region = Western Philosophy
color = #B0C4DE
image_caption = Socrates
name = (Polytonic|Σωκράτης)
birth = c. 469 / 470 BCcite web
url = http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Socrates_%28philosopher%29
publisher = 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica
title = Socrates
accessdate = 2007-11-14]
death = 399 BC
school_tradition = Classical Greek
Plato, Aristotle, Aristippus, Antisthenes Western philosophy
Socratic method, Socratic irony
Socrates (Greek: Polytonic|Σωκράτης, "Sōkrátēs"; c. 469 BC– 399 BC) was a Classical Greek philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of
Western philosophy, in reality he is an enigmatic figure known only through other people's accounts. It is Plato's dialogues that have largely created today's impression of him. [ Sarah Kofman, Socrates: Fictions of a Philosopher (1998) ISBN 080143551X ]
Through his portrayal in Plato's dialogues, Socrates has become renowned for his contribution to the field of
ethics, and it is this Platonic Socrates who also lends his name to the concepts of Socratic ironyand the Socratic method, or " elenchus". The latter remains a commonly used tool in a wide range of discussions, and is a type of pedagogyin which a series of questions are asked not only to draw individual answers, but to encourage fundamental insight into the issue at hand. It is Plato's Socrates that also made important and lasting contributions to the fields of epistemologyand logic, and the influence of his ideas and approach remains strong in providing a foundation for much western philosophy that followed.
As one recent commentator has put it, Plato, the idealist, offers "an idol, a master figure, for philosophy. A Saint, a prophet of the 'Sun-God', a teacher condemned for his teachings as a heretic." [Martin Cohen, Philosophical Tales (2008) ISBN 1405140372] yet the 'real' Socrates, like many of the other Ancient philosophers, remains at best enigmatic and at worst unknown.
The "Socratic Problem"
Forming an accurate photograph of the historical Socrates and his philosophical viewpoints is problematic at best. This issue is known as the
Socrates did not write philosophical texts. The knowledge of the man, his life, and his philosophy is based on writings by his students and contemporaries. Foremost among them is
Plato; however, works by Xenophon, Aristotle, and Aristophanesalso provide important insights. [Many other writers added to the fashion of Socratic dialogues (called "Sőkratikoi logoi") at the time. In addition to Plato and Xenophon, each of the following is credited by some source as having added to the genre: Aeschines of Sphettus, Antisthenes, Aristippus, Bryson, Cebes, Crito, Euclid of Megara, and Phaedo. It is unlikely Plato was the first in this field (Vlastos, p. 52).] The difficulty of finding the “real” Socrates arises because these works are often philosophical or dramatic texts rather than straightforward histories. Aside from Thucydides(who makes no mention of Socrates or philosophers in general), there is in fact no such thing as a straightforward history contemporary with Socrates that dealt with his own time and place. A corollary of this is that the sources which do mention Socrates don't necessarily claim to be historically accurate, and are often partisan (those who prosecuted and convicted Socrates have left no testament). Historians therefore face the challenge of reconciling the various texts that come from these men to create an accurate and consistent account of Socrates' life and work. The result of such an effort is not necessarily realistic, merely consistent.
In general, Plato is viewed as the most reliable and informative source of information about Socrates' life and philosophy. [ There are several reasons this is the case. For one, Socrates is credited as an intellectual by almost every existing primary source. It is more likely then, that a fellow intellectual (i.e., Plato) would be more capable of understanding Socrates's ideas than a military officer, like Xenophon (even though Socrates was himself a decorated soldier). Furthermore, Socrates - as he is depicted by Xenophon's works - does nothing that would lead one to conclude he was a revolutionary or a threat to Athens. Plato's Socrates behaves in ways that would explain why he was condemned for impiety (May, "On Socrates").] At the same time, in some works Plato pushed his literary version of "Socrates" far beyond anything the historical Socrates was likely to have done or said. Parsing which Socrates—the "real" one, or Plato's own mouthpiece—Plato is using in any given dialogue can be a matter of much debate.
However, it is also clear from other writings, and historical artifacts that Socrates was not simply a character, or invention, of Plato. The testimony of Xenophon and Aristotle, alongside some of Aristophanes' work within "
The Clouds", can be usefully engaged in fleshing out our perception of Socrates beyond Plato's work.
