Socrates 2 Essay, Research Paper
Socrates was a Greek Philosopher, who profoundly affected Western philosophy through his influence on Plato. Born in Athens, the son of Sophroniscus, a sculptor, and Phaenarete, a midwife, he received the regular elementary education in literature, music, and gymnastics. Later he familiarized himself with the rhetoric and dialectics of the Sophists, the speculations of the lonian philosophers, and the general culture of Periclean Athens. Initially, Socrates followed the craft of his father; according to a former tradition, he erected a statue group of the three Graces, which stood at the entrance to the Acropolis until the 2nd century AD.
In the Peloponnesian War with Sparta he served as an infantryman with conspicuous bravery at the battle of Potidaea in 432-430 BC, Delium in 424 BC, and Amphipolis in 422 BC. Socrates believed in the superiority of argument over writing and therefore spent the greater part of his mature life in the marketplace and public places of Athens, engaging in dialogue and argument with anyone who would listen or who would submit to interrogation. Socrates was reportedly unattractive in appearance and short of stature but was also extremely hardy and self-controlled. He enjoyed life immensely and achieved social popularity because of his ready wit and a keen sense of humor that was completely devoid of satire or doubt.
Socrates had a bit of an attitude toward politics. He was obedient to the laws of Athens, but he generally steered clear of politics, restrained by what he believed to be divine warning. He believed that he had received a call to pursue philosophy and could serve his country best by devoting himself to teaching, and by persuading the Athenians to engage in self-examination and in tending to their souls. He wrote no books and established no regular school of philosophy. All that is known with certainty about his personality and his way of thinking is derived from the works of two of his distinguished scholars. One of these scholars was Plato, who at times ascribed his own views to his master, and the other was historian Xenophon, a prosaic writer who probably failed to understand many of Socrates doctrines.
Plato portrayed Socrates as hiding behind an ironical profession of ignorance, known as Socratic irony, and possessing a mental acuity and resourcefulness that enabled him to penetrate arguments with great ease.
Socrates contribution to philosophy was essentially ethical in character. Belief in a purely objective understanding of such concepts as justice, love, virtue, and self-knowledge that he instilled in his speeches, were the basis of his teachings. He believed that all vice is the result of ignorance, and that no person is willingly bad; correspondingly virtue is knowledge, and those who know the right will act rightly. His logic placed particular emphasis on rational argument and the quest for general definitions, as shown in the writings of his younger contemporary and pupil, Plato, and of Plato s pupil, Aristotle. Through the writings of these philosophers, Socrates profoundly affected the entire subsequent course of Western speculative thought.
Another thinker befriended and influenced by Socrates was Antisthenes, the founder of the Cynic school of philosophy. Socrates was also the teacher of Aristippus, who founded the Cyrenaic philosophy of experience and pleasure, from which developed the more lofty philosophy of Epicurus. To such Stoics as the Greek philosopher Epictetus, the Roman philosopher Seneca the Elder, and the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, Socrates appeared as the very embodiment and guide of the higher life.
Although a patriot and a man of deep religious conviction, Socrates was nonetheless regarded with suspicion by many of his contemporaries, who disliked his attitude toward the Athenian state and the established religion. He was charged in 399 BC with neglecting the gods of the state and introducing new divinities, a reference to the daimonion, or mystical inner voice, to which Socrates often referred. Within the last years of the Peloponessian War, people found it easier to believe in all forms of magic and hysteria. This resulted in people believing that Socrates had made a deal with the devil (his god diamonion) as a way to undermine the position of the Polis.
He was also charged with corrupting the morals of the young, specifically these two were singled out Critias and Alcibiades. Socrates was suspected of using his speeches as a way to deter men from the ways of democracy, one of the things that Socrates opposed.
Plato s Apology gives the substance of the defense made by Socrates at his trial; it was a bold vindication of his whole life. He was condemned to die, although the vote was carried by only a small majority. When, according to Athenian legal practice, Socrates made an ironic counter-opposition to the court s death sentence, proposing only to pay a small fine because of his value to the state as a man with a philosophic mission, this offer so angered the jury that it voted by an increased majority for the death penalty.
Socrates friends planned his escape from prison, but he preferred to obey the law and die for his cause. His last day was spent with his friends and admirers, as described in Plato s Ogaedi, and in the evening he calmly fulfilled his sentence by drinking a cup of hemlock according to a customary procedure of execution. He left behind his wife Xanthippe, and three children