CriticaLink | Plato: Phaedrus | Terms


The specific question-and-answer technique Socrates employs to demonstrate to his partners in conversation that their fundamental assumptions and beliefs are inconsistent is known as elenchus. Elenchus an application of dialectical procedures to dialogue. In many of Plato's dialogues, the elenchus leads to a fuller understanding of the topic under discussion. Evidence suggests that in actual practice, Socrates's method succeeded largely in confounding--and most likely irritating--his listeners.

Although at opposite ends of the spectrum from Plato and Socrates in terms of metaphysics, the philosopher Jacques Derrida employs a method similar to elenchus in his deconstruction, which teases out the inconsistencies and unexamined assumptions in philosophical and literary works.