What is Socratic Dialogue?

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DK Matai

May 10, 2009, 4:15:55 AM5/10/09
to Holistic Quantum Relativity (HQR)
Dear Friends

Re: What is Socratic Dialogue?

Thank you for all your support over the last several years to ATCA
(estd 2001), The Philanthropia (estd 2005) and HQR (estd 2007), the
philanthropic initiatives dedicated to understanding and addressing
complex global challenges through Socratic Dialogue and Executive
Action to build a Wisdom based Economy. Although several years have
gone, our senior membership is firmly pegged to the five thousand mark
for ATCA and the one thousand mark for The Philanthropia. Our mission
is to influence the influencers across the globe who in turn help to
build a more harmonious world, whilst we remain flexible and humble.
Our distinguished members are from over 150 countries and it is our
honour and privilege that they choose to be associated with our humble
organisations with no esteem, position or value.

In particular, we wish to thank all our contributors and also the
senior executives and entrepreneurs, high government officials,
director-generals, professors and philanthropists who have made
historical decisions for the better in regard to implementing policy,
process and approach, through the collective wisdom accumulated at
ATCA, The Philanthropia and HQR via intense Socratic Dialogue. We are
truly humbled by the enormous impact that these three organisations
have had through diverse discussion and joint action.

Please continue to support us by recommending luminaries to these
Wisdom Fora dedicated to building a "Wisdom based Economy" based on
Liberty, Equality and Friendship between diverse peoples from all
parts of the world.

Origin of Socratic Dialogue in Ancient Greece

What we remember most about Socrates (469 BC - 399 BC) is his quote "I
know nothing except the fact of my ignorance!" from Diogenes
Laertius's "Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers."

In the tradition of The Great Spiritual Masters and Philosophers,
Socrates, is regarded as one of the finest. Some regard Socrates as
the greatest ever philosopher in history. His death reveals how
difficult it is to fight "vested interests" which no philosopher has
ever been able to fight effectively on a single handed basis. We feel
that we can achieve the Socratic mission by engaging a much wider
influential global community which is within the so called "vested
interest" side of the global economic equation. We are lucky to be
living in an age of transparency with the information revolution and
mass communication which can be a highly effective tool to reach out
to the wisdom-seeking peoples across nations.

We remind ourselves what Socratic Dialogue really means through the
thought provoking story of Socrates in His final days. The version
below is compiled from various sources including Plato's narrative.
The accusations, the trial, the three apology speeches and final
condemnation to death in 399 BC are worth noting, especially in the
21st Century as we need to appreciate the method of Socratic Dialogue
once again.

Let us hope and pray, we don't go the same way!

Socrates -- Accusations, Trial, Apology and Condemnation to Death (399

A friend, in consulting the Oracle at Delphi, asked was any man wiser
than Socrates? The Oracle replied that there were not! Upon being told
of this answer Socrates maintained that this implied that he, alone,
had this claim to wisdom -- that he fully recognised his own

From that time he sought out people who had a reputation for wisdom
and, in every case, was able to reveal that their reputations were not
justified. Socrates regarded this behaviour as a service to Divinity
and decided that he should continue to make efforts to improve people
by persuading and reminding them of their own ignorance.

What we now call the "Socratic method" of philosophical inquiry
involved questioning people on the positions they asserted and working
them through further questions into seemingly inevitable
contradictions, thus proving to them that their original assertion had
fatal inconsistencies. Socrates refers to this "Socratic method" as
elenchus. The Socratic method gave rise to dialectic, the idea that
truth needs to be approached by modifying one's position through
questionings and exposures to contrary ideas.

Contrary to popular understanding, Socrates did not seek to involve
himself in the political life of Athens in ancient Greece as he felt
that there would inevitably be compromises of principle that he was
not prepared to make. As a prominent citizen he was called upon to
fulfil minor political roles where his sense of principle had caused
him to place himself in some personal danger by holding out alone
against the unconstitutional condemnation of certain generals. He
later refused to participate in the arrest of an innocent man that had
been ordered by a corrupt body of "Thirty Tyrants" who ruled Athens in
the wake of her defeat by Sparta. This refusal might have cost
Socrates his life but for the overthrow of the Thirty Tyrants and a
restoration of democracy.

This restored democracy was however markedly traditionalist and
reactionary in its religious views -- this led it to see Socrates, as
a teacher of novel ideas of morality and justice, with some disfavour.
Socrates had also alienated many powerful men by acting as a
relentlessly questioning Gadfly causing them to face their personal
ignorance or own to shortfalls in office.

In 399 BC Socrates was accused of "impiety" and of "neglect of the
Gods whom the city worships and the practise of religious novelties"
and of the "corruption of the young".

The trial, last days, and death of Socrates are successively narrated
in several works by Plato. These works are The Apology (ie Defence
Speech), Euthyphro, Crito and Phaedo.

