Saturday, August 27, 2022

Review: The Socratic Method: A Practitioner's Handbook

The Socratic Method: A Practitioner's HandbookThe Socratic Method: A Practitioner's Handbook by Ward Farnsworth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve tried over the years to adapt Socratic dialogue and methods to my classroom. It’s not always easy or feasible due to large class sizes or being online. Ward Farnsworth book reinvigorates my motivation to do so and also gives me some helpful ideas on how I might continue to adapt Socratic methods. It’s not a teaching guide, though, but his discussion of the methods, the examples he uses, and the identification of the core processes and principles of the method will help me in using more of these methods in the classroom.

The book actually got a lot more into Socrates qua philosopher than I expected. The publisher is clearly trying to sell the book as an antidote to the stupidity, fruitlessness, and antagonistic ways in which contemporary conversations so often go – especially online. Farnsworth does discuss that, but really only in the last few chapters. Most of the book is a dive into Socrates and his use of the methods as depicted in Plato’s dialogues. He explores how the method encapsulates not just a way of reasoning, but a way of living. Farnsworth also explore Socrates’ influence on later philosophers, including the Stoics and the Skeptics.

I enjoyed the book. It’s clearly written with no presumption of a philosophic background. It lacks pretension and jargon. I learned a lot from it. The book is not (just) meant for philosophers or teachers; it’s really meant for anyone who wants to know how to think more clearly and engage in more rational and productive conversations with others.

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