Political Theory

The Art of Dialectic and the Phenomenon of Teaching and Learning

Gaelan Murphy MacEwan University
The Liberal Arts evoke the notion of citizenship and critical thinking as means of eliciting the ability in the student to think for themselves. In this paper I argue that this commonly accepted notion mistakes the origin, intent, and justification of what Plato calls “the art of dialectic.” The larger purpose of Socratic dialectic isn’t to teach “critical thinking” but rather the art of asking and answering questions, which includes not simply being critical but knowing how to put things back together, to make the world whole. Socratic dialogue is meant to teach students how to be reasonable, learning how to reason includes learning how to understand the reasons of others. To be reasonable involves not simply understanding oneself but also understanding others, of learning how to mediate between steadfastness to what one believes with willingness to change our mind. This is what is involved with “learning how to think.”