The Socratic dialectic begins with the eristic game; Socrates asks a series of questions, often requiring only ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers, that force the person questioned into self-contradiction. This method of revealing the falsity of strongly held beliefs leads Socrates’ protagonists into an impasse, or aporia, from which, stunned and confused, they can move from falsity to truth.
Over two millennia later, the Socratic dialectic is more important than ever. Upsetting people’s beliefs is now held to be ‘offensive’ and, fearful of this charge, teachers have abandoned the search for truth in favour of a non-judgemental approach that leads students into a therapeutic impasse. Therapy is the new hemlock.