Socratic Method
at a glance

What can
Socratic Effect
do for your

classical and
modern forms

The Law of Effect

Core Readings


In French
en français

Win Wenger


Socratic Method at a Glance

Origins:   Greek Stoics, 2nd and 3rd Centuries B.C., the Athenian Socrates.

Effects:   Such “miracle leaps” of understanding, learning, and personal growth occurred that its practitioners became convinced “all knowledge and understanding are (somehow) already within each learner and need merely be ‘drawn forth.’” (We don’t have to assume it all is, to recognize that much more is from a variety of sources than gets used under conventional circumstances.) These “miracle effects” were reliable enough and consistent enough for the entire “education” profession to be named after the concept of “drawing-forth” (educare).

History:   First round of use, in late classical Greece, a population base of a few tens of thousands of people on whom it was used produced a greater number of world-class geniuses than Earth’s entire six billion people today are producing with didactic schooling, even with today’s advantages of technology and the Information Age. The second round of use, in Renaissance Europe, saw a population base of a few hundred thousand people on whom it was used produce a greater number of world-class geniuses than today’s six billion people.

Explanation of Effects:   The method induced one to relate directly to his or her own first-hand awarenesses, examining these to answer questions or challenges and seeking to respond directly from those first-hand awarenesses. This engages the most fundamental natural law of behavior, the Law of Effect (“you get more of what you reinforce”), to reinforce —

  • the particular awarenesses thus examined and responded to;
  • the behavior or trait of being aware; and
  • further regions of the brain more and more onto line with everyday, focused, word-based consciousness.
The various forms of Socratic Method also force us to dig past our usual short-cuts in thought and perception, past all the trite stock responses we’ve accumulated around almost every event or situation, and probe deeply into our own richer and subtler awarenesses, which is where the meaningful is to be found in every one of us. Every one of us very much needs to be drawn out at length, in depth, on matter after matter after matter.

Evolution of Method:   the original forms of Socratic Method, direct one-on-one dialog, question and challenge, could only be used on 1-2 learners at a time. In larger classes, the other 49 students would get restless, a main reason why American “education” changed from Socratic to Prussian.

The world-wide creativity movement, beginning in the 1950s, without knowing it revived Socratic Method and did so in a broad range of variants, because it sought out the most effective techniques for the purpose, and these happened to be essentially Socratic (see “Explanation of Effects” above). The last few years have seen Project Renaissance deriving from creativity method, and from modern understandings of behavior, learning, the mind and brain, many various modern forms of Socratic Method which are even more powerful, easier to use, and useful with many learners at one time.

Key References:   Dynamic Format | Mutual Listening

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Win Wenger

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