wandelaar

Lao tse and the Socratic Method

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Lao tse advised against (heated) discussions. But we want to discuss Taoism nevertheless, so - as Lost in Translation remarked - using the Socratic Method of mainly asking questions and giving answers looks like the right thing to do. I am wondering whether there are any books or articles that explore the relation between Lao tse and the Socratic Method. I couldn't find anything... :(

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Ditto.

 

But yes, on this forum I tend to bow out once I've said my piece and if I learn something new from others, then great. It's important to not fall into the trap of fighting it out on here. Otherwise I might as well just go to Facebook.

 

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Same with me - but I still find it difficult at times, particularly when that means an opponent will have the last word with a statement I consider provably wrong. I think it basically has to do with a concern about my own status within the group, something that's probably a leftover of human evolution. That's one of the reasons I think follow your own nature cannot be the whole story. We still have to educate ourselves on some points.

 

Further I always like to have some real (physical) books concerning things I consider important on the way. I prefer a real book above e-books or links, because a real book becomes a visible  reminder of something important (whereas an e-book or link can easily drown in a mass of other information that is just as easily stored as it is forgotten).

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2 hours ago, wandelaar said:

Same with me - but I still find it difficult at times, particularly when that means an opponent will have the last word with a statement I consider provably wrong. I think it basically has to do with a concern about my own status within the group, something that's probably a leftover of human evolution. That's one of the reasons I think follow your own nature cannot be the whole story. We still have to educate ourselves on some points.

 

Oh it is hard. I'm at peace with myself and the world until someone hits a nerve haha.

 

About discussions, you can prove something wrong but if the other person is set in their ways or stubborn, you just gotta let them be. The phrase "banging your head against a brick wall" is more literal than you think. You can do it but you're only hurting yourself.

 

And what does others' opinions really matter anyway? Especially if they are coming from a place of ignorance/lack of knowledge on a subject. It's how I think of, say, Tai Chi. There's been all sorts of things said on the practice here, but I get more value from just going to my class and doing it. If I really have a question, I ask my teacher.

 

It goes without saying, you never really know who you're chatting to on the internet.

 

But there are some golden things to be found here, from some golden individuals. Take what is useful and backed up by various legitimate sources. Discard the petty and pointless.

Edited by Rara
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Why you assume that there's a relation between Lao Tsu and the socratic method? 

 

I think that there's a book written by Bill Bodri who attempts to connect Socrates with the Buddhist PATH. 

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1 minute ago, Cheshire Cat said:

Why you assume that there's a relation between Lao Tsu and the socratic method? 

 

Because Lao tse disapproves of discussions. But one has to develop one's philosophy somehow and that's hardly possible on our own. So the Socratic method may be some kind of middle way between keeping silent and loosing one's temper. B) 

 

1 minute ago, Cheshire Cat said:

I think that there's a book written by Bill Bodri who attempts to connect Socrates with the Buddhist PATH. 


This one?

 

https://www.amazon.com/Socrates-Enlightenment-Path-William-Bodri/dp/1578631912

 

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23 minutes ago, wandelaar said:

... Lao tse disapproves of discussions.

You've said this a couple of times. Can you point me to where you are drawing this conclusion from?

 

The only thing that comes mind is chapter 81.

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1 hour ago, wandelaar said:

 

Because Lao tse disapproves of discussions. But one has to develop one's philosophy somehow and that's hardly possible on our own. So the Socratic method may be some kind of middle way between keeping silent and loosing one's temper. B) 

 

I'm not sure of any similarities between Socrates and Lao Tse, but I think that what you're looking for is simply a form of Stoic philosophy, rather than a strange east-west connections book.

 

 

1 hour ago, wandelaar said:

 Yes!

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1 hour ago, Kar3n said:

You've said this a couple of times. Can you point me to where you are drawing this conclusion from?

 

The only thing that comes mind is chapter 81.

 

A quick scan gives:

 

Chapter 2: Therefore the sage goes about doing nothing, teaching no talking.

Chapter 3: If people lack knowledge and desire, then intellectuals will not try to interfere.

