This guide begins with a dialectical essay that both explains and defends the Socratic tradition, while also explaining the critical conversation, central to western tradition, that it gave rise to. The initial essay shows the style of writing that this guide promotes, and gives key background on the Socratic tradition - and why it can be defended from key criticisms.
The second chapter of the guide outlines the five steps needed in dialectical writing, while the third chapter shows these steps being utilized in three sample essays. Together, these chapters form the basic foundation for construction of dialectical essays. In order to help students grasp the basics of this style (and to facilitate Web-tutorials), these chapters outline a rudimentary version of a dialectical essays. Students are advised to use this format in their initial attempt(s) at dialectical writing.
Chapter four of this guide contains basic notions of the principles of reasoning. It is important to note that dialectical essays work by constructing arguments for and/or against a thesis statement. Therefore, students need to be familiar with the goal of reasoning, crucial aspects of arguments, and also how to distinguish good arguments from bad ones. Students are expected to use their own logical sense to think about the strengths and weaknesses of the example essays. But this skill can be improved by students learning the basic vocabulary and principles of logic. To help with this, students might consider taking semester-long courses that the Philosophy Department offers.
Chapter five, not yet fully integrated with the rest of the guide, presents important information on how to write essays on the MacIntosh computer.
The collaborative members of this project have different perspectives and relationships to the dialectical tradition, but share a commitment to improving critical writing of themselves and of students. We invite many to participate in this project and wish our students luck as they undertake the challenges, joys ... and even suffering, involved in thinking and writing within the Socratic tradition.