The Apology consists of three speeches made by Socrates at his trial
before a jury of five hundred or so Athenians who had gathered to hear
him answer the charges. He had not prepared any defence but, being
sure in his own mind that he was innocent, was hoping that his words
of truth would secure an acquittal. He at this time was more than
seventy years of age and he asked the jury to make allowances if he
spoke in the sort of language he might use in discussions in the
market-place as he was unfamiliar with law courts and the stylised
language used in formal trials.

Apology -- The First Speech

Socrates told the jury that he thought that he had two sets of
accusers, old and new, and that the old accusers he feared more so and
wished to present a defence against them first of all.

Socrates saw these old accusers as being influenced by prejudiced
opinions that he had indulged in natural philosophy physical
speculations or took money as a teacher.

Those who indulged in physical speculations were routinely assumed to
recognise no Divine Plan. In earlier days a play by Aristophanes had
featured a character named Socrates who seemed to be such a person but
Socrates called on those assembled at his trial to produce evidence
that he, the real Socrates, had ever taught along those lines.

In response to the idea that he took money as a teacher Socrates
insisted that the life he led had brought him utter poverty rather
than monetary reward. He lived that life in response to what the
Pythian prophetess at Delphi had told his friend Chaerephon:- that no
one was wiser than Socrates.

Socrates suggested that he had made many abiding enemies by personally
approaching people who had reputations for wisdom only to reveal
through questionings that their wisdom was specious. Others had been
alienated by young persons who had witnessed Socrates' methods of
questioning similarly revealing yet other people's pretensions to
wisdom to be baseless.

Socrates made the case that his questions had tended to vindicate the
utterance of the Oracle at Delphi by showing that he, Socrates, did
indeed have a particular claim to Wisdom in that he at least fully
recognised his own ignorance.

Socrates then addressed his new accusers in the form of Meletus the
prosecutor. These new accusers accused Socrates of Impiety, of
neglecting the Gods approved by the state, and, of introducing new

Meletus, who was obliged to answer Socrates' questions delivered
before the jury eventually committed himself to a straight assertion
that Socrates was a complete atheist. Socrates then showed the fatal
contradiction in Meletus accusation -- how does someone whom the
prosecution holds to be a complete atheist come to be accused of
introducing new divinities or religious novelties.

Having exposed the contradictions in the "new accusations" Socrates
again mentioned that he feared his old accusers -- those who had their
pretensions exposed in the past -- more so than the new.

As the trial continued Socrates insisted that he had lived his life
the way he had in response to "Divine Intervention" calling him to
fulfil a philosophic mission. Even were he faced with death as an
alternative, (death might for all he could know or deduce be a great
release into good), Socrates insisted that he would not give any
undertaking to cease from moral teachings designed to encourage people
to pay great attention to the "improvement of the soul". Socrates went
so far as to suggest that if the Athenians sentenced him to death that
it would be a sin against God. God had made him into a sort of Gadfly
that was intended to stir the Athenian state into moral improvement.
Socrates response to this call from God was to live a life of an
unpaid teacher and he was in a state of utter poverty through neglect
of private affairs.

Socrates maintained that he has long lived with an inner "oracle or
sign" that occasionally forbade him from following certain actions and
reminded the jury of the real danger that he put himself at the time
of the unconstitutional trial of the generals and again when he
refused to obey the Thirty Tyrants over the arrest of an innocent man.
Socrates' great concern was not to avoid danger that might arise by
alienating the powerful but rather to avoid committing any unrighteous
or unholy act.

Socrates then spoke of his followers stating that they enjoyed hearing
his cross-questioning of those with pretensions to wisdom and that
Meletus was making no effort to call any of them as witnesses for the

As to his family Socrates said that whilst it is far from unknown for
accused persons to bring their tearful families to the attention of
the court as an argument for leniency he, Socrates, could only regard
such behaviours as being discreditable. Socrates hopes that his
arguments alone will convince the court of his innocence and will not
resort to such devices.

In the event the five hundred or so strong jury before which Socrates
was standing trial found him guilty by a narrow majority of sixty.
Meletus moved that the sentence should be death, in reply Socrates had
the right to propose a sentence that the court might select as an

Apology -- The Second Speech; The last days of Socrates

Although now an officially guilty man Socrates, true to his own
estimation of his past actions, suggested that he has actually done
great good to the state and that he deserved reward rather than

The trial jury was asked to entertain the idea that he, Socrates,
should be maintained at public expense, such as was awarded to famous
Olympian charioteers, so that he would have leisure to impart
beneficial instruction.

Socrates then backtracked a little from this suggestion, reminded the
court that no one actually knew if death was a disaster or a release,
and said that he was reluctant to suggest a real penalty in preference
to death which might be a blessing. He had no money to pay any fine,
he did not feel he deserved imprisonment, exile would bring great
uncertainties for a man who even in a foreign city was bound to
continue to instruct towards the "improvement of the soul".