Chapter 22:

Not putting on a display,
They shine forth.
Not justifying themselves,
They are distinguished.
Not boasting,
They receive recognition.
Not bragging,
They never falter.
They do not quarrel,
So no one quarrels with them.

Chapter 23:To talk little is natural.

Chapter 56 :

Those who know do not talk.
Those who talk do not know.
Keep your mouth closed.
Guard your senses.
Temper your sharpness.
Simplify your problems.
Mask your brightness.
Be at one with the dust of the earth.
This is primal union.

Chapter 65: In the beginning those who knew the Tao did not try to enlighten others, But kept them in the dark.

Chapter 77:

Therefore the sage works without recognition.
He achieves what has to be done without dwelling on it.
He does not try to show his knowledge.

Chapter 81:

Truthful words are not beautiful.
Beautiful words are not truthful.
Good men do not argue.
Those who argue are not good.
Those who know are not learned.
The learned do not know.

 

 

 

 

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I think he was going deeper than just discussion in all of those chapters. Think he might be saying more about humility and wisdom in discussions rather than the discussion itself?

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Just now, Kar3n said:

I think he was going deeper than just discussion in all of those chapters. Think he might be saying more about humility and wisdom in discussions rather than the discussion itself?


That is also how I see it. Discussions in the sense of forcing your own opinion onto someone else, or trying to show how smart you (think you) are, go against the spirit of Taoism. Such an egocentric approach also frequently proves useless: https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Backfire_effect

 

But not getting into the wrong kind of discussions is more easily said than done... :blush:

 

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Chuang Tzu ridiculed debates too. When I find the section, I'll post it here.

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There's this for Ch. 24 I believe;

 

"All attempts to create something admirable are the weapons of evil. You may think you are practising benevolence and righteousness, but in effect you will be creating a kind of artificiality. Where a model exists, copies will be made of it; where success has been gained, boasting follows; where debate exists, there will be outbreaks of hostility."

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where debate exists, there will be outbreaks of hostility

 

That is exactly the danger of debates, the stirring up of animosity. The Socratic method will possibly be an antidote to that.

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3 hours ago, Rara said:

There's this for Ch. 24 I believe;

 

"All attempts to create something admirable are the weapons of evil. You may think you are practising benevolence and righteousness, but in effect you will be creating a kind of artificiality. Where a model exists, copies will be made of it; where success has been gained, boasting follows; where debate exists, there will be outbreaks of hostility."

 

3 hours ago, wandelaar said:
Quote

where debate exists, there will be outbreaks of hostility

 

That is exactly the danger of debates, the stirring up of animosity. The Socratic method will possibly be an antidote to that. (Emphasis mine, ZYD)

 

The Socratic method will possibly be an antidote to that.: Well it is supposed to be an antidote to that, that is why Plato preserved it, as a "cathartic" antidote, that would clear people of the conceit of thinking that they know something when they really don't, like the number of people around here who think they know what the "Socratic Method" is, or that they can make judgements about it by bandying about various English translations of a rather old and obscure book.  A while back I attempted to show what the Socratic method really was by quoting from Plato:

 

On 10/17/2015 at 3:19 PM, Zhongyongdaoist said:

Back in the early 1980s I was reading Plato in a public place and a guy came up to me and said that he had started reading Plato himself a while back and said ‚ÄúYou know, I think I know less now then I did before‚ÄĚ. To which my reply was, ‚ÄúGood, you're making real progress‚ÄĚ and then I explained to him what I am about to explain here.

