Wait, What? Oh. Never Mind.

Helpful law school tip! If you have a class that is taught using the Socratic method, you’re in luck! No need to prepare! You should be able to handle class using only the following phrases (all from Jowett’s translations of The Republic and Meno):

You are quite right.

Certainly not.

To be sure.

That is true.




That is the inference.

Assuredly not.

I think that what you say is quite true.

It cannot be otherwise.

And, my personal favorite–

I agree, as far as I am able to understand you.

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14 Responses

  1. Liz Glazer says:

    Hilarious and insightful post all at once, Sarah. I’ve often wondered about the gap between Socrates’ method and the Socratic Method. Your post articulates that gap brilliantly.

    Hope all is well,


  2. A.J. Sutter says:

    One catch: As I recall, that’s typically what the straight man says (Crito, Meno & al.), not Socrates. Do you let your students get off so lightly?

  3. Sarah Lawsky says:

    A.J. Sutter–Crito and Meno aren’t just straight men–they are also students. And this is, of course, a tip for students. Or, er, perhaps not.

  4. Eric Goldman says:

    I would add one more essential response to this list (from the Princess Bride, of course):

    “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”


  5. A.J. Sutter says:

    Given the ancient Athenian context, I meant straight man strictly in the comedy sense, of course.

  6. matt says:

    It’s an old joke that The Republic can be summed up in one sentence, “Of course, Socrates.”

  7. TRE says:

    If you really want to shut up your professor throw in a little Eleatic method.

  8. TRE says:

    If you really want to shut up your professor throw in a little Eleatic method.

  9. As a student, I found that most of my professors were about evenly split between the Sophistic method and the Heraclitic method.

  10. Nate says:

    The Hereclitic method only works once, because you can never enter the same classroom twice.

    But at least you can get in once . . . poor Zeno and his arrow are still stuck outside . . .

  11. PayDoh says:

    Wonderful, Sarah, but you left out of one of the best ones of all, to be delivered verbatim to the professor: “How could it be otherwise, Socrates?”

  12. Stuart Buck says:

    Here’s another option, which might be a bit harsh (it’s from the old-school Socratic days). I heard this from Vester Hughes, who was recalling his law school days at Harvard in the early 1950s. He was taking a class with professor Austin Scott, who was then in his 70s and always wore a vest. One day, Scott responded to a student’s remark by saying:

    “Inconceivable. Inconceivable. Well, actually, it IS conceivable, because you just conceived of it. But it SHOULD have been inconceivable.”

  13. TRE says:

    I almost want to go through 1st year again just to use these lines. PayDoh’s is essential material for any future 1ls reading this.