Details about Socrates derive from three contemporary sources: the
dialogues of Platoand Xenophon(both devotees of Socrates), and the plays of Aristophanes. He has been depicted by some scholars, including Eric Havelockand Walter Ong, as a champion of oral modes of communication, standing up at the dawn of writingagainst its haphazard diffusion. [Ong, pp. 78–79.]
Aristophanes' play "
The Clouds" portrays Socrates as a clown who teaches his students how to bamboozle their way out of debt. Most of Aristophanes' works, however, function as parodies. Thus, it is presumed this characterization was also not literal.
According to Plato, Socrates' father was
Sophroniscusand his mother Phaenarete, a midwife. Though characterized as unattractive in appearance and short in stature, Socrates married Xanthippe, who was much younger than he. She bore for him three sons, Lamprocles, Sophroniscus and Menexenus. His friend Crito of Alopececriticized him for abandoning his sons when he refused to try to escape before his execution.
It is unclear how Socrates earned a living. Ancient texts seem to indicate that Socrates did not work. In Xenophon's "Symposium", Socrates is reported as saying he devotes himself only to what he regards as the most important art or occupation: discussing philosophy. In "The Clouds" Aristophanes portrays Socrates as accepting payment for teaching and running a sophist school with
Chaerephon, while in Plato's "Apology" and "Symposium" and in Xenophon's accounts, Socrates explicitly denies accepting payment for teaching. More specifically, in the "Apology" Socrates cites his poverty as proof he is not a teacher. According to Timon of Phlius and later sources, Socrates took over the profession of stonemasonryfrom his father. There was a tradition in antiquity, not credited by modern scholarship, that Socrates crafted the statues of the Three Graces, which stood near the Acropolis until the second century AD. [The ancient tradition is attested in Pausanias, [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Paus.+1.22.1 1.22.8] ; for a modern denial, see "Kleine Pauly", "Sokrates" 7; the tradition is a confusion with the sculptor, Socrates of Thebes, mentioned in Pausanias [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Paus.+9.25.1 9.25.3] , a contemporary of Pindar.]
Several of Plato's dialogues refer to Socrates' military service. Socrates says he served in the Athenian army during three campaigns: at Potidaea, Amphipolis, and Delium. In the "Symposium"
Alcibiadesdescribes Socrates' valour in the battles of Potidaea and Delium, recounting how Socrates saved his life in the former battle (219e-221b). Socrates' exceptional service at Delium is also mentioned in the "Laches" by the general after whom the dialogue is named (181b). In the "Apology," Socrates compares his military service to his courtroom troubles, and says anyone on the jury who thinks he ought to retreat from philosophy must also think soldiers should retreat when it looks like they will be killed in battle.
Trial and Death
Socrates lived during the time of the transition from the height of the
Athenian hegemonyto its decline with the defeat by Spartaand its allies in the Peloponnesian War. At a time when Athenssought to stabilize and recover from its humiliating defeat, the Athenian public may have been entertaining doubts about democracy as an efficient form of government. Socrates appears to have been a critic of democracy, and some scholars interpret his trial as an expression of political infighting.
Despite claiming death-defying loyalty to his city, Socrates' pursuit of virtue and his strict adherence to truth clashed with the current course of Athenian politics and society. [Here it is telling to refer to
Thucydides( [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Thuc.+3.82.8 3.82.8] ): "Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence, became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defense. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected."] He praises Sparta, archrival to Athens, directly and indirectly in various dialogues. But perhaps the most historically accurate of Socrates' offenses to the city was his position as a social and moral critic. Rather than upholding a status quo and accepting the development of immorality within his region, Socrates worked to undermine the collective notion of "might makes right" so common to Greece during this period. Plato refers to Socrates as the " gadfly" of the state (as the gadfly stings the horse into action, so Socrates stung Athens), insofar as he irritated the establishment with considerations of justice and the pursuit of goodness. His attempts to improve the Athenians' sense of justice may have been the source of his execution.
