In the Shadow of “Yes, Socrates!”: An Inquiry into ElenchusBahadır Söylemez
Socrates’ philosophy as expressed in its most general form manifests itself within the framework of questions of the type “What is F-ness?” The method is determinant in the way an asked question is handled and the character of the philosophy that is identified with it. This method is known as elenchus or the Socratic method. This study aims to generally explain what elenchus is and how it can be used. Plato and his dialogues are at the forefront of the sources to look at for understanding the Socratic method. In particular, understanding the Socratic method will be studied through Plato’s early dialogues. In this context, while Plato’s dialogues and Socrates’ approach constitute one of the main pillars of this effort to understand, considering the sophists as another pillar is also thought to be necessary. Understanding the sophists that Socrates and Plato positioned themselves against, their philosophizing practices, and the methods that guide these practices is thought will make understanding the Socratic method easier. In this respect, the Socratic method will be evaluated in terms of its relationship with eristic, which is attributed to the sophists as their method. One of the main determinations of elenchus and eristic is that they result in aporia (expression of logical impasse). From this point of view, the study will explain the positions of these two methods and their attitudes toward aporia.
“Evet, Sokrates!”in Gölgesinde: Elenkhos Üzerine Bir SoruşturmaBahadır Söylemez
Sokrates’in felsefesi, en genel haliyle ifade edilecek olduğunda, “F’lik nedir?” türünden ortaya atılan sorular çerçevesinde kendisini göstermektedir. Ortaya atılan sorunun ele alınış biçimi ve bu yolla onunla özdeşleştirilen felsefenin karakterini belirleyen ise ona atfedilen yöntemdir. Bu yöntem elenkhos’tur. Bu çalışmanın amacı genel olarak ifade edilecek olursa elenkhos’un çerçevesinin çıkarılmasıdır. Bu bağlamda temel yol gösterici olarak Platon’un diyalogları ele alınacaktır. Özellikle erken dönem diyalogları üzerinden Sokratik yöntemin anlaşılması üzerine çalışılacaktır. Bu anlama çabasının temel ayaklarından birini Platon’un diyalogları ve bu bağlamda Sokrates’in yaklaşımı oluştururken bir başka temel ayak olaraksa sofistlerin ele alınmasının bir gereklilik olduğu düşünülmektedir. Sokrates’in ve Platon’un kendilerini karşılarında konumlandırdıkları sofistler, onların felsefe yapma pratikleri ve bu pratikleri yönlendiren yöntemlerinin anlaşılmasının Sokrates’in yöntemini anlamayı kolaylaştıracağı düşünülmektedir. Bu bakımdan Sokrates’in yöntemi olarak belirlenen elenkhos, sofistlerin yöntemi olarak atfedilen eristik ile olan ilişkisinde değerlendirilecektir. Elenkhos ve eristiğin temel belirlenimlerinden biri çıkmazlara (aporia) neden olmalarıdır. Buradan hareketle de bu iki tavrın bu çıkmazlar karşısındaki konumları açıklanacaktır.
Socrates’ philosophy as expressed in its most general form manifests itself in the framework of questions of the type “What is F-ness?” The method is determinant in how an asked question is handled and the character of the philosophy that is identified with it. This method is elenchus, or the Socratic method. This study aims to generally explain what elenchus is and how it can be used. While explaining this, the study benefits from the relationship between eristic and elenchus. In this way, the study will first discuss the sophists. The sophists were the first teachers of Ancient Greece, although they are often mentioned negatively. In general terms, the sophists’ education was based on teaching the intricacies of being right in a discussion. Within this approach, the discussion is built on being right or wrong, with people being positioned as winners or losers. The sophists’ art of persuasion purports to teach the defense of any argument on any subject with as much success as its counter-argument. A question is exhibited in front of a large group of participants through a discourse or a speech that has been previously wellprepared on a subject. What shapes sophists’ discourse practices is their unifying philosophical position of skepticism. The important thing is to be right and to be the winner of the discussion. The method should also serve this purpose. Therefore, the sophists’ practice is results-oriented rather than an investigation into what the subject really means. What is attractive for those who demand a sophist education is the result, and eristic is the method that is seen to be useful for achieving this result. In eristic, the main aim during the discussion is to refute, no matter what happens. Therefore, the method is based on refutation.
As for Socrates, he was firstly a philosopher of life and morality, and his pursuit of truth shaped his philosophy. What had shaped his pursuit was elenchus. Although Socrates was able to share some common points with the sophists, the main point that distinguished him from the sophists was his pursuit of truth and the method that shaped this pursuit. Socrates’ elenchus was also refutation, just like eristic. However, refutation in elenchus is different from refutation in eristic. First, the winner-loser opposition of eristic should be noted to not be present in elenchus. Elenchus is based on co-investigation. The main features of elenchus as developed on the basis of co-investigation are listed as follows:
1. The topic being covered in the dialogue: “What is F-ness?” (Socrates’ interlocutor makes the claim of “I know”.)
2. The response from Socrates’ interlocutor to the question “What is F-ness?” F-ness is “p.” (“Saying what he believes”)
3. “p” is investigated
4. New claims (e.g., “q,” “r,” “s,” …) emerge during the investigation and are accepted by the interlocutor.
5. Discover what inconsistencies exist for “p” with “q,” “r,” “s,” and so on.
6. Have the interlocutor who approved “q,” “r,” “s,” and so on during the investigation fail to return to “p”, the first claim.
7. As a result, the interlocutor who claims that “p” is the answer for “What is F-ness?” gives up his claim, and the claim of “p is F-ness” is eliminated.
In elenchus, that Socrates not give a satisfactory answer to a question posed such as “What is F-ness?” is determinative. Eristic also does not provide a satisfactory answer to a question. However, both of them have different ways of giving an unsatisfactory answer. While rivalry is present in eristic, elenchus has partnership. Although the aim of the person using eristic to win the discussion may justify the inclusion of non-discussion elements in the discussion, such an attitude is not the case in elenchus. Eristic only aims at doxastic inconsistency, it does not aim to find consistency or inconsistency in the beliefs of the interlocutor; the area of interest is verbal consistency/inconsistency. Here, the importance of the motto “Say what you believe” becomes clear for elenchus, as well as its distinction from eristic. Although both methods create confusion for the interlocutor, the confusion that Socrates wanted to create in the interlocutor can be seen not just as confusion but also as a real surprise due to the distinct structure elenchus has from eristic and aimed at eliminating the conceit the interlocutor displayed at the beginning of the discussion. For this reason, while the defeat of the interlocutor is a negative thing for the interlocutor in eristic discussion, the defeat of the interlocutor is a positive thing for the interlocutor in elenchus. In this respect, elenchus can be seen as the first step in the pursuit of truth.