The Socratic Device preview

book preview of The Socratic Device




About The Author

The author was born in Brisbane
and is yet to be notified of his death. Since coming to realise that he does not
want to be informed of his death, he has subsequently given up looking through
the death notices within papers! In the mid 1990s the author first enrolled into
philosophy subjects at the University of Queensland, and was subsequently
trapped into the process of making sense out of a mysterious world by some very
talented individuals capable of highlighting the enjoyment found within studying
philosophy! In 1998, UQ distributed a degree to the author showing a double
major in philosophy, though whenever asked by his friends what philosophy was he
was never able to arrive at a satisfactory explanation for them, much to their
amusement! In 1999 UQ gave yet another degree to the author (this time with the
word ‘Honours’ next to ‘Philosophy’) and he finally began to piece
together his own understanding of what he actually had been doing for all of
those years! The author has not received any more degrees from UQ and is not
expecting any more, as he is no longer enrolled. Neither of the degrees received
have been returned nor has the author ever been requested to return them, yet!

If you want to know more about
the author then read on…please read on! However, the distinction between the
philosopher and the philosophy being described has been intentionally blurred,
to protect those who would claim to be innocent; of course! Therefore one word
of warning, so to speak! If you are after more information about the author from
this book then you will have to come up with your own way of reliably sorting
out the true pieces of information from that which has been included solely for
enjoyment and/or amusement! Remember, it is an unauthorised autobiography, and
finding a reliable way to acquire truth is a primary task of anyone who
considers herself a philosopher. Word finished and, by the way, I wish you
better luck at this than some of the outcomes I could tell you about!

Unauthorised Reviews

“They just have to read about it, I have to
live with it”
… Author’s wife.

“If he doesn’t stop re-charging it on the
lawn, I’m building a bigger fence”…

“Go on, try it… It won’t harm you!”
Author’s best friend (age 16) to author (also age 16)

“I don’t get it”…
A frustratingly common response given by those who have never had the
opportunity to learn about what they’ve already got!


In Store Price: $17.00 

Online Price:   $16.00


Format: A5 Paperback

Number of pages:

Genre: Fiction – Philosophy

Author: Zylenco

Imprint: Poseidon

Publisher: Poseidon Books
Date Published:  2005

Language: English


The Socratic Device and
Other Unsolved Mysteries

A debut book from Brisbane citizen, student, and
now author, Zylenco.  The
Socratic Device and Other Unsolved Mysteries
is a text full of philosophical
content, yet steps away from the dry, academic style of writing and into the
fun, exciting world of fiction… like so many good philosophy books before it. 

The author has expounded his personal insights of
philosophy while taking the reader on a very different, but thoroughly
entertaining journey.  Along the
way, the reader is introduced to many philosophical topics, and given the basic
tools required to attempt an answer to the questions…What is philosophy?. and
How does philosophy apply within everyday situations? 

The book is written for people who are very intelligent
in their own right, but are yet to discover what the philosophical process is
all about, or how they can become involved within philosophy itself. 
As a starting point, it takes the same questions the author has been
asked over and over after telling others that he has studied philosophy…not
only what is it all about, but what is the use in studying philosophy! 
The book has been written specifically for all those who have thought at
some stage in their life, ‘I would love to study philosophy… one day!’ 

The text is divided into nine short stories, which
come together to elucidate what is is like to study philosophy. 
The author has taken some of the topics found within any introductory
philosophy class, and presented them to the reader in a fun, yet still
informative, manner.  Who am I?  What
is knowledge?  What is a paradox? 
These and many more topics are raised, while the author attempts to give
a consistent, and therefore unifying, answer to all of them. 
All of the purpose of philosophy remains within each story, to get the
reader to think and respond to the situation presented, yet the book was written
with a distinctly non-academic audience in mind. 