According to Plato's "Apology," Socrates' life as the "gadfly" of Athens began when his friend Chaerephon asked the oracle at Delphi if anyone was wiser than Socrates; the
Oracleresponded that none was wiser. Socrates believed that what the Oracle had said was a paradox, because he believed he possessed no wisdom whatsoever. He proceeded to test the riddle through approaching men who were considered to be wise by the people of Athens, such as statesmen, poets, and artisans, in order to refute the pronouncement of the Oracle. But questioning them, Socrates came to the conclusion that, while each man thought he knew a great deal and was very wise, they in fact knew very little and were not really wise at all. Socrates realized that the Oracle was correct, in that while so-called wise men thought themselves wise and yet were not, he himself knew he was not wise at all which, paradoxically, made him the wiser one since he was the only person aware of his own ignorance. Socrates' paradoxical wisdom made the prominent Athenians he publicly questioned look foolish, turning them against him and leading to accusations of wrongdoing. Socrates defended his role as a gadfly until the end: at his trial, when Socrates was asked to propose his own punishment, he suggests a wage paid by the government and free dinners for the rest of his life instead, to finance the time he spends as Athens' benefactor. [Brun (1978).] He was, nevertheless, found guilty of corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens and sentenced to death by drinking a mixture containing poison hemlock.
According to Xenophon's story, Socrates purposefully gave a defiant defense to the jury because "he believed he would be better off dead". Xenophon goes on to describe a defense by Socrates that explains the rigors of old age, and how Socrates would be glad to circumvent them by being sentenced to death. It is also understood that Socrates also wished to die because he "actually believed the right time had come for him to die".
Xenophon and Plato agree that Socrates had an opportunity to escape, as his followers were able to bribe the prison guards. He chose to stay for several reasons:
# He believed such a flight would indicate a fear of death, which he believed no true philosopher has.
# If he fled Athens his teaching would fare no better in another country as he would continue questioning all he met and undoubtedly incur their displeasure.
# Having knowingly agreed to live under the city's laws, he implicitly subjected himself to the possibility of being accused of crimes by its citizens and judged guilty by its jury. To do otherwise would have caused him to break his "
social contract" with the state, and so harm the state, an act contrary to Socratic principle.
The full reasoning behind his refusal to flee is the main subject of the "
Socrates' death is described at the end of Plato's "
Phaedo". Socrates turned down the pleas of Crito to attempt an escape from prison. After drinking the poison, he was instructed to walk around until his limbs felt heavy. After he lay down, the man who administered the poison pinched his foot. Socrates could no longer feel his legs. The numbness slowly crept up his body until it reached his heart. Shortly before his death, Socrates speaks his last words to Crito: "Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius. Please, don't forget to pay the debt." Asclepius was the Greek god for curing illness, and it is likely Socrates' last words meant that death is the cure—and freedom, of the soul from the body. The Roman philosopher Seneca attempted to emulate Socrates' death by hemlock when forced to commit suicide by the Emperor Nero.
Perhaps his most important contribution to Western thought is his
dialecticmethod of inquiry, known as the Socratic Method or method of "elenchus," which he largely applied to the examination of key moral concepts such as the Good and Justice. It was first described by Platoin the "Socratic Dialogues." To solve a problem, it would be broken down into a series of questions, the answers to which gradually distill the answer you seek. The influence of this approach is most strongly felt today in the use of the Scientific Method, in which hypothesisis the first stage. The development and practice of this method is one of Socrates' most enduring contributions, and is a key factor in earning his mantle as the father of political philosophy, ethicsor moral philosophy, and as a figurehead of all the central themes in Western philosophy.
To illustrate the use of the Socratic method; a series of
questions are posed to help a person or group to determine their underlying beliefs and the extent of their knowledge. The Socratic method is a "negative" method of hypothesiselimination, in that better hypotheses are found by steadily identifying and eliminating those which lead to contradictions. It was designed to force one to examine one's own beliefs and the validity of such beliefs. In fact, Socrates once said, "I know you won't believe me, but the highest form of Human Excellence is to question oneself and others." [Coppens.]
The beliefs of Socrates, as distinct from those of Plato, are difficult to discern. Little in the way of concrete evidence exists to demarcate the two. The lengthy theories given in most of the dialogues are those of Plato, and some scholars think Plato so adapted the Socratic style as to make the literary character and the philosopher himself impossible to distinguish. Others argue that he did have his own theories and beliefs, but there is much controversy over what these might have been, owing to the difficulty of separating Socrates from Plato and the difficulty of interpreting even the dramatic writings concerning Socrates. Consequently, distinguishing the philosophical beliefs of Socrates from those of Plato and Xenophon is not easy and it must be remembered that what is attributed to Socrates might more closely reflect the specific concerns of these thinkers.