Socrates openly suggested that he could himself pay a small fine of
one Mina but that his friends were prepared to pay, on his behalf, a
fine of thirty Minae.

In the event the trial jury thought that Socrates proposed alternative
- the fine of thirty Minae - was significantly too lenient and voted
for the sentence of death rather than the fine being imposed and voted
that way by an increased majority.

Apology -- The Third Speech

Socrates asked those who had voted in favour of his being guilty to
bear in mind that, even though he did not consider himself to be wise,
the rivals of Athens would say that the Athenians had ordered the
death of a wise man who lived among them. He also reminded those who
had condemned him that although he was not to be around much longer as
a Gadfly other, younger, and possibly less considerate, people might
well fulfil the same role in the future.

To those who had voted in favour of his being declared innocent
Socrates gave assurances that he was not afraid of death, his sure
guide - the inner Oracle or sign, - had not made its presence felt in
ways that would have led him to believe he was on a wrong path.

Whether death led to a state of utter unconsciousness or else to a
transmigration of the soul Socrates foresaw something that would be
not completely unwelcome.

To go into an eternity of a single, quiet, night or else to have the
opportunity as a transmigrated soul to converse with, and to question,
the heroes in Hades.

Amongst his closing remarks Socrates asked his friends there present
to visit punishments and troubles on his three sons if they seemed to
care more about riches than about virtue, or if they seemed to be

Socrates' closing words in this third speech of Plato's Apology were,
"The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways - I to die, and
you to live. Which is better God only knows."

In most circumstances Socrates would have been obliged to submit to
execution by drinking the deadly poison Hemlock within twenty four
hours of his sentence. It happened however that executions were
traditionally suspended whilst a certain sacred ship made an annual
voyage to the Island of Delos. This ship was presently on the seas and
this allowed a certain stay of execution.

Plato continues his narrative of the last days of Socrates by
presenting him in the days immediately following the trial in his "The


We apologise for any errors or omissions on our part. We welcome your
thoughts, observations and views. To reflect further on this, please
respond within Twitter, Linked and Facebook's ATCA Open and related
discussion platform of HQR.

All the best

DK Matai

Chairman and Founder: mi2g.net, ATCA, The Philanthropia, HQR, @G140

To connect directly with:

. DK Matai: http://twitter.com/DKMatai

. Open HQR: http://twitter.com/OpenHQR

. ATCA Open: http://twitter.com/ATCAOpen

. @G140: http://twitter.com/G140

. mi2g: http://twitter.com/intunit

-- ATCA, The Philanthropia, mi2g, HQR, @G140 --

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The original ATCA -- Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance -- is a
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The Philanthropia, founded in 2005, brings together over 1,000 leading
individual and private philanthropists, family offices, foundations,
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to address complex global challenges such as countering climate chaos,
reducing radical poverty and developing global leadership for the
younger generation through the appliance of science and technology,
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Philanthropia Targets: Countering climate chaos and carbon neutrality;
Eliminating radical poverty -- through micro-credit schemes,
empowerment of women and more responsible capitalism; Leadership for
the Younger Generation; and Corporate and social responsibility.


May 10, 2009, 5:15:38 PM5/10/09
to Holistic Quantum Relativity (HQR)
I think I answered this question at least somewhat over in the other
"Socratic Dialog" thread. I also put it here http://iamblogging.net/HQR/

I did want to say I think this ATCA HQR dialog and Intent Blog did
change the world and shifted it's path, yet it is not yet out of
peril. If it had not been going to do so I would not have participated
in it.

I think the world will only know gratitude for those of the 5,000
members that did embrace the truth, did evolve, did listen and allowed
themselves an open mind.I did notice some resonant effect and
resulting evolutionary progress, I have no doubt the rewards for them
will be great.

Lest we forget.

Part of the art to living life is to humble one's self before the
divine does. It can also be said to embrace one's truth before it is
embraced for us. The latter in both cases resulting in a most
undesired experience, a turbulent path rather than the calmer one.



May 10, 2009, 5:45:55 PM5/10/09
to Holistic Quantum Relativity (HQR)
I once read a message of someone on the IntentBlog about how
every one expresses his/her own truth and that therefore every
one writes his/her own life story or book in an attempt to know

This struck me as a really simple truth. If only we could allow this.

It is so important to listen, to really listen.

The Oracle of Delphi said: Know Thyself.

To me Socratic Dialogue is a two-way conversation with every one, in
which every one is able to find out
ones own two-way inner dialogue.

Guess it takes a lifetime and perhaps even more to reach that goal.

Our path is that goal and it is a path that walks itself.

I am soo happy I found this back in the symbol of the labyrinth.

And I am soo happy for everyone who can fill this in for oneself
in one way or another.

The Internet is a marvellous learning tool towards this and so is
probably Twitter.
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