Socrates "Ritual" is that of the lesser or prefatory mysteries and these are rituals of purification or "catharsis" as the Greeks would call have called it, from which which get the medical term ‚Äúcathartic‚ÄĚ and derived meanings, such as a ‚Äúcathartic experience‚ÄĚ, in which clears out a lot of junk and resolves issues. Socrates ‚Äúcathartic‚ÄĚ ritual is designed to clear the mind of false and conflicting opinions, and that is why I categorize some of the dialogues as ‚Äúcathartic‚ÄĚ. What I call the ‚Äúcathartic‚ÄĚ dialogues are those which are usually referred to as the ‚ÄúSocratic‚ÄĚ ones, supposedly Plato's devoted portrait of his master doing what Socrates did best, which was ask niggling questions, and yes it is certainly that, but there is also a real purpose to it and that is made clear in the following quote from the Sophist:
 

Quote

[230b]
Stranger
So they set themselves to cast out the conceit of cleverness in another way.
Theaetetus
In what way?
Stranger
They question a man about the things about which he thinks he is talking sense when he is talking nonsense; then they easily discover that his opinions are like those of men who wander, and in their discussions they collect those opinions and compare them with one another, and by the comparison they show that they contradict one another about the same things, in relation to the same things and in respect to the same things. But those who see this grow angry with themselves and gentle towards others, and this is the way in which [230c] they are freed from their high and obstinate opinions about themselves. The process of freeing them, moreover, affords the greatest pleasure to the listeners and the most lasting benefit to him who is subjected to it. For just as physicians who care for the body believe that the body cannot get benefit from any food offered to it until all obstructions are removed, so, my boy, those who purge the soul believe that the soul can receive no benefit from any teachings offered to it [230d] until someone by cross-questioning reduces him who is cross-questioned to an attitude of modesty, by removing the opinions that obstruct the teachings, and thus purges him and makes him think that he knows only what he knows, and no more.
Theaetetus
That is surely the best and most reasonable state of mind.
Stranger
For all these reasons, Theaetetus, we must assert that cross-questioning is the greatest and most efficacious of all purifications, and that he who is not cross-questioned, even though he be the Great King, [230e] has not been purified of the greatest taints, and is therefore uneducated and deformed in those things in which he who is to be truly happy ought to be most pure and beautiful. (Perseus Digital Library, Plato Sophist, 230b-d, Emphasis mine, ZYD)


As I said in my old "Intelligble Order of the Dialogues", the Protreptic dialogues attracted the students, but:
 

Quote

Once a student was in the academy his schooling could begin, but how did it begin? In the dialogue the Sophist Plato makes this quite clear. One cannot be taught what one already believes one knows, and the worst kind of fool is he who believes that he knows something that he does not! Before one can learn one must unlearn all of the wrong ideas which one has acquired along the way. Thus the new student at the academy was probably subjected to a course of being purified of his ignorance which had been masquerading as knowledge. This process was accomplished by the dialogues which I call Cathartic. They usually have these features in common. Firstly they deal with one of the virtues, such as courage or self-restraint. Secondly they end with no positive conclusion, but rather with the conclusion that we don't know what that virtue is. Thirdly they point to the notion that virtue is knowledge.

 

 

Not many people paid attention to it.  Then, there is the knotty question of what exactly is knowledge, something which I also address in that series of posts, and someone who is interested can find them for themselves.

 

A while back I posted this very useful online resource for "the Socratic Method"

 

On 9/10/2016 at 10:23 AM, Zhongyongdaoist said:

. . . for those who want to know more about "The Socratic Method", without buying a book, this site is virtually on online book on its history and uses:

 

The Socratic Method Research Portal

 

It is very well written, and useful resource for understanding what is really at the root of Western Philosophy.

 

Granted, actually knowing something about what you are commenting on in your posts goes against long established internet norms, however, that doesn't mean that learning something about what you think you are talking about, but really aren't, isn't a good idea.

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1 hour ago, Zhongyongdaoist said:

 

 

The Socratic method will possibly be an antidote to that.: Well it is supposed to be an antidote to that, that is why Plato preserved it, as a "cathartic" antidote, that would clear people of the conceit of thinking that they know something when they really don't, like the number of people around here who think they know what the "Socratic Method" is, or that they can make judgements about it by bandying about various English translations of a rather old and obscure book.  A while back I attempted to show what the Socratic method really was by quoting from Plato:

 

 

Not many people paid attention to it.  Then, there is the knotty question of what exactly is knowledge, something which I also address in that series of posts, and someone who is interested can find them for themselves.

