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.

Am I a failure?

Meditations of a 21st century incarnation of Socrates as composed by Brent Silby


Over the course of many years (many more than I care to admit to) I have encountered people who have labelled themselves as “failures”. A most unfortunate label, which I find to be confusing because usually they are not failures.
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Why does my life matter?

It has been a fruitful few days. I have had the good fortune of dialoging with many people in the wise city of Christchurch. Just this morning I found my friend Emma, sitting at her usual table in Greg’s cafe. She was looking troubled, so I talked with her.

– Socrates

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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.


COMPOSED BY BRENT SILBY


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Road Rage

Meditations of a 21st century incarnation of Socrates as composed by Brent Silby


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 examine their responses 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.

— Socrates
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What is knowledge?

What is Knowledge?
A Socratic Dialogue

Composed by Brent Silby


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 and was recorded by my student, Plato. 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.

— Socrates


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Technology, the overstated route to happiness


Meditations of a 21st century incarnation of Socrates as composed by Brent Silby


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

Composed by Brent Silby


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.

— Socrates


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