From Socrates to the Instapundit

Cyber Socrates Glenn Reynolds listens to a student News-Sentinel photo by Joe Howell

April 13, 2002 From what bottomless well does Glenn Reynolds, a full-time law professor, draw Instapundit.com? Is Reynolds really "a giant IBM supercomputer -- like the one that beat Kasparov in '97"?

Reynolds' CV shows he has always been an idea-geyser.

But I think Reynolds' blogging also reflects his training as a law student and teacher.

US law schools frequently use the Socratic method to educate students. The teacher doesn't lecture, but fires questions first at one student, then another. What are the facts? What laws are relevant? If X, what would happen? What do you think?

Like Socrates, the teacher listens closely and questions incessantly. He is a synapse connecting and redirecting ideas among the minds around him. The class's successive articulations forge a special knowledge. Because each mind has joined in its creation, this knowledge is more potent than anything found in a textbook.

Questions about "historical jurisprudence" or "equitable relief" sound dull. But the best Socratic dialogue can sear a student's soul. It is unforgettably intoxicating to help distill a cloud of ideas into a few drops of knowledge.

Learning the law without the Socratic dialogue is like reading a menu without eating.

Reynolds graduated in 1985 from the Yale Law School, home of some of the country's finest Socratic law profs, and today spends his days teaching law at the University of Tennessee. (Judging from a recent photo of him listening to a student, Reynolds is a pussycat compared to Professor Kingsfield, who terrorized and inspired law students in the 1973 movie Paper Chase.)

Bloggers, Reynolds chief among them, are Socrates' heirs. Like the Socratic dialogue, blogging can sear the soul and distill a cloud of information into a few drops of knowledge. Reading the news without blogging is like reading a menu without eating.

Henry Copeland in Budapest, Hungary





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