 

A while back I posted this very useful online resource for "the Socratic Method"

 

 

Granted, actually knowing something about what you are commenting on in your posts goes against long established internet norms, however, that doesn't mean that learning something about what you think you are talking about, but really aren't, isn't a good idea.

 

Likes and thanks :)

 

That still makes politics BS for me. No one knows what they are talking about.

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@  Zhongyongdaoist

 

Thank you for the information. I opened this topic precisely to learn about the Socratic method and its possible relation to Taoism. Not to comment about it. And just today I received a book I ordered about Socratic forms of discussions. So I don't see what your cynical derogatory tone has to do with the way I am investigating this matter.

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22 minutes ago, Rara said:

That still makes politics BS for me. No one knows what they are talking about.

 

Seems a fair enough comment to me.

 

15 minutes ago, wandelaar said:

@  Zhongyongdaoist

 

Thank you for the information. I opened this topic precisely to learn about the Socratic method and its possible relation to Taoism. Not to comment about it. And just today I received a book I ordered about Socratic forms of discussions. So I don't see what your cynical derogatory tone has to do with the way I am investigating this matter.

 

What you are taking as my "I don't see what your cynical derogatory tone" was not aimed at you, but what I consider sardonic humor, based on decades of hearing people talk about what Plato and Socrates and what they are not or are not, based on next to no real information, and aimed in general, and not at you personally.  I am sorry that you took it personally, because I meant my serious comments in support of the idea that you seemed to proposing, the general usefulness of Socratic method to spiritual development, whether Daoist or otherwise.  However, Daoist texts are usually interpreted in a strongly anti-rational fashion, and in general people attracted to them are very Romanticists and anti-intellectual in outlook, and consider the type of questioning involved in the Socratic Method as an overly intellectual waste of time, so it is an uphill battle to share these ideas with them, a little humor sardonic and otherwise, is part of my way of dealing with them.  I wish you the best in all your endeavors.

 

ZYD

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@ Zhongyongdaoist

 

Thank you. I have read your link, and I think the classical Socratic method as described there, will not work on this forum. Something more in the spirit of a "Philosophical café" possibly might. But I shall first read the book I ordered before commenting any further. ;)

 

My approach to Philosophical Taoism can be characterized as looking for a rational reconstruction that can be applied in the modern world. There are a few people who did something similar (for instance Raymond Smullyan), so the idea is not completely insane. But I have to admit that is deviates from Lao tse and Chuang tse in regarding rational thought in a much more positive light than they did.

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31 minutes ago, wandelaar said:

I think the classical Socratic method ... will not work on this forum.

 

I feel (slight pun intended) that most people feel something to be true (or false) and then search for arguments that support their position. The person who maintains "I don't know" is rare. Most eventually decide they "know" something and the search ends. Hey, what's that about something that can be spoken of is not the true something? I need to look into that. ;)

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15 minutes ago, Lost in Translation said:

I feel (slight pun intended) that most people feel something to be true (or false) and then search for arguments that support their position. The person who maintains "I don't know" is rare. Most eventually decide they "know" something and the search ends. Hey, what's that about something that can be spoken of is not the true something? I need to look into that. ;)

 

Nothing wrong with the classical Socratic method (as described in the link), but you have to find "willing victims". And they are very rare on the internet. The best we can realistically hope for is keeping the discussion decent and (mostly) to the point. 

Edited by wandelaar
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I dont know how the method is supposed to work, but consider it to at least have potential.. Ill play by the rules , volunteering to be cross examined or grilled, hoping to gain from it. And ask only that there be an impartial judge to keep all kosher and fair. 

Any takers?

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Socrates almost got executed fighting an internecine war, married a shrew in his mid-age and  eventually got himself executed in his golden years. Apparently his method did not do him much good.

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5 hours ago, Stosh said:

I dont know how the method is supposed to work, but consider it to at least have potential.. Ill play by the rules , volunteering to be cross examined or grilled, hoping to gain from it. And ask only that there be an impartial judge to keep all kosher and fair. 

Any takers?

 

I don't know enough about the method yet, so I am not qualified to examine you.  Maybe Zhongyongdaoist can do it?

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