are you saying ... or ... ?
• Can you rephrase that, please?

2.) Probing assumptions:


These are questions designed to get the subject to rethink or reconsider their own particular stance of a topic or idea.

Below are some examples from http://changingminds.org/ (for reference purposes.)

• What else could we assume?
• You seem to be assuming ... ?
• How did you choose those assumptions?
• Please explain why/how ... ?
• How can you verify or disprove that assumption?
• What would happen if ... ?
• Do you agree or disagree with ... ?

3.) Probing rationale, reasons and evidence:


These are questions designed to get the subject to explore the reasoning behind a stance or opinion. To rethink the foundation on which they based their original stance.

Below are some examples from http://changingminds.org/ (for reference purposes.)

• Why is that happening?
• How do you know this?
• Show me ... ?
• Can you give me an example of that?
• What do you think causes ... ?
• What is the nature of this?
• Are these reasons good enough?
• Would it stand up in court?
• How might it be refuted?
• How can I be sure of what you are saying?
• Why is ... happening?
• Why? (keep asking it -- you'll never get past a few times)
• What evidence is there to support what you are saying?
• On what authority are you basing your argument?

4.) Questioning viewpoints and perspectives:


These are questions designed to get the subject to consider a vaster range of opinions/perspectives and viewpoints on a topic or idea.

Below are some examples from http://changingminds.org/ (for reference purposes.)

• Another way of looking at this is ..., does this seem reasonable?
• What alternative ways of looking at this are there?
• Why it is ... necessary?
• Who benefits from this?
• What is the difference between... and...?
• Why is it better than ...?
• What are the strengths and weaknesses of...?
• How are ... and ... similar?
• What would ... say about it?
• What if you compared ... and ... ?
• How could you look another way at this?

5.) Probe implications and consequences:


These are questions designed to get the subject to consider the logical impact of their stance.

Below are some examples from http://changingminds.org/ (for reference purposes.)

• Then what would happen?
• What are the consequences of that assumption?
• How could ... be used to ... ?
• What are the implications of ... ?
• How does ... affect ... ?
• How does ... fit with what we learned before?
• Why is ... important?
• What is the best ... ? Why?

5.) Questions about the question:


These are questions designed to get the subject to consider the value of one particular question and thought. What is the purpose?

Below are some examples from http://changingminds.org/ (for reference purposes.)

• What was the point of asking that question?
• Why do you think I asked this question?
• Am I making sense? Why not?
• What else might I ask?
• What does that mean?

Simpler means of understanding Socratic Questioning:

Obviously being a product of Socrates, who’s name, imagery and stories carry a certain level of weight -- Socratic Questioning on the surface could be seen as a much grander thing than it is.

From Bo Burnham's comedy special, "Words, Words, Words."

From Bo Burnham's comedy special, "Words, Words, Words."

I personally feel, in a simpler sense, that Socratic Questioning resembles - in a lot of ways - how our minds worked when we were kids. I’m sure most people have had the pleasure of entertaining the incredibly painful “WHY” conversation with a child. The kid is never satisfied by the answer. Why is (blank) like this? Why do I feel like (blank)? Why are (blank) this colour? Why do I get (blank)? Is (blank) real? But why?

But why?

But why?

But why?

BUT FUCKING WHY!?

From Louis C.K.'s 2005 HBO special, "One Night Stand."

From Louis C.K.'s 2005 HBO special, "One Night Stand."

There is a resemblance, of course, it does lack the higher level of focus and system/stucture seen in the breakdown of the 6 types of Socratic questions.

*From personal experience many of my friends seem to become experts on Socratic Questioning after consuming edibles.