If I remember correctly, one of Socrates' interlocutors challenged the Socratic method not directly but indirectly. They did so by not participating in the argument fully. In the literary context of the dialogue, the interlocutor in question sidestepped the argument entirely. They refused to acknowledge Socrates' points, turned to threats, brought up irrelevancies, etc. I believe the overarching interpretations was that the Socratic method requires participants to act in good faith and make sincere attempts in working toward the truth, or it doesn't work.

Does this remind anyone of anything? Perhaps I am mis-remembering but my research is not turning up any conclusions, so kindly I ask here.

  • Just ask: "so you don't understand your position well enough to answer my previous question?" Dec 8, 2018 at 21:15
  • I don't understand who is saying what or how that is a refutation of the Socratic method. Also, that's not what I'm asking.
    – zga
    Dec 10, 2018 at 19:19

2 Answers 2


Surely sounds like Gorgias.

In this dialogue, Callicles strongly disagrees with Socrates on that it is far worse to inflict evil than to be the innocent victim of it.

Callicles refused to believe that Socrates was serious:

By the gods, and I will. Tell me, Socrates, are you in earnest, or only in jest? For if you are in earnest, and what you say is true, is not the whole of human life turned upside down; and are we not doing, as would appear, in everything the opposite of what we ought to be doing?

, dismissed Socratic examples:

You talk about meats and drinks and physicians and other nonsense; I am not speaking of them.

Then he attacked Socrates personally:

This man will never cease talking nonsense. At your age, Socrates, are you not ashamed to be catching at words and chuckling over some verbal slip? do you not see—have I not told you already, that by superior I mean better: do you imagine me to say, that if a rabble of slaves and nondescripts, who are of no use except perhaps for their physical strength, get together, their ipsissima verba are laws?

After a lengthy back-and-forth, he finally refuses to participate in the discussion, forcing Socrates to argue with himself for a while:

Cannot you finish without my help, either talking straight on or questioning and answering yourself?

  • +1. I've upvoted your answer because I'm sure Callicles best fits the OP's description. My approach is a bit different but I reach the same conclusion. Welcome to PSE. Best - Geoffrey
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Dec 10, 2018 at 7:33
  • @GeoffreyThomas Thank you very much. I've upvoted you back. I agree with your analysis of the dialogue. I was just answering the question directly and didn't go deep enough. Dec 10, 2018 at 7:36
  • Thanks - you gave a focused and argued answer. That's fine. All the best - G.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Dec 10, 2018 at 7:38

I agree with default locale that the dialogue is probably the Gorgias and the interlocutor is Callicles.


Socrates presents himself throughout the Gorgias as the great defender of justice, the unwavering advocate of the extreme pro-justice view. Especially in the final part of the dialogue, once Callicles has refused to take part seriously in the conversation and enters only intermittently, this view takes center stage and dominates the several long speeches Socrates gives (see, e.g., 507a5-509c4, 511b7-513c3, 522c7ff.) (Devin Stauffer, 'Socrates and Callicles: A Reading of Plato's "Gorgias"', The Review of Politics, Vol. 64, No. 4 (Autumn, 2002), pp. 627-657: 651.)

But in a way we can also say that Socrates does not participate in the dialogue fully, because he does not consider Callicles to be capable of cogent, connected philosophical argument :

Throughout their conversation, Socrates has to make great efforts to ... bring to the surface what Callicles really believes. Callicles' resistance to Socrates' attempts to do this is not merely a matter of shame at making concessions to Socrates, or a way of protecting a facade he has consciously put in place, but rather it reflects an unwillingness to acknowledge, even to himself, concerns that he has dealt with by trying to sweep them under the rug. Since Callicles is so unwilling to face up to what he really believes, we can thus understand why Socrates would think that it would be futile to try to engage him in the kind of examination that is the true heart of a Socratic education. Callicles is not capable of such an examination because he is dishonest with himself about what he really believes. (Stauffer: 648.)

If this reading is correct, Callicles is not showing or attempting to show that there is anything deeply wrong with the Socratic method. He is not outright critical of the method from the start, as is Thrasymachus in Republic I. He is rather avoiding the critical self-examination to which that method is driving him. He does not really critique the Socratic but rather impeaches his own intellectual seriousness, if Stauffer's line is right. In this sense, different probably from that of your question, Callicles shows bad faith.

In sum, I think you have Callicles in mind but I am not so sure that he exactly challenges the Socratic method even indirectly. But you must weigh what I've said against your own impressions and compare it with other answers. Welcome to PSE.

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