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The Socratic Method

Plato’s Use of Philosophical drama

By Rebecca Bensen Cain

Hardback, 135pages, 24 × 16 × 1.8cm


“promises to enrich the field by providing an account of Socratic philosophizing that is quite different from standard accounts… I enthusiastically recommend this book."
-Professor Nicholas D. Smith, Lewis and Clack College


About The Author:
Rebecca Bensen Cain teaches philosophy at Oklahoma State University, USA. Her previous publications include articles in the Journal of the History of Philosophy and Southwest Philosophy Review.

This book develops a new account of Socratic method based on psychological model of Socrates’ character and conduct as portrayed dramatically in Plato’s dialogues. Socratic method is a blend of three types of philosophical discourse: refutation, truth-seeking, and persuasion. Cain focuses on the persuasive features of the method since, in her view, it is this aspect of Socrates’ method that best explains the content and the value of the dialectical arguments.

Emphasizing the persuasive aspect of Socratic Method helps to uncover the operative standards of dialectical argumentation in fifth-century Athens. We see that Socrates uses ambiguity and other strategic fallacies with purposeful play and for moral ends. Taking specific examples from the dialogues, Cain shows how the interlocutor’s personal character is linked to the arguments that Socrates constructs to refute him. Cain examines sophistic rhetoric and contentious debate in Socrates’ time, and Aristotle’s perspective on the techniques of argument and their purposes. The merit of this interpretations that it gives breadth, depth, and balance to Socrates’ argumentative style; it also shows that Plato, as a philosopher and dramatist, is deeply concerned with the use and misuse of language. The book concludes with a discussion of the creative use of ambiguity and brings together the main topics of Socratic method, ambiguity, and drama in Plato and the ancient Greek literary tradition.

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