The matter is complicated by the fact that the historical Socrates seems to have been notorious for asking questions but not answering, claiming to lack wisdom concerning the subjects about which he questioned others. [Plato, "Republic" 336c & 337a, "Theaetetus" 150c, "Apology" 23a; Xenophon, "Memorabilia" 4.4.9; Aristotle, "Sophistical Refutations" 183b7.]
If anything in general can be said about the philosophical beliefs of Socrates, it is that he was morally, intellectually, and politically at odds with his fellow Athenians. When he is on trial for heresy and corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens, he uses his method of "elenchos" to demonstrate to the jurors that their moral values are wrong-headed. He tells them they are concerned with their families, careers, and political responsibilities when they ought to be worried about the "welfare of their souls." Socrates' belief in the immortality of the soul, and his conviction that the gods had singled him out as a divine emissary seemed to provoke, if not ridicule, at least annoyance. Socrates also questioned the Sophistic doctrine that arete (virtue) can be taught. He liked to observe that successful fathers (such as the prominent military general
Pericles) did not produce sons of their own quality. Socrates argued that moral excellence was more a matter of divine bequest than parental nurture. This belief may have contributed to his lack of anxiety about the future of his own sons.
Socrates frequently says his ideas are not his own, but his teachers'. He mentions several influences:
Prodicusthe rhetorand Anaxagorasthe scientist. Perhaps surprisingly, Socrates claims to have been deeply influenced by two women besides his mother. He says Diotima, a witch and priestess from Mantineataught him all he knows about "eros", or love, and Aspasia, the mistress of Pericles, taught him the art of funeral orations. John Burnet argued that his principal teacher was the Anaxagorean Archelausbut his ideas were as Plato described them; Eric A. Havelock, on the other hand, considered Socrates' association with the Anaxagoreans to be evidence of Plato's philosophical separation from Socrates.
Many of the beliefs traditionally attributed to the historical Socrates have been characterized as "paradoxal" because they seem to conflict with common sense. The following are among the so-called Socratic Paradoxes: [p. 14,
Terence Irwin, "The Development of Ethics", vol. 1, Oxford University Press 2007; p. 147, Gerasimos Santas, "The Socratic Paradoxes", "Philosophical Review" 73 (1964), pp. 147-64.]
*No one desires evil.
*No one errs or does wrong willingly/knowingly.
*Virtue - all virtue - is knowledge.
*Virtue is sufficient for happiness.
Socrates often said his wisdom was limited to an awareness of his own ignorance. Socrates believed wrongdoing was a consequence of ignorance and those who did wrong knew no better. The one thing Socrates consistently claimed to have knowledge of was "the art of love" which he connected with the concept of "the love of wisdom", i.e., philosophy. He never actually claimed to be wise, only to understand the path a lover of wisdom must take in pursuing it. It is debatable whether Socrates believed humans (as opposed to gods like
Apollo) could actually become wise. On the one hand, he drew a clear line between human ignorance and ideal knowledge; on the other, Plato's "Symposium" (Diotima's Speech) and "Republic" (Allegory of the Cave) describe a method for ascending to wisdom.
In Plato's "Theaetetus" (150a) Socrates compares himself to a true matchmaker (προμνηστικός "promnestikós"), as distinguished from a panderer (προᾰγωγός "proagogos"). This distinction is echoed in Xenophon's "Symposium" (3.20), when Socrates jokes about his certainty of being able to make a fortune, if he chose to practice the art of pandering. For his part as a philosophical interlocutor, he leads his respondent to a clearer conception of wisdom, although he claims he is not himself a teacher ("Apology"). His role, he claims, is more properly to be understood as analogous to a "
midwife" (μαῖα "maia"). Socrates explains that he is himself barren of theories, but knows how to bring the theories of others to birth and determine whether they are worthy or mere "wind eggs" (ἀνεμιαῖον "anemiaion"). Perhaps significantly, he points out that midwives are barren due to age, and women who have never given birth are unable to become midwives; a truly barren woman would have no experience or knowledge of birth and would be unable to separate the worthy infants from those that should be left on the hillside to be exposed. To judge this, the midwife must have experience and knowledge of what she is judging.
