Socratic Dialogue

Socratic Dialogue Training London – Reflections


Reflections on Socratic Dialogue training
London October 2018

It was the gentle process of reaching a consensus that I took away with me that weekend, with Dieter Krohn and the Secret Society of Socratic apprentices who’d first met at the Eagle, Cambridge those heady August days. Deiter and the girls for were all women, all 10 of us including Julie of course. Appropriately our weekend is based at 63 Bayswater, the Soroptimist hotel, whose moto is Educate, Empower, Enable women.

It was Julie’s experience, fresh from doing a brief 2 hour SD with medical practitioners, that started the reflection. She could see that they had not chosen the best example to work with but she had to go with the one they chose. Such is the delicate role of the facilitator. I knew first hand she was an excellent facilitator for she had facilitated at my first SD in Magnolia House, Halesworth, through the invitation of Tamsyn and Michael Imison, and the beginnings of this adventure for me. Tamsyn, who died almost exactly this time last year, weaves through my life and these SD meetings. She is still alive with us.

With the fine balance between letting be and directing in my mind, I chose to watch for INTERVENTIONS when we were given 3 tasks to observe in our first practice of SD. Intervention is the area I am least comfortable with. Is it a childhood stammer that informs an abruptness, jolty, pushed out sentences rather than words easily woven into conversation? Together with the default teacher in me to direct, to find a solution, to join rather than allow. It is a parallel learning for me in the newly formed Forest School, where the Forest School teachers teach by allowing the teaching to be child driven. To be led by children is challenging as well as illuminating.

The other two, equally pertinent, were RED THREAD, and UNDERSTANDING.

Antonia, not backwards at coming forward, and something I could improve on, volunteered to be the first SD facilitator as we partook and observed.
The question chosen out of all of our questions was

Can we trust our memory to tell the truth?

It was chosen from a list of questions we’d gathered between us.

What is Justice
What are limitations of rational arguement?
Do we need limitations to be happy
How do we know if someone is lieing
Is it possible to be free when we depend on others
Is it possible for a lie to be good
Can we trust our memory to tell the truth
Am I the same person as I was in the past
What is compassion
What is the limit of tolerance
What is a good death
How do you know a statement is correct?
What is beauty
What does non participation mean in dialogue
When is it right to stop helping
What are the limits of my responsibilities for others
When should I judge

We grouped them in various ways – Antonia led with 1. Universal 2. Ethics 3. Ways of living. Interesting to find limitations repeated in both ours and the other group.
Open questions and Complexity of question. Is what is justice the same as what does justice mean?

Lesson 1 – the facilitator must find out the diversity of understanding of the question.
Language / Experience / Essence

Before we started however, Deiter told us this story of this first week long SD.
Heckman invited him to his holiday home. With a picnic packed Heckmans wife they set them into the woods for the weekend. For 3 days they broke down, talked round, examined what other philosophers had said about the question that Deiter was to lead as faciliator.
What was the question, I asked. Deiter thinks something like Freedom and Justice: The more freedom the less justice, the less freedom the more justice.

SD Can we trust our memory to tell the truth?


After putting all our experiences on the table, the one chosen was mine. I recalled Guru in our Cambridge group after her experience was chosen saying her experience had never been chosen before as she was not comfortable being the centre, and naturally I wondered how comfortable I would be. The other problem I had with it is I didn’t know if it was a real memory or a fantasy. Here it is

I have a memory of my father standing in front of the kitchen range with a gift hidden behind his back. Revealing the gift were two dolls which somehow scraped together making an aggravating noise – like chalk on a black board. I remember feeling revolted. Then my father laughed, and the moment changed again, I laughed with him.
He died when I was 4. I have a even fainter memory of finding him in the bath dead.
I never believed this to be true, but last year it was verified by the last person alive who knew him and of this time and said from that time on I developed a stammer.

Here are a few notes of reflections
Our preconditions interpret memory.
Physically memory fades and we recall the past more effectively than the immediate past
Memory and identity . Lock and the boy who stole apples, the soldier and the General

The holding of ambiguity of truth is easier because it is so far away, it affects only one person and is unattached. Unlike the Unathi or Anna example it has no conflict within it, no disagreement.

