Thoughts on the Socratic elenchus

by Panagiotis Foukas
(28th of March 2013)

Why Socrates? Socrates turns from nature to within; within the human being (Plato, Phaedo, 96). By talking about him, his life and his work, we talk about the creative way man can use to cope with his crucial problems, the ones that turn him into a Human.
Living in an environment where the Sophists are challenging the given values with their excessive subjectiveness, one that expresses the print of any given moment in an ever-changing world from a consciousness that her stance changes any moment, Socrates makes it his life's goal to control himself and others (Plato, Apology, 21e, 23b, 28e, 30e / Plato, Phaedon, 60e-61a), to become God's partner, as they both aimed anywhere and anytime for the good, the right.
He lives and controls his thinking; and the thinking of the others around him. He turns his thinking into action, an action that is inseparable from his daily life, an action that aims to spiritualize the daily life by subjecting it to the principles of good and right (τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ καὶ τοῦ δικαίου). 
Socrates wants consciousness to always confess herself. It's in that action that everyone is called upon by him.
Socrates' success is the result of his method, the result of his elenchus. Any presentation of Socrates portrays a very different Socrates; a great deal of different and diverse thinking schools claim him as their origin. Why?

When talking to someone, he wanted to make his student a responsible partner in the seeking of the truth, the γνῶθι σαυτόν. His student was giving birth to the truth. It was easy for the student to believe that his own results, coming from his discussion with Socrates, where indeed Socrates' teachings; to mistake the part for the whole; to give to his own thinking, his own special occasion, a general notion.

Socrates tried to reveal to the others the false self-confidence on which they based their lives; he tried to make them fund their lives on the truth, to reveal the κάλλος of their soul, which is the foundation of anything else.

The importance of the Socratic elenchus lies in the fact that Socrates' ἐλέγχει and shapes people, not ideas. His goal is to help the others understand that they ignore themselves, to learn what they are and reshape themselves. The only art he possesses is the one about eros; a spiritual eros that pushes him to the others, usually the younger, and starts the valuable act of making them know themselves and their treasures within.

He teaches nothing, as he believes that anyone can discover the truth by himself (μαιεύεσθαι με, λέγει, ὁ Θεός ἀναγκάζει, γεννᾶν δὲ ἀπεκώλυσεν, Plato, Theaetetos 150c).

by Panagiotis Foukas
(28th of March 2013)