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Teaching Philosophy

Volume 32, Issue 4, December 2009

Eric C. Mullis
Pages 345-359

On Being a Socratic Philosophy Instructor

This paper discusses the use of the Socratic Method by philosophy instructors. I argue that Socrates employs both dissimulation and irony in enacting the elenchus and that these techniques should be evaluated before being used in the classroom. Dissimulation can be justified as it encourages students to think for themselves, however the use of irony is ill-advised as it is readily perceived as being boastful. Suggestions are made regarding how confrontational the Socratic instructor should be in encouraging students to develop accounts of their beliefs. Lastly, I consider how the instructor’s broader philosophical commitments can influence the enactment of the elenchus.

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