The holding of memory in words, photographs, minds, minds of others. Is the memory the recollection of a memory? Opening a scent bottle, I am back to being 15 on the dance floor.
What we are left with is the myths of our lives and those of others. How we tell our story. What do I rub out (the bath incident?) We make our own fiction.

The current political story of Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford. Both of their memories could be correct. Kavanaugh may recollect a different scenario or none at all to Fords.

Memory to sensation (Nimet)
Narrative memory (Pia) constructing memory to identity
Pleasure and Pain, emotion, (Unathi)
Memory linked to sensations (Anna) More about values than fact. Sight, touch, sound, feel.
Memory is fiction, because of the emotional and sensation veil that filters it. The further back in time the more layers of potential elaboration. The truth of it does not matter in this case. In another case, with another and conflicting memory, there is more attachment to the outcome of truth.

Can we trust our memories to tell the truth?
No but we can get close to the feeling.


Need to qualify the question – Memory / Truth concepts ambiguous.
Examples need to have time and space for exploration
Understanding of participants not facilitator

Red thread:
Active and passive
Prevent Waffling and soliloquy (Just one more thing as I’m talking….)
Follow principles not dogma

The participants and facilitator



Dealing only with concrete experience
Explore to full understanding of concepts
Keep the read thread
Strive for consensus at all times


Dilemma, Open, Imaginative, Philosophical
Open question mindset. Unathi example 2+2 is not the same as Two and Two. The question cannot contain the desired hidden out come in the question. . It must be genuinely curious. Open Minded.

Grammar of Question
Yes and no answers.

Simple clear and understood by all

Reflection on a moral ethical issue, although could also be mathematical, epistomological,

Tamsyn Imison Award

What is the significance of consensus in Socratic Dialogue?
What is the role of experience of the participants in Socratic Dialogue?
Which path leads to universal statements in Socratic Dialogue?

Form and size/volume/scope of the essay
The essay should comprise a problem-oriented introduction, an analysis of present views on the selected question and a reasoned opinion.
The size/volume of the essay should be five to six pages (secondary school-level) or rather eight to ten pages (university-level). It can be written in German or English.
Registration for participation
Stating the name, the address and the level (school or university year) by the 31st December 2018 by mail at the specified address.A special prize – the Tamsyn Imison Award – will be given for a paper in the English language.
The challenge is to write a philosophical essay on one of the following questions concerning Socratic Dialogue as established by Leonard Nelson and Gustav Heckmann.

What we want to study

Practice facilitation – less time for each more time for reflection
Go through principles
Directional phrases/Interventions
Handling conflict
Theoretical and historical background
Speed dialogues
How to formulate examples
What kind of consensus
How to end
Meta Dialogues

End Reflections

I found my own reflection of our example –  memory has but a fragile link to truth.
The truth of a memory is by it’s nature subjective and individual. Memory becomes fiction, because of the emotional and sensation veil that filters it. The further back in time the more layers of potential elaboration. In our example the actual truth of it did not matter. In another case, with another and conflicting memory, there is more attachment to the outcome of truth. While the truth of memory can be held, it’s hold must be light.

Think before I speak, and work on my handwriting. Write more slowly, to clarify the thinking. Found this rather wonderful meditation on  a park bench in the hallway of No 63 Bayswater.



Here’s the song I was thinking of, famously sung by Maurice Chevalier and Hermione Gingold in Gigi. (1958!)

We met at nine, we met at eight, I was on time, no, you were late
Ah, yes, I remember it well
We dined with friends, we dined alone, a tenor sang, a baritone
Ah, yes, I remember it well

That dazzling April moon, there was none that night
And the month was June, that’s right, that’s right
It warms my heart to know that you remember still the way you do
Ah, yes, I remember it well

How often I’ve thought of that Friday, Monday night
When we had our last rendezvous
And somehow I foolishly wondered if you might
By some chance be thinking of it too?

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