Category Archives: Socratic Dialogues

I was once told that I was wisest among men. Surely the Oracle at Delphi was not mistaken. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to test the pronouncement. I have therefore had many dialogues with people who claim to hold wisdom. My students Plato and Xenophon recorded my discussions in ancient Athens. I continue to engage in dialogues with people in this century. My recent dialogues have been transcribed and appear here.

Trouble at work?

Bringing philosophy down from the heavens and giving it to the people has been my life’s work. While many philosophical questions may seem abstract and irrelevant to every day life, philosophy can also be practiced by people who want to learn how to live well. I recently met a young person named Emma who was ruminating over a bad day at work. The following is my recollection of our dialogue.

— Socrates

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Pest control

Wise readers, I recently meditated on a dialogue between myself and a farmer from the deep south of New Zealand. As I have come to do, I posted my meditation for you to read. And now I shall recall a short portion of our dialogue.

— Socrates
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The Problem of Evil and the Existence of God


[PDF version]

My wonderful friend, Paul, visited me yesterday. He was most excited to share his proof that God does not exist. As it happens, he found his proof on the Stanford University Philosophy webpage. We sat together for the afternoon to examine his proof. It was a hot day. The following is a recollection of our dialogue.

— Socrates

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Is it just to kill animals for meat?

I am most fortunate to be continuing to examine life. Here is a partial transcript of a recent dialogue in which we examined our treatment of animals. To my shame, this is something I never analyzed back in Athens.
— Socrates

SOCRATES: Would a just person cause unnecessary pain?

MARY: No, of course not.

SOCRATES: As you are wise and knowledgeable, can you please tell me, is it true that people can live long healthy lives without eating meat?

MARY: Yes, this is true.

SOCRATES: Must it not follow that eating meat is unnecessary in terms of helping people live long and healthy lives?

MARY: Yes, that follows, Socrates.

SOCRATES: Can we therefore agree that if eating meat is unnecessary in terms of helping people live long and healthy lives, then killing animals for meat is unnecessary.

MARY: That is a reasonable conclusion.

SOCRATES: Now tell me, is it not true that killing animals causes them pain?

MARY: It seems to be true.

SOCRATES: Then it must follow that killing animals causes them unnecessary pain.

MARY: Yes.

SOCRATES: But we have agreed that a just person does not cause unnecessary pain, so it must follow that killing animals for meat is unjust.

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Road Rage

By Socrates
How can people deal with real life situations with wisdom? This question is at the heart of the stoic philosophy and is a natural extension to my own search for wisdom. I have maintained that philosophy should be available to the people rather than remaining with the gods. It is the art of living. So in addition to interrogating people about values, justice, and ethics, I like examine their response to life issues. I am not a teacher, but through dialogue I hope to help people learn how to question their own lives.

Last week i encountered a car accident. The driver who was at fault seemed remorseful. So I took it upon my self to talk to this poor fellow.

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What is knowledge?

By Socrates

Over the years I have had many conversations with many people. You would be surprised how often certain issues resurface. My relatively recent dialogue with Thomas and Paul bore a remarkable resemblance to a dialogue I had back in Athens. My memory may be fading, but I remember the dialogue. It was with a worthy fellow by the name Theaetetus. The following is a transcript of my dialogue with Thomas and Paul in which we question the nature of knowledge, just as Theaetetus and I did all those years ago.

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Technology, the overstated route to happiness


By Socrates

In my search for wisdom I meet many people. As I converse with them I find that they all seek the same thing: happiness. But when I ask how they intend to achieve their goal of happiness, their answers reveal how elusive it is.

I was recently at a technology market. As I wandered through the exhibit tents, I was struck with what everyone seemed to be selling: happiness. Astonishingly this elusive thing seemed to be available for purchased at a technology market. Now I must be clear, the advertising didn’t use the term “happiness”. However this is clearly what they wanted people to think. I saw displays of people smiling and looking fulfilled, all thanks to their technological aids; iPads, robotic lawnmowers, automated vacuum cleaners, and software to remote control their house.

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Gun ownership laws

By Socrates

The issue of gun ownership often comes up after reports of mass shootings. Recently there was a mass shooting in Las Vegas. This prompted a dialogue between myself and a gun enthusiast. The dialogue was documented by a friend of mine (Brent Silby) and appears below. As with many of my dialogues, this one ends in aporia. That means it ends inconclusively, at an impasse.



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Socialism, Capitalism – is there anything in between?

By Socrates

There is an election campaign underway in New Zealand. People familiar with my history will know my views on democracy. My student, Plato, built on my views and constructed an extensive criticism of the democracy of Athens. Democracy in New Zealand is different, but perhaps still suffers from the same problems I saw in Athens. Much of the campaigning is based on rhetorical tricks of language rather than rationally presented argument. There are some exceptions to this statement, of course. But overall, the person most clever with language wins the popular vote. They are sophists. They make bad arguments look good, and good arguments look bad.

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Punishment

A Socratic Dialogue
By BRENT SILBY

 

Background

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, Socrates is walking through the streets of Western Heights, a small town in the country of New Zealand. Feeling rather hungry, he decides to visit a café for food and coffee. As he is about to enter, he bumps into his old friend Greg, the owner of the café.

Persons of the dialog

Socrates
Greg

 

Socrates: It is good to see you Greg. It has been too long, my friend.

Greg: Two years I think.

Socrates: I remember last time we talked, you told me about your interest in opening your own café. Did you go ahead with this?

Greg: Yes indeed. This is my place. I have been running this café for nearly a year. It’s been hard work, but I think I’m now on top of things.

Socrates: I hear there are long hours involved in running cafés and other such businesses.

Greg: It is a seven-day a week job.

Socrates: If that is the case, it is no surprise that you say it is hard work. You surely deserve to take some time off. Do you employ staff?

Greg: Yes, I have a few part-time employees.

Socrates: Well, perhaps they can take care of business while you have a day off. You can turn a seven-day a week job into a six-day a week job.

Greg: I wish I could, but I can’t rely on the staff. I have had a bad run with employees. On more than one occasion I have caught them stealing from me.

Socrates: I am sorry to hear that, my friend. To suffer an injustice can be a troubling experience. May I ask, what was your response?

Greg: I sacked them. I was very angry. The legal system didn’t give them nearly the punishment they deserved. People get off lightly these days.

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