Can the Socratic Method win any argument

You could use the Socratic method to win any argument right? You could “defend” slavery with the Socratic method right? Person A says slavery is wrong and Person B just keeps saying, why? why is that wrong? What do you mean by freedom? what do you mean by bondage? Why is that wrong? etc etc

Is this a fundamental weakness of the method or just an odd coincidence?

If by win you mean exhaust your opponent, sure.

The Socratic method isn’t really an argument technique. It’s more for discussions and critical thinking.

If all you are doing is a 5 year old’s “Why?” repeatedly, you aren’t properly using the Socratic method in the first place.

The point of the method isn’t to ask any old question or to ask questions for their own sake or to score points but to examine and analyze ideas and eliminate those ideas and hypotheses that don’t hold up.

It relies on both sides discussing ideas in good faith. It requires all parties openly and honestly explore ideas instead of attempting to defend a particular, preconceived stance using whatever tools available.

ETA: That’s not to say you can’t defend a stance in an attempt to fully explore an idea. But it shouldn’t be held to the point you rely on feigning ignorance of basic definitions or notions of basic words, either. That doesn’t help the analysis of the stance and defeats the purpose of a Socratic dialogue.

… or to score cheap Gotchas.

Thank you for your response but it seems to me that if you “abuse” it it can be used to win any argument… :dubious:

It can break down a position to its bare assumptions. You can evaluate those.

ok, no offense to anyone else but i think this is the best response so far. how do you know when you’ve got to the bare assumption???

Sorry, not trying to be a smartass here, but…What do you mean by “winning an argument?” Is it about scoring points? Having the highest score before the clock runs out? Exhausting and frustrating your opponent into quitting the field?

If that’s how you view the exchange of ideas, I’m really sorry for you.

If you’re talking about bad faith attempts at arguments, it doesn’t matter. You can abuse any method to “win” then.

Say you attempt this. The other guy pulls out a knife and stabs you. He wins.

The assumption you are making is in the legitimacy of arguments. That a Socratic style, no matter how poorly or inappropriately applied, has some kind of fundamental legitimacy. That’s not any more true than the legitimacy of a knife in my gut. And maybe less so than the knife. At least that leaves a permanent mark.

no, i meant how can it be abused to win an argument, not that it is a way to actually when a debate based on ability or merit of idea

I’m not sure you answered the question.

What do you mean by “winning an argument”? Getting the other guy to quit? If so, I think my knife idea is faster and based on the merits of the arguments at least as much your suggestion.

That’s true of any method, though. Take argument from first principles. If you write those first principles down in a heavy book and bludgeon your opponent to death with that book, VICTORY!

What, you say, that’s not actually arguing from first principles? Well, neither is saying, “Why? Why? Why?” use of the Socratic method.

I would suggest that the only true victory in an argument is that you or your opponent changes opinions or beliefs as a result of the exchange of ideas. If you convince me that the Socratic method really can be used to win any argument, you’ll change my belief, and that’s a victory for both of us.

But if all you do is ask me questions until I’m disgusted and stop talking to you, that’s pretty inefficient: instead you could just type BLAHBLAHBLAHBLAHBLAH in response to every one of my posts, and I’d get disgusted a lot sooner. It certainly wouldn’t count as any sort of interesting victory.

What an excellent definition of winning an argument!!!

i mean by abusing the method and basically wearing someone down until the point they give up from frustration. not advocating it though.

Kinda like you’re doing here and in you’re other threads.

It’s hard to call that winning an argument, though, when it does nothing to advance your own position. In the hypothetical debate where Person A says slavery is wrong, and Person B asks “Why?” until Person A quits, I as an observer won’t come away conviced that slavery is right, because no argument for that position was ever put forward. I’ll be conviced that Person B is an asshole, and that’s about it.

I once did that to a co-worker…

Him: Homosexuality is bad.
Me: Why?
Him: It’s unnatural.
Me: You’re probably thinking of anal sex.
Him: Yes!
Me: Of course, there’s also oral sex, and other combinations. Would you condemn any conjunction of oral, genital, and anal orifices, including with each other, such as anal-to-anal contact?
Him: Yes! It’s all wrong!
Me: You’ve just banned kissing.

yes, good point

I would disagree that even used disingenuously that one can win any argument. If one has a solid case, where the conclusion logically follows from the premises, all it would really do is disect the argument back to the premises. If you break it down the the premises and they’re solid, meaningful premises, then the disingenuous socratic arguer basically just walked you through proving your case.

Look at it from a mathematical perspective. Every proof is based upon previous proofs but eventually can be traced back to some fundamental axioms. Sure, once you get to those axioms, the why stops because because of some previous statement and just becomes the simple argument that if you reject those axioms, you’d essentially have to reject the entirety of mathematics.

Obviously, it’s not going to be that big in a lot of cases, but really, when you get down to it, that’s what a lot of arguments are. Either one (or both) is making a logical mistake between their premises and their conclusion, or the two people disagree on the validity of the premises. So following the socratic method would just eliminate the first issue. And, if you agree on the logic and agree on the premises, then you can’t disagree with the conclusion in good faith.