Socratic Aporia in the Classroom and the Development of Resilience

  • Stephen Kekoa Miller


Introduction: I’d like to talk about the value of unlearning, of undoing, of disruption. Especially in the early aporetic dialogues of Plato (those ending in perplexity), Socrates famously takes his interlocutors on a journey that at least initially appears to end in failure: at the dialogue’s conclusion, there seems to be no answer to the questions that inspired the conversation. There has been a lot of recent debate about the so-called Socratic method and accusations that it may be deflating, resulting in less, rather than more original thought in students. In particular, the much-discussed work of Jacques Rancière, The Ignorant Schoolmaster, suggests that this method in fact masks a move of the teacher to subordinate rather than liberate the student. Adding to this the contemporary trends towards emphasis on content over critical reasoning in education and understandings of critical reasoning as consisting of categories to be memorized, and the use of questioning as an educational tool and as an end point can seem problematic indeed. How can one answer the question of what philosophy actually teaches? It is precisely because of its problematic, risky and disruptive nature that Socratic aporia works so well both in a particular class and over the course of a whole course.