“That is just what I suspected you meant, Gorgias. But don’t be surprised if a little later on I repeat this procedure and ask additional questions when the answer seems to be already clear. This, as I say, is not aimed at you personally; it is simply to help the discussion to progress towards its end in a logical sequence and to prevent us from getting into a the habit of snatching prematurely at one another’s statements because we have a vague suspicion what they are likely to be, instead of allowing you to develop your argument in your own way from the agreed foundations”. (A 451, C)
When formulating a question, it appears Socrates challenges his opponent’s statements. In the above excerpt, Socrates confirms that he his not trying to prove his position on the subject of the argument, but is trying to question the structure of the argument itself. His beliefs on rhetoric differ from Gorgias; however, he does not impede his opinions while conversing on the notion of rhetoric with Gorgias. Instead of arguing his opinions, Socrates asks questions about the way Gorgias constructs his argument. It’s interesting to note Socrates’ shifts in the conversation. Every time the speaker begins to make a generalized claim, Socrates stops the conversation and asks a question. This is the case in the conversation between Gorgias and Socrates pertaining to teaching rhetoric. Gorgias makes a claim that he can make a rhetorician out of anyone willing to learn. Socrates implies that this statement is general when he states “Listen, then, to the point that surprises me in what you said, Gorgias; it may be that you are right and I don’t understand you properly. You say that you can make an orator of anyone who wishes to learn from you”? He asks Gorgias the question again in order to prompt him to refine his prior statement. He is not actually attacking the idea that Gorgias can make a rhetorician out of anyone; but is actually questioning the way Gorgias constructs his claim. This type of conversational technique is evident in many of Socrates’ conversation.
I have never been a student to this type of dialect. It appears that today’s Westernized approach to conversation is filled with criticism and argument. In the classes I have taken, I have always been taught to take a stance on an issue or author. When constructing a thesis, I have been taught to attack the claims of an author or issue, and support my claim with evidence. I have never taken the time to break down the structure of my argument by disregarding the subject of the argument. This type of learned approach has translated into my oral conversations as well. When taking a stance on an issue, I never consider the structure of my opponent’s argument. I tend to focus primarily on the subject of the argument, and attack the claims of my opponent. It would be interesting to mock Socrates approach to conversation in the above excerpt in my everyday conversations.