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Philosophy of the Elenchus

The elenchus is a method of discussing matters presented by Socrates. It consists of several stages, which include asking questions, presenting logical contradictions as per the answers, and insisting on combined efforts in pursuing the truth. In other words, one using this approach starts with claiming doubts regarding the opponent’s stance, followed by highlighting the absurdity of their views and suggesting the need for clarifications. In this way, critical thinking is emphasized as the key to finding a solution to any problems in the course of a discussion.

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The deductive version of the elenchus inevitably leads to extracting a contradiction from the interlocutor because the refutation, in this case, is intended for providing a more solid ground for the examination of phenomena. Thus, for example, this outcome should be considered crucial since further conversation is possible only once the two people come to an agreement on the critical terms. Otherwise, their dialogue will not be accurate due to the differences in perceptions of the same notions. In this situation, Socrates catches Thrasymachus in a contradiction as the latter cannot explain his attitudes towards justice. It could be resolved by mentioning the occasions when rulers were wrong (X) and referring to the lack of opposing evidence (-X).

In the present-day world, the elenchus remains an effective technique for assessing the correctness of varying standpoints. It achieves its purpose through claiming the presence of numerous interests, which do not allow considering one’s position initially accurate. For instance, professors can question their students’ opinions and thereby help them develop critical thinking skills while evaluating numerous perspectives. As a result, the latter either manages to defend their stances or finds a credible explanation for the examined issues, which is beneficial in both cases.

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