Delivering Understanding: The Goal of Philosophical Midwifery in Socrates, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche
Socrates, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche are often linked together as sharing a method of “ironic midwifery” or “indirect communication.” This method is unique because it refuses to directly communicate to its audience a doctrine to be learned or an argument to be considered. Instead, it merely aids the reader with delivering their own the truth or proper relation to the truth. In Delivering Understanding: The Goal of Philosophical Midwifery in Socrates, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche, I argue that that the shared goal of their ironic midwifery is to help their readers deliver an understanding of their failure to grasp existentially-relevant truths and their inability to grasp these truths by theoretical understanding alone. This “negative” understanding is achieved by both intellectual and non-intellectual (e.g., dispositional, emotional, and psychological) means, resulting in a transformed mode of life and preparing the way for positive practical understanding of existentially-relevant truths. I label this negative type of understanding “maieutic understanding,” for it cannot be taught directly but rather depends on the indirect method of a philosophical midwife, who delivers and discards the intellectually-pregnant person’s pretensions to knowledge and helps deliver a recognition of one’s ignorance and a correct disposition towards the truth.
Bailey, Dylan Stiles, "Delivering Understanding: The Goal of Philosophical Midwifery in Socrates, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche" (2023). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI30426590.