Angella Hodgson is an independent trainer and management consultant specialising in Socratic Dialogue facilitation, executive coaching and leadership & management training. She has over 15 years experience working in the public, private and not for profit sectors both in the UK and in Norway and the Czech Republic. Angella has worked within the education and training sector as both a practioner and a manager. She is also a trustee for the Society for the Furtherance of Critical Philosophy and regularly facilitates Socratic Dialogues in both the U.K. and Germany.Angella writes this about her presentation “There is a basic assumption behind the practice of Socratic Dialogue, namely that it is worth our while to talk about the most important things, about how we ought to live.” Fernando Leal, in Saran & Neisser ( 2004), Enquiring Minds, Trentham Books (p. 123)
Socratic dialogue is a formal method by which a small group (5-15 people), facilitated by a Socratic Dialogue trained facilitator, works together to find answers to ethical, epistemological and mathematical questions (e.g. “What is happiness?”, “What is integrity?”, “Can conflict be fruitful?”, etc.) Socratic Dialogue is not a debate, but is rigorous and supports the development of one’s own critical thinking skills.
Participants require no prior philosophical, provided they are motivated to try the method, are willing to contribute their honest thoughts, express honest doubts, and listen actively to those of others.
The endeavour of the group is towards mutual understanding, with a view to reach a ‘real’ consensus. In contrast to many other group situations, the virtues of patience, tolerance, attentiveness, thoughtfulness and civility prevail. There is also time for emotion to ebb and flow, to wax and wane in the context of larger group dynamics. As the participants in a Socratic dialogue engage in its process, they begin to realise it is a cooperative search towards truth, which can then be tested against other situations to analyse when truths are not just subjective but may be universal.
What might psychotherapists learn from the practice of Socratic dialogue? What are the points of contact between Socratic dialogue in educational and training settings, coaching and philosophical consultancy, and the practice of individual or group psychotherapy? The Society of Psychotherapy invites you to listen, consider, and contribute.