If someone told you, we learn more from asking questions than finding answers, would you believe them? According to the ideas of Socrates as passed down to us by Plato, it is only through continual questioning and refinement of our ideas and thoughts in discussion with others that we discover the true nature of what we truly value and hold dear.
Socratic questioning forces us to face our preconceived beliefs and cognitive biases. For example, how do we know something is a chair or a dog? This video demonstrates that it is not a simple prospect.
Socratic questioning allows us to explore concepts often learned in childhood. By asking questions like "What is wisdom?" What is love?" "What is peace?" "How can we overcome racism?" and continually questioning the answers we come up with, we begin to understand ourselves and break through cognitive biases.
According the Christopher Phillips, the Socratic process of give and take is one that can help build group identity and foster understanding of different perspectives.
The Socrates Cafe movement and the Philosophers’ Club book for kids (Spanish version) by Christopher Phillips brings this approach to thinking to modern diverse audiences. According to Phillips, children are particularly open to this form of dialogue because they are not yet afraid to speak their minds and follow ideas down twisting pathways.
Besides the Socratic Cafe approach which is very open-ended, there are several other organized formats for Socratic-like discussions. The National Deliberation Forums provide a very structured approach to discussions of major issues. The following video explains how to use the Socratic Method as a teaching approach in the classroom.
But you don't have to be a teacher to use this method. If you are a parent, try asking questions as a way to develop critical thinking in your children. In work situations, consider using the format as a way to understand each other better. Here are some guidelines to follow.