The purpose of the book is three-fold. 
First, the author attempts to answer some distinctly philosophical
questions, and show how thinking philosophically can be applied within everyday
situations.  Second, to show that
philosophy is not always a dry, academic process performed by pipe smoking,
tweed jacket wearing individuals at universities. 
And third, to transmit some of the author’s love of the topic onto the

Socratic Device and Other Unsolved Mysteries

really is, then, a book for everyone.  It
is a light hearted approach to some very serious issues, as well as issues that
are not so serious!  If you are
after a deeper involvement within the world of philosophy, then this book is a
good expose of the author’s understanding of it… If you are just after a
good read, then find out how the author gets himself in, and out of, some very
crazy situations.  It is a must-read
for anyone who has ever caught, or who will ever want to catch, a bus!


Read a sample:

The Socratic Device  

shepherds, wretched things of shame,

bellies of mankind,

have the power to make the false

true in stories;

have the power, if we so wish,

utter truth as well.



We-knowledge and a problem.

have a problem.  I have also come to
realise it is a problem I share with others; Parmenides and Zeno of Elea,
Socrates, Nagarjuna, and many, many others.  My problem, in a nutshell, is that I do not know which of the
assumptions I hold are true.  For
all I know, the assumptions I hold could turn out to be true, in the end, or
they could just as easily turn out to be false. 
I have no idea of knowing which are true and which are false until after
I have used one of my assumptions within a claim I make! 
Only after using one of my
assumptions within a claim, can I find out if the assumption was true or false,
and quite often this is far too late!    

recently I had always thought my problem was with me since birth, but I have
been reminded, yet again, that there is always another explanation! 
You see, back when I was in primary school, a new girl started the class
half way through one year.  Her name
was Susan Housemann (SH), and my first impression of her was that she was just
another student.  Yet by Little
Lunch (it doesn’t take long, does it!) word had spread that SH was different
from the rest of us.  “Just look
at her,” my classmates said, “she has a huge mouth!” 
Upon hearing these words, I looked again at SH and concluded, just like
the rest of my classmates had already done, that SH did indeed have a large
mouth.  Getting into the spirit of
things, I turned to my classmates and said, “actually her big mouth must be a
sign that she has Wide Mouth Disease (WMD).” 
I couldn’t possibly know it at the time, but this phrase I gave Susan
would spread about the entire school, and I would end up being catapulted into
somewhat of a cult figure because of it!  The
spread of the phrase was so rapid that by big lunch almost everybody in the
entire school was saying “SH has WMD.” 

had no thoughts for any effects my phrase would have on SH. 
Actually at the time I did not care about SH at all, it was my first
experience of being popular and I felt as high as the clouds for that entire Big
Lunch period.  Before that day
hardly anyone knew that I even existed, yet on that day almost everybody at my
entire primary school seemed to be chanting, over and over, “SH has WMD.” 
I heard it being said in the playground. 
I knew it was being thought in the classroom. 
I saw it written on a blackboard.  (Now
that I can reflect on the incident, I hope I didn’t give her any of the
feelings I got when my popularity thudded back to Earth!)

see, my best friend at the time (and this is exactly what I think friendship is
all about, by the way!) refused to go along with everyone else who was saying
“SH has WMD”.  He refused to
accept that Susan had a large mouth and urged me to look again at her. 
He said something about wanting to give me an opportunity to come to a
conclusion about her mouth without assuming it was large to begin with. 
At the time I thought he must really like her, and that all he wanted to
do was take her to one of the places the teachers never went. 
I told him, “you’re either with me or against me on this one,” yet
before the end of the last class that day he informed me that he’d arranged to
meet Susan after school behind the toilet block on the oval, and he wanted me
to be there as well!    

after school, my best friend and I, SH and five other students, all end up
behind the toilet block on the oval!  Three students from an older grade were down one end
practicing looking tough while they puffed away on cigarettes.  Two boys from a younger grade were at the other end doing
something initially involving their pants being around their ankles, but as soon
as we arrived they seemed to be able to do whatever they were doing with their
pants pulled up!  Preoccupied with
his own thoughts, my friend took a ruler from one pocket and a pencil and paper
from another.  He began by measuring
and writing down the width of SH’s mouth. 
He then measured and recorded the width of the smoker’s mouths as well
as measuring the other two boys’ mouths, before doing the same to me. 
Finally, he made me measure and record the width of his mouth. 