Socrates believed the best way for people to live was to focus on self-development rather than the pursuit of material wealth.Fact|date=July 2008 He always invited others to try to concentrate more on friendships and a sense of true community, for Socrates felt this was the best way for people to grow together as a populace.Fact|date=July 2008 His actions lived up to this: in the end, Socrates accepted his death just because sentence when most thought he would simply leave Athens, as he felt he could not run away from or go against the will of his community; as mentioned above, his reputation for valor on the battlefield was without reproach.
The idea that humans possessed certain virtues formed a common thread in Socrates' teachings. These virtues represented the most important qualities for a person to have, foremost of which were the philosophical or intellectual virtues. Socrates stressed that "virtue was the most valuable of all possessions; the ideal life was spent in search of the Good. Truth lies beneath the shadows of existence, and it is the job of the philosopher to show the rest how little they really know."Fact|date=January 2008
It is often argued that Socrates believed "ideals belong in a world only the wise man can understand",Fact|date=July 2008 making the philosopher the only type of person suitable to govern others. In Plato's dialogue the "Republic", Socrates was in no way subtle about his particular beliefs on government. He openly objected to the
democracythat ran Athens during his adult life. It was not only Athenian democracy: Socrates objected to any form of government that did not conform to his ideal of a perfect republic led by philosophers, and Athenian government was far from that. It is, however, possible that the Socrates of Plato's "Republic" is colored by Plato's own views. During the last years of Socrates' life, Athens was in continual flux due to political upheaval. Democracy was at last overthrown by a junta known as the Thirty Tyrants, led by Plato's relative, Critias, who had been a student of Socrates. The Tyrants ruled for about a year before the Athenian democracy was reinstated, at which point it declared an amnestyfor all recent events.
Socrates' opposition to democracy is often denied, and the question is one of the biggest philosophical debates when trying to determine exactly what Socrates believed. The strongest argument of those who claim Socrates did not actually believe in the idea of philosopher kings is that the view is expressed no earlier than Plato's "Republic", which is widely considered one of Plato's "Middle" dialogues and not representative of the historical Socrates' views. Furthermore, according to Plato's "Apology of Socrates", an "early" dialogue, Socrates refused to pursue conventional politics; he often stated he could not look into other's matters or tell people how to live their lives when he did not yet understand how to live his own. He believed he was a philosopher engaged in the pursuit of Truth, and did not claim to know it fully. Socrates' acceptance of his death sentence, after his conviction by the "Boule" (Senate), can also be seen to support this view. It is often claimed much of the anti-democratic leanings are from Plato, who was never able to overcome his disgust at what was done to his teacher. In any case, it is clear Socrates thought the rule of the Thirty Tyrants was at least as objectionable as democracy; when called before them to assist in the arrest of a fellow Athenian, Socrates refused and narrowly escaped death before the Tyrants were overthrown. He did however fulfill his duty to serve as "
prytanis" when a trial of a group of generals who presided over a disastrous naval campaign were judged; even then he maintained an uncompromising attitude, being one of those who refused to proceed in a manner not supported by the laws, despite intense pressure. [Kagen (1978).] Judging by his actions, he considered the rule of the Thirty Tyrants less legitimate than the democratic senate that sentenced him to death.
In the dialogues of
Plato, Socrates often seems to support a mysticalside, discussing reincarnationand the mystery religions; however, this is generally attributed to PlatoFact|date=September 2007. Regardless, this cannot be dismissed out of hand, as we cannot be sure of the differences between the views of Plato and Socrates; in addition, there seem to be some corollaries in the works of Xenophon. In the culmination of the philosophic path as discussed in Plato's "Symposium" and "Republic", one comes to the Sea of Beautyor to the sight of the form of the Good in an experience akin to mystical revelation; only then can one become wise. (In the "Symposium", Socrates credits his speech on the philosophic path to his teacher, the priestess Diotima, who is not even sure if Socrates is capable of reaching the highest mysteries.) In the "Meno", he refers to the Eleusinian Mysteries, telling Meno he would understand Socrates' answers better if only he could stay for the initiations next week. Further confusions result from the nature of these sources, insofar as the Platonic dialogues are arguably the work of an artist-philosopher, whose meaning does not volunteer itself to the passive reader nor again the lifelong scholar. Plato himself was a playwright before taking up the study of philosophy. His works are, indeed, dialogues; Plato's choice of this, the medium of Sophocles, Euripides, and the fictions of theatre, may reflect the interpretable nature of his writings. What is more, the first word of nearly all Plato's works is a, or the, significant term for that respective study, and is used with the commonly approved definition in mind. Finally, the "Phaedrus" and the "Symposium" each allude to Socrates' coy delivery of philosophic truths in conversation; the Socrates of the "Phaedrus" goes so far as to demand such dissembling and mystery in all writing. The mysticism we often find in Plato, appearing here and there and couched in some enigmatic tract of symbol and irony, is often at odds with the mysticism Plato's Socrates expounds in some other dialogue. These mystical resolutions to hitherto rigorous inquiries and analyses fail to satisfy caring readers, without fail. Whether they would fail to satisfy readers who understood them is another question, and will not, in all probability, ever be resolved.
