history of Western philosophy, written works have been the most common means
by which individual philosophers have expressed their ideas.
Socrates is unusual in that his method of teaching
is entirely oral. Furthermore, he teaches by asking (inquiry), not by telling
(lecture). Various individuals (called interlocutors) participate in a lively
dialogue aimed at discovering the truth by acquiring good definitions of
the subject at hand (for example, "virtue", "justice", "courage", and
"holiness"). Although Socrates ordinarily is
directing the discussion, like the other participants, he also is seeking
the truth about the matter at hand.