we all examined the information my friend and I had gathered, I could hardly
believe it.  It turned out that I
had the widest mouth of all of us.  Me,
the one who had coined the phase ‘Wide Mouth Disease’, and therefore had
bleated it longest.  Me, the one who
actually had the widest mouth, and therefore must have been bleating it loudest!  While my best friend’s investigation also revealed SH did
have a mouth, it turned out that her mouth was just an average mouth! 
The plain fact of the matter was that there were wider mouths than hers,
and there were less wide mouths than hers! 

whether I have always had my problem, or it was something I caught behind the
toilet block one day at my primary school, one thing is for sure. 
I have a great fear of drawing conclusions. 
No matter what I see, what I am told, or what I read. 
Before I am able to make up my mind and come to a conclusion, I must find
out if all of the assumptions I am about to employ are true. 
Before I come to any conclusion, I have to know that conclusion is not
based on a false assumption. 

have knowledge and it is knowledge that I can be sure of; I call this my
I-knowledge.  For example, I know
the sun will rise tomorrow.  I know
how to ride a motorcycle.  I even
know that freedom fighters use techniques of terror.  Another part of my I-knowledge is that each of us has our own
distinct I-knowledge, though I also think that some may not know this for
themselves!  (They may just think
that everyone has the same knowledge as they do, or at least would have if they
listened to the teacher as much as they did, or studied the same subjects at
university!)  There is a little more
to my I-knowledge than just these few examples, but this will come out as you
read on. 

know there is knowledge I will never have, yet every now and then I will come
across others who will claim to have some of it. 
For example, I do not know how to build an atomic weapon. 
I do not know how to end world hunger, sort terrorist from fighters, why
old ladies rinse their hair blue, or how to bring about enduring freedom (…for
that matter!)  I have been calling
this we-knowledge.  I will add that
that I think there is also we-knowledge that no one will claim! 

once responded to an add in the back of a philosophy magazine claiming a device
can help me.  For the $18.00 I
handed over, I became the proud owner of a solar powered device. 
It was, quite frankly, the most amazing device I had ever heard about. 
It looked like a miniature watch with an oval face.  The band was skin coloured but the face was coloured green on
the left side and red on the right side.  There
was also a thin band of white in the middle. 
Attached to the face was a pointer, it rested in the white section but
was free to move to either the red or the green side of the face. 
After the device detected a knowledge claim had been made, the pointer
moved to the red side if an assumption within the claim was false. 
The pointer would only move to the green side when there were no false
assumptions within the claim being made!  There
were plenty of reviews about how stylish the device was. 
It was claimed the device could be strapped to your wrist, ankle, or
head!  Reviews also said that I will
be amazed at how small and lightweight the device was; that I will feel as if
the device was not being worn at all!  The
add even made the claim that if this device did not solve my problem, I would
still find it amongst the most useful objects I could ever have! 

legend of the Socratic Device

magazine itself was full of articles about the device and submissions regarding
how it evolved into it’s present form.  It
was accepted in all the articles that Socrates built the very first device of
this type, but speculation about who changed it into it’s present form was
rampant from that point on!  It is
generally accepted that the machine Socrates built was huge, made mostly out of
wood, needed to be pulled along on wheels, and required cranking up before the
pointer would move to one side or the other. 
It was lucky Socrates was so heavy-set, for moving and operating his
machine would not have been for the meek, though I sometimes can’t help but
think anyone prepared to lug a machine like this around and crank it up
everywhere they went could never be considered meek!  

don’t recall any mention of it when I was studying Plato, but legend has it
that Socrates had it with him during every conversation he had. 
When you consider all the conversations Socrates had with people all over
the place in ancient Athens, the machine he built must have perfectly suited his
needs.  It must have been reliable
as he took it everywhere with him and used it, and used it, and used it. 
He used it at parties while he was talking about love, on the street with
passers by, and wherever he was lead along by others. 
He used it while waiting for his trial, defending himself in court, and
the day he drank hemlock.  Socrates
used his machine so well that the Oracle at Delphi proclaimed him to be the
wisest man in all of Athens.  Oddly
enough, Socrates took this as referring to the fact that he was the only one in
all of Athens willing to admit he knew nothing! 
For true believers, Socrates is letting us know that he has let his
machine do all of his thinking for him.



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