Scientific vs. Socratic Method: the winner is?
Hypothetico-deductive model for scientific method from Wikipedia:
“1. Use your experience: Consider the problem and try to make sense of it. Look for previous explanations. If this is a new problem to you, then move to step 2.
2. Form a conjecture: When nothing else is yet known, try to state an explanation, to someone else, or to your notebook.
3. Deduce a prediction from that explanation: If you assume 2 is true, what consequences follow?
4. Test: Look for the opposite of each consequence in order to disprove 2. It is a logical error to seek 3 directly as proof of 2. This error is called affirming the consequent.”
Deductive and inductive reasoning are the two corner stones of a rational process whereby the individual can ascertain and/or develop rational conclusions about complex questions. When complex questions overflow the narrow boundaries of the natural sciences another form of reasoning is called for.
The Socratic Method consists of dialogue followed by dialectical reasoning.
Dialectical reasoning forms the only process available for examining complex problems associated with multiple agents attempting to develop communicative action plans. Our newspapers are constantly filled with discourse about such problems; examples are abortion, stem cell research, Iraq war, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, America’s polarized electorate, etc. When many agents must come together to seek a majority judgment for the determination of an acceptable goal then dialectical reasoning is called for.
Dialogue is a technique for mutual consideration of such problems wherein solutions grow in a dialectical manner. Through dialogue each individual brings his/her point of view to the fore by proposing solutions constructed around their specific view. All participants in the dialogue come at the solution from the logic of their views. The solution builds dialectically i.e. a thesis is developed and from this thesis and a contrasting antithesis is constructed a synthesis that takes into consideration both proposals. From this a new synthesis, a new thesis is developed.
When we are dealing with problems well circumscribed by algorithms the personal biases of the subject are of small concern. In problems in which there are agents with varied concerns and varied world views, without the advantage of paradigms and algorithms, the biases of the problem solvers become a serious source of error. One important task of dialogue is to illuminate these prejudices which may be quite subtle and often out of consciousness of the participant holding them.
When we engage in a dialogue what happens? The first thing we find is that dialogue is unlike anything in which we have previously been involved. Group discussions generally digress quickly into verbal food fights and nothing positive is accomplished. Discussions become venues for shouting at one another. The most important thing discovered--provided you wished to advance your thinking so as to develop a means for solving intractable problems--is that skills and attitudes not presently possessed must be developed.
Under our normal cultural situation communication means to discourse, to exchange opinions with one another. It seems to me that there are opinions, considered opinions, and judgments. Opinions are a dime-a-dozen. Considered opinions, however, are opinions that have received a considerable degree of thought but have not received special study. A considered opinion starts out perhaps as tacit knowledge but receives sufficient intellectual attention to have become consciously organized in some fashion. Judgments are made within a process of study.
In dialogue, person ‘A’ may state a thesis and in return person ‘B’ does not respond with exactly the same meaning as does ‘A’. The meanings are generally similar but not identical; thus ‘A’ listening to ‘B’ perceives a disconnect between what she said and what ‘B’ replies. ‘A’ then has the opportunity to respond with this disconnect in mind, thereby creating a response that takes these matters into consideration; ‘A’ performs an operation known as a dialectic (a juxtaposition of opposed or contradictory ideas). And so the dialogical process proceeds.
A dialogical process is not one wherein individuals reason together in an attempt to make common ideas that are already known to each individual. ”Rather, it may be said that the two people are making something in common, i.e., creating something new together.” Dialogical reasoning together is an act of creation, of mutual understanding, of meaning.
Dialogic can happen only if both individuals wish to reason together in truth, in coherence, without prejudice, and without trying to influence each other. Each must be prepared to “drop his old ideas and intentions. And be ready to go on to something different, when this is called for…Thus, if people are to cooperate (i.e., literally to ‘work together’) they have to be able to create something in common, something that takes shape in their mutual discussions and actions, rather than something that is conveyed from one person who acts as an authority to the others, who act as passive instruments of this authority.”
The quotations used here are from On Dialogue written by “The late David Bohm, one of the greatest physicists and foremost thinkers this century, was Fellow of the Royal Society and Emeritus Professor of Physics at Birkbeck College, University of London.
Bohm is convinced that communication is breaking down as a result of the crude and insensitive manner in which it is transpiring. Communication is a concept with a common meaning that does not fit well with the concepts of dialogue, dialectic, and dialogic.
I claim that if we citizens do not learn to dialogue we cannot learn to live together in harmony sufficient to save the species.