What does ‘maieutics’ mean?

Socrates (De Morgen)

The English term ‘maieutics’ comes from the Greek words maieutikè and technè and means something like the skill of the midwife. In philosophy the term refers to the method of questio-ning followed by the Greek philosopher Socrates (470-399 BC). Socrates’ mother was a midwife and thus assisted in the birth of babies with physical bodies. Socrates also saw himself as a kind of midwife, only not of actual children, but rather of knowledge which is thus spiritual in nature. Socrates considered it his life’s mission to facilitate the birth of insight in people.

In this philosophical sense, the term ‘maieutics’ refers to the uncovering of deeper insights which in principle are already present in human consciousness. According to the maieutics school, these insights come to the fore par excellence through two universal experiences which it calls ‘philosophical ground experiences’. The reason for that designation is that these experiences can be so profound that they give rise to all kinds of philosophical questions. So they set philosophi-zing in people in motion and thus form the ground under that questioning.