If you enjoy interesting, probing discussions, you will enjoy Nelsonian Socratic Dialogue, often referred to as Socratic Dialogue or NSD for short.

What is Nelsonian Socratic Dialogue?

Nelsonian Socratic Dialogue is an inquiry and discussion activity for a small group of people (6-10). The group could be a collection of individuals, with no connection other than that they enrolled for the activity. Or it could be a workplace using the activity for team-building.

There is no prior training required for participation in a Socratic Dialogue, though willingness for painstaking inquiry and reflective thought is essential. You need to listen to others and consider carefully what they say before replying. NDSs could last for a few hours, days, weeks or months.

The Purpose of Nelsonian Socratic Dialogue

Nelsonian Socratic Dialogues (NSDs) aim to answer a fundamental question. The question is chosen by the participants, reflects something that is important to them, and is philosophical in nature.

NSDs originally derived from the process in Plato’s Dialogues. In these Dialogues, Socrates attempts to find meanings of certain concepts, such as ‘Justice.’ He does so by eliminating everything that Justice is not. By contrast, NSD wants to find out what something is, not what it is not.

In the 1920s, German philosopher Leonard Nelson adapted the dialogue process for the purpose of education. Hence, modern day versions of Socratic Dialogue based on his work bear his name.

The aim of NSD’s questioning activity is to draw insights from the participants’ own experiences. It is what they have actually experienced that matters, not what theory they have learned from a lecture or book. From a set of particulars (the participants’ experiences) the aim is to articulate a Universal or ‘core meaning.’

Once a question has been chosen, such as ‘what is X?’ examples of experiences of X are drawn from all the participants. By voting on them, one is chosen for discussion. The discussion and exploration then proceeds according to certain rules, which are given to participants. The discussion is guided by a trained facilitator.

Benefits of a Socratic Dialogue

The more subtle purpose of the dialogue is the self-development of participants. Engaging in the listening, thinking and discussion activity that occurs requires patience, deep reflection and thorough concentration.

In the course of the dialogue, participants share ideas and learn about each other. The learn how to cooperate and reach consensus, an important part of the dialogue’s ability to proceed.

We have developed a short NSD course, comprising 5 x 2-hour weekly sessions. The course is available to private groups and workplaces. Private individuals benefit by developing excellent discussion, reflective thinking and cooperation skills and having fun. Workplaces additionally benefit by promoting team harmony, cooperation, and improved communication and understanding.

See also links:

What is Philosophy?

Philosophy for Adults

Socrates

And downloadable PDFs:

About Philosophy

Philosophy for Adults

Nelsonian Socratic Dialogue

Socrates and the Examined Life

If you would like to be a philosopher for a few hours and have lots of fun, get in touch. If you are a workplace, we can work something out with you for a team-building activity. If you are a private individual, you can put you’re name down as interested. When we have enough ready participants, we will schedule a course.

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Between Stimulus and Response, man has the freedom to choose (Stephen Covey)