Plato’s dialogue that best describes the merits of Socrates’ dialectical reasoning is Gorgias. He contrasts his method with Gorgias’ rhetoric, the more popular method of public speaking at that time. Gorgias is a Sophist who teaches the art of rhetoric. The debate is between oratory and philosophy and Socrates is teaching, through his dialogue method, that the latter can only contribute to knowledge. In this essay I will explain, through examples, how Socrates points out the importance of the dialogue method at different instances. Socrates refutation of rhetoric is his argument in favor of the dialogue method. His main argument is that truth can be aimed at only with the method of dialogue.
Socrates comes for answers, or pretending so, from Gorgias when he enters Callicles’ house. This clearly states that the dialogue method or the philosophical method involves asking questions. Also, note that Socrates wants to put forward his question for Gorgias because the art that he wants to know about is practiced by Gorgias, while Pollus is just a student. Since, Socrates is looking for truth he wants the practitioner to answer. And he realized the first time Pollus spoke that all he Pollus has learned so far is the art of dragging and lingering with words.
The dialogue method involves questions and it requires definitions. Socrates is looking for definitions when he asks Gorgias to define his job (61). Pollus does a bad job beating about the bush and he clearly shows that the art he is learning is more about lingering with words then logically deriving the truth. Socrates dialogue with Gorgias allows them to conclude that his definition of rhetoric is true for a lot of other disciplines so it does not define anything at all. The dialogue method requires a definition that both parties agree on so the discussion about the subject can proceed. The rhetoricians fail to define because they are only acquainted with the art of persuasion and this art has no relation to logic or truth and therefore it cannot lead to knowledge.
The dialogue method requires that no strategies be played from either side. The questions should be straightforward, purposeful and short. This method is between honest people who use affirmations or refutations to come to the truth, together.
Socrates believes that rhetoricians can never come to truth because they are only doing what is easy instead of what is right. They appeal to the less knowledgeable audience and comment on what is right. Mill would contribute by saying that rhetoricians acknowledge infallibility. The dialogue method is based on arguments and you proceed or refute them to come to knowledge. All other methods are based on unchallenged opinions.
Since the method of dialogue demands that questions come from either side Socrates attempts to answer Pollus’ questions. And when he does that, he tells Pollus to break them down into the simplest form so they are better answered (81). This is how we know that the dialogical method analyses the problem in depth. Word that comes from rich and famous gentlemen is of no value for logical reasoning (88). Socrates believes that the best dialogue is between people who possess knowledge, good-will and out-spokeness (106) and it will surely conclude with truth.
The method of dialogue takes into account different views and it is precise. It welcomes refutations so all dogmas and uncertain beliefs can be erased. This is necessary if we seek truth.