Perhaps the most interesting facet of this is Socrates' reliance on what the Greeks called his "daemonic sign", an averting (ἀποτρεπτικός "apotreptikos") inner voice Socrates heard only when he was about to make a mistake. It was this "sign" that prevented Socrates from entering into politics. In the "Phaedrus", we are told Socrates considered this to be a form of "divine madness", the sort of
insanitythat is a gift from the gods and gives us poetry, mysticism, love, and even philosophyitself. Alternately, the "sign" is often taken to be what we would call "intuition"; however, Socrates' characterization of the phenomenon as "daemonic" suggests its origin is divine, mysterious, and independent of his own thoughts.
He was prominently lampooned in
Aristophanes' comedy" The Clouds", produced when Socrates was in his mid-forties; he said at his trial (according to Plato) that the laughter of the theaterwas a harder task to answer than the arguments of his accusers. Soren Kierkegaardbelieved this play was a more accurate representation of Socrates than those of his students. In the play, Socrates is ridiculed for his dirtiness, which is associated with the Laconizing fad; also in plays by Callias, Eupolis, and Telecleides. In all of these, Socrates and the Sophists were criticised for "the moral dangers inherent in contemporary thought and literature."
Plato, Xenophon, and Aristotleare the main sources for the historical Socrates; however, Xenophonand Platowere direct disciples of Socrates, and presumably, they idealize him; however, they wrote the only continuous descriptions of Socrates that have come down to us. Aristotle refers frequently, but in passing, to Socrates in his writings. Almost all of Plato's works center around Socrates. However, Plato's later works appear to be more his own philosophy put into the mouth of his mentor.
The Socratic dialogues
Socratic dialogues" are a series of dialogues written by Platoand Xenophonin the form of discussions between Socrates and other persons of his time, or as discussions between Socrates' followers over his concepts. Plato's "Phaedo" is an example of this latter category. Although his "Apology" is a monologue delivered by Socrates, it is usually grouped with the dialogues.
The "Apology" professes to be a record of the actual speech Socrates delivered in his own defense at the trial. In the Athenian jury system, an "apology" is composed of three parts: a speech, followed by a counter-assessment, then some final words. "Apology" is a transliteration, not a translation, of the Greek "apologia", meaning "defense"; in this sense it is not apologetic according to our contemporary use of the term.
Plato generally does not place his own ideas in the mouth of a specific speaker; he lets ideas emerge via the
Socratic method, under the guidance of Socrates. Most of the dialogues present Socrates applying this method to some extent, but nowhere as completely as in the " Euthyphro". In this dialogue, Socrates and Euthyphro go through several iterations of refining the answer to Socrates' question, "...What is the pious, and what the impious?"
In Plato's dialogues, learning appears as a process of remembering. The
soul, before its incarnation in the body, was in the realm of Ideas (very similar to the Platonic "Forms"). There, it saw things the way they truly are, rather than the pale shadows or copies we experience on earth. By a process of questioning, the soul can be brought to remember the ideas in their pure form, thus bringing wisdom.
Especially for Plato's writings referring to Socrates, it is not always clear which ideas brought forward by Socrates (or his friends) actually belonged to Socrates and which of these may have been new additions or elaborations by Plato — this is known as the
Socratic problem. Generally, the early works of Platoare considered to be close to the spirit of Socrates, whereas the later works — including "Phaedo" and the "Republic" — are considered to be possibly products of Plato's elaborations.
