The Art of Persuasion Through Acting Ignorant

Questioning, critical thinking and Socrates. Most probably, you prefer to get to the point and explore possibilities rather than talking about philosophy. Still, decoding the Socratic way of questioning can open opportunities.

Socrates played it right when he changed the philosophical stage forever. I would claim that the next generation of rational Greek philosophers (such Plato and Aristotle) wouldn’t have appeared if it wasn’t for him. So, let’s see how he stir water.

Socrates was born c. 469/470 BCE in ancient Greece, Athens, and he was ugly. That gave him little chance to be heard at a time of eloquence and “one way” communication. It was a time when students applauded for the philosopher and glorified his opinions.

Socrates, however, didn’t aim to refute the opinions of philosophers at his time. Others tried and no one listened. So, he listened to them, acted ignorant, and asked questions and more questions until they realized that what they said didn’t make sense. So, what kind of questions did he ask to lead this disturbance?


Socrates’ Stealthy Persuasion Style
If there’s one word that summarizes the Socratic questioning, it’s “why”. Many scholars, like R.W. Paul, attempted to classify the Socratic questioning into categories based on what they trigger, but here I offer a simplified version that falls into three types:

  • Clarification: By asking for evidence or how a matter relates to the discussion.
  • Viewpoints: By asking how to verify it or “if it’s not black, what would it be?”
  • Results: By asking about expected conclusions or outcomes.

In conclusion, Socrates led the debate from “the chicken or the egg first” to a rationally intellectual dialogue, and traces of his questioning are found in the modern scientific method, not to mention the educational process especially when tutors don’t believe in “one way” lecturing.

I see that his method is useful when you don’t want to outsmart speakers while trying to direct the dialogue. Just bear in mind that Socrates lost his life for this glory as he was accused of poisoning the mindset of the youth with his questions. So, be careful when to use it.