Knowledge is an area of ​​difficult apprehension . For some, it comes from outside, and as such it has to be taught, introduced to the soul as a new element. For others, it comes from within, and the teacher’s job is to help discover it. Next, we will talk about maieutics .

What is maieutics?

It is known as mayéutica to the method used by philosophy and other disciplines, for the discernment of knowledge . It is based on the assumption that knowledge is something that is latent within each one, and that it requires the work of another for it to come to light. It is normally associated with the work of the midwife, due to the difficult and painful task of raising awareness of the knowledge that each person carries within.

  • Definition of maieutics
  • What is the method
  • Characteristics of maieutics
  • Main elements
  • Steps
  • Maieutics according to Socrates
  • Maieutics in education
  • In psychoanalysis
  • How it differs from dialectic
  • Importance
  • Examples

Definition of maieutics

In short, we can see it as a technique or a method born in the bosom of Ancient Greece. The philosophy is what usually attributed to Socrates . It would be a method oriented to the acquisition of knowledge by means of interrogation and questioning of the previous supposed truths. The philosopher tries, by means of the question, that the disciple arrives at his own version of the knowledge, without the intersection of external elements that come only from the student’s own mentality . In short, it is the method where they help you discover the truth for yourself.

What is the method

It is a method where the pedagogical is dispensed with and the acquisition of knowledge is sought through the elements of Socratic dialogue: questioning, replying, debate and closing. The method is presented in passing as a process similar to that of midwives ( hence , etymologically , maieutics and obstetrics mean the same thing ), where an expert guides a student to realize the errors of their beliefs (Socratic irony) , only to later understand that knowledge was something that he always had inside him (maieutic dialogue) . The outcome is the longed-for (though painful) moment of acquiring the light of knowledge, or Logos .

Characteristics of maieutics

  • Although this concept appears in some works of Socrates , it is not known to science certain whether this is a concept of authorship. This is in doubt, even though there are great philosophers to whom this concept is attributed to Socrates.
  • It is a process that Socrates correlates with the work of midwives. His mother, as is known, practiced this profession , and Socrates draws this concept to make an analogy with the work that is usually done.
  • Any inducing element unrelated to the student’s speech is dispensed with. As a general rule , maieutics uses the student’s own discourse to arrive at his own latent truth.
  • It starts from the assumption that all truth is something that is latent in the speech and the soul of the person.
  • It differs from Socratic irony since it tries to dismantle the prejudices that prevent the person from knowing the truth. Socratic irony attacks the prejudices of the person who thinks he knows the truth. The maieutics addresses the ignorance of the person who believes he does not know the truth.

Main elements

Among the elements that we can highlight from the Mayan dialogue, we have these:


This implies a question that the philosopher introduces to the student, or that the student already had in mind.


This implies a reply to the question previously asked. The normal thing is that it is the student who arrives at his own answers.


Each of the assumptions are questioned, put into question. There can be no arrival at the truth without the breaking of some previous ideas.


It is the end point at which this whole process reaches. Sometimes a conclusion raises new questions. It is a point where you get to the truth or a glimpse of the truth.


Its main steps consist of:

  • A first step known as Socratic Irony. This calls into question all the assumptions or prejudices that the person had on some subject. It is usually a somewhat difficult point, since it reflects a point of ignorance that the person himself did not know he had.
  • A second step called Maieutic. This implies the discovery of truth where prejudice previously occupied it.
  • One last step known as Aletheia . This means a state of non-ignorance, of “unveiled” in which the student arrives at the truth.

Maieutics according to Socrates

Socrates mentions this term in two of his works. In The Banquet , Socrates mentions it as work related to midwifery. It is in Theaetetus , however, where we can see this practice in action. Socrates describes it as a process very close to obstetrics, due to the difficulties it always involves.

Maieutics in education

Mayeutics is a methodology that has found a good place among the educational sciences. This is because it has been seen that teaching becomes difficult if the student does not have the collaboration or participation that helps in the acquisition of knowledge. Using Maieutics, the teacher can make the student reach some truths.

In psychoanalysis

In a certain way, the psychoanalytic method resorts to maieutics for the acquisition of knowledge that, it is said, is unconscious. It was Lacan who places the maieutics at the center of the method, since the function of the analyst, according to him, is to allow the analysand the acquisition of knowledge until that moment not known , and that in some way has determined its symptoms.

How it differs from dialectic

In general , it is said that maieutics makes use of dialectics to arrive at knowledge. This, starting from the idea that dialectics is an encounter between opposing pairs, puts us in contact with an idea that all Socratic dialogue resorts a little to this conflict to dismantle ideas. However, once it has reached this point, maieutics should not necessarily resort to these notions to continue in its search for truth.


It is a highly practical concept that somehow revolutionized philosophy. This is said since Socratic thought is the one that has given rise to the fact that in many other humanist disciplines knowledge can be achieved without the need for its prior imposition. Whether in education or psychotherapy, maieutics is something that finds its place there.


In a class, a teacher can touch on a very abstract topic like love. The students will give dissimilar answers. This, in turn, can be used by the teacher to open a debate about what love is and what it is not. Other questions may arise from this, which the teacher may not expect to meet.

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