Immediately, the students of Socrates set to work both on exercising their perceptions of his teachings in politics and also on developing many new philosophical schools of thought. Some of Athens' controversial and anti-democratic
tyrants were contemporary or posthumous students of Socrates including Alcibiadesand Critias. Critias' cousin, Platowould go on to found the Academyin 385 BC - which gained so much notoriety that 'Academy' became the base word for educational institutions in later European languages such as English, French, and Italian. Plato's protege, another important figure of the Classical era, Aristotlewent on to tutor Alexander the Greatand also to found his own school in 335 BC- the Lyceum, whose name also now means an educational institution.
While Socrates was shown to demote the importance of institutional knowledge like
mathematicsor sciencein relation to the human condition in his dialogues, Plato would emphasize it with metaphysical overtones mirroring that of Pythagoras- the former who would dominate Western thought well into the Renaissance. Aristotle himself was as much of a philosopher as he was a scientist with rudimentary work in the fields of biologyand physics.
Socratic thought along the lines of challenging conventions, especially in stressing a simplistic way of living, became divorced from Plato's more detached and philosophical pursuits but was inherited heavily by one of Socrates' older and diehard students,
Antistheneswho became another originator of a philosophy in the years after Socrates' death - Cynicism. Antisthenes attacked Plato and Alcibiades over what he deemed as their betrayal of Socrates' tenets in his writings.
The idea of
austeritybeing hand in hand with an ethical life or one with piety, ignored by Plato and Aristotle and somewhat dealt with by the Cynics, formed the core of another philosophy in 281 BC - Stoicismwhen Zeno of Citiumwould discover Socrates' works and then learn from Crates, a Cynicphilosopher. None of the schools however, would inherit his tendency to openly associate with and respect women or the regular citizen.
Later historical effects
While some of the later contributions of Socrates to Hellenistic Era culture and philosophy as well as the
Roman Erahas been lost to time, his teachings began a resurgence in both medieval Europe and the Islamic Middle East alongside those of Aristotle and Stoicism. Socrates is mentioned in the dialogue Kuzariby Jewish philosopher and rabbi Yehuda Haleviin which a Jew instructs the Khazarking about Judaism. al-Kindi, a well-known Arabic philosopher, introduced and tried to reconcile Socrates and Hellenistic philosophy to an Islamic audience.
Socrates' stature in Western philosophy returned in full force with the Renaissance and the Age of Reason in Europe when political theory began to resurface under those like Locke and
Hobbes. Voltaireeven went so far as to write a satirical play about the Trial of Socrates. There were a number of paintings about his life including "Socrates Tears Alcibiades from the Embrace of Sensual Pleasure" by Jean-Baptiste Regnaultand "The Death of Socrates" by Jacques-Louis Davidin the later 18th Century.
To this day, the
Socratic methodis still used in classrooms and law schools as a way of discussing complex topics in order to expose the underlying issues in both the subject and the speaker. He has been rewarded with accolades ranging from numerous mentions in pop culture such as the movie Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventureand a Greek rock band to numerous busts in academic institutions in recognition of his contribution to education.
Evaluation and reaction to Socrates has been undertaken with both historical and philosophical inquiry from the time of his death to the present day with a multitude of conclusions and perspectives. One of the initial criticisms levied against the philosopher was presented at his trial - that he was not the proponent of a philosophy but an individual with a method of undermining the fabric of Athenian society, a charge carried by the 500-man jury of Athenians which sentenced him to death. Although he was not directly prosecuted for his connection to Critias, leader of the Spartan-backed
Thirty Tyrants, he was seen as a controversial figure, who mentored oligarchs who became abusive tyrants, and undermined Athenian democracy. The Sophist establishment which he railed at in life survived him but was rapidly overtaken by the many philosophical schools of thought that Socrates influenced by the 3rd Century BC.
Socrates' death is considered iconic and his status as a martyr of philosophy overshadowed most contemporary and posthumous criticism at the time. However,
Xenophonattempts to explain that Socrates purposely welcomed the hemlock due to his old age using the arguably self-destructive testimony to the jury as evidence. Direct criticism of Socrates almost disappears at this point, but there is a noticeable preference for Plato or Aristotle over the elements of Socratic philosophy distinct from those of his students, even into the Middle Ages.
Modern scholarship holds that, with so much of the philosopher obscured and possibly altered by Plato, it is impossible to gain a clear picture of Socrates amidst all the seeming contradictions. That both
Cynicismand Stoicism, which carried heavy influence from Socratic thought, were unlike or even contrary to Platonismfurther illustrates this. This ambiguity and lack of reliability serves as the modern basis of criticism - that it is near impossible to know the real Socrates. Some controversy also exists about claims of Socrates exempting himself from the homosexual customs of Ancient Greeceand not believing in the Olympian gods to the point of being monotheistic or if this was an attempt by later medieval scholars to reconcile him with the morals of the era. However, it is still commonly taught and held with little exception that Socrates is the founder of modern Western philosophy, to the point that philosophers before him are referred to as pre-Socratic.
I know that I know nothing
last = Brun
first = Jean
title = Socrate
publisher = Presses universitaires de France
date=1978 (sixth edition)
pages = 39-40
isbn = 2-13-035620-6 Languageicon|fr|French
* Coppens, Philip, [http://www.philipcoppens.com/socrates.html "Socrates, that’s the question,"] Feature Articles - Biographies, PhilipCoppens.com.
* Kagan, Donald. The Fall of the Athenian Empire. First. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1987.
* Pausanias, " [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Paus.+1.1.1 Description of Greece] ". W. H. S. Jones (translator).
Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. (1918). Vol. 1. Books I–II: ISBN 0674991044. Vol. 4. Books VIII.22–X: ISBN 0674993284.
Thucydides; "The Peloponnesian War". London, J. M. Dent; New York, E. P. Dutton. 1910. [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Thuc.+toc ]
* Bernas, Richard, cond. "Socrate". By Erik Satie. LTM/Boutique, 2006
* Bruell, C. (1994). “On Plato’s Political Philosophy,” "Review of Politics", 56: 261-82.
* Bruell, C. (1999). "On the Socratic Education: An Introduction to the Shorter Platonic Dialogues", Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.
* Grube, G.M.A.(2002). " Plato, Five Dialogues". Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.
* Hanson, V.D. (2001). "Socrates Dies at Delium, 424 B.C.," "What If? 2", Robert Cowley, editor, G.P. Putnam's Sons, NY.
* Egan, K. "". (1997) University of Chicago Press, Chicago. ISBN 0-226-19036-6 p. 137-144
* Luce, J.V. (1992). "An Introduction to Greek Philosophy", Thames & Hudson, NY.
* Maritain, J. (1930, 1991). "Introduction to Philosophy", Christian Classics, Inc., Westminster, MD.
* [http://www.ditext.com/robinson/dia2.html Ch. 2: "Elenchus"] , [http://www.ditext.com/robinson/dia3.html Ch. 3: "Elenchus: Direct and Indirect"]
* Taylor, C.C.W. , Hare, R.M. & Barnes, J. (1998). "Greek Philosophers — Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle", Oxford University Press, NY.
* Taylor, C.C.W. (2001). "Socrates: A very short introduction". Oxford: Oxford University Press.
* [http://www.amengansie.com/sacrates.html Original Fresque of Socrates in Archaeological Museum of Ephesus]
* [http://www.allphilosophers.com/index.html Socrates Narrates Plato's The Republic]
* , by Plato.
* [http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~dee/GREECE/SOCRATES.HTM Greek Philosophy: Socrates]
Project Gutenberge-texts on Socrates, amongst others:
** [http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/authrec?fk_authors=93 The Dialogues of Plato] (see also Wikipedia articles on )
** [http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/authrec?fk_authors=543 The writings of Xenophon] , such as the "Memorablia" and "Hellenica".
** [http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/authrec?fk_authors=965 The satirical plays by Aristophanes]
** [http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/authrec?fk_authors=2747 Aristotle's writings]
** [http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/4683 Voltaire's "Socrates"]
* [http://librivox.org/euthyphro-by-plato/ A free audiobook of the Socratic dialogue "Euthyphro"] at [http://www.librivox.org LibriVox]
* [http://www.socraticmethod.net Socratic Method Research Portal]
* [http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/socrates/ "Socrates"] , from
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy(2005)
ALTERNATIVE NAMES= Sokrates; Σωκράτης (Greek)
SHORT DESCRIPTION= Greek philosopher
DATE OF BIRTH= circa 470 BC
PLACE OF BIRTH=
DATE OF DEATH= 399 BC
PLACE OF DEATH=
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