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{{About|the classical Greek philosopher|other uses of Socrates|Socrates (disambiguation)|the Attic orator|Isocrates}}{{pp-semi|small=yes}}{{pp-move-indef}}{{short description|Classical Greek Athenian philosopher}}

KRAUT>FIRST1=RICHARDURL=HTTPS://WWW.BRITANNICA.COM/BIOGRAPHY/SOCRATESPUBLISHER=ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA, INC.DATE=AUGUST 16, 2017, Deme Alopece, Classical Athens>Athens|death_date = 399 BC (aged approx. 71) |death_place = AthensCapital punishment>Execution by the drinking of hemlock|school_tradition = Classical Greek philosophy| notable_students = PlatoXenophon|main_interests = Epistemology, ethicsGreeks>GreekProdicus, Anaxagoras, Archelaus (philosopher)>Archelaus, Diotima|influenced = Virtually all subsequent Western philosophy, but Plato and Xenophon in particularSocratic method, , Socratic intellectualism}}{{Socrates}}Socrates ({{IPAc-en|ˈ|s|É’|k|r|É™|t|iː|z}};Jones, Daniel; Roach, Peter, James Hartman and Jane Setter, eds. Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary. 17th edition. Cambridge UP, 2006. , {{IPA-grc|sɔːkrátɛːs|}}; {{circa|470|lk=on}} – 399 BC)BOOK, P. E., Easterling, P. E. Easterling,weblink The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy, 352, Cambridge University Press, 1997, 978-0-521-42351-9, 19 November 2017, BOOK, Nicholas D., Smith, Paul, Woodruff, Paul Woodruff,weblink Reason and Religion in Socratic Philosophy, 154, Oxford University Press, 2000, 978-0-19-535092-0, 19 November 2017, 469 or 468 (corresponding to the fourth year of the 77th Olympiad), according to Apollodorus of Athens, Apollodorus...But the year of Socrates's birth is probably only an inference from...Plato [who] has Socrates casually describe himself as having lived seventy years., was a classical Greek (Athenian) philosopher credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, and as being the first moral philosopherJames Rachels, The Legacy of Socrates: Essays in Moral Philosophy Columbia University Press, 2007 {{ISBN|0-231-13844-X}} Accessed November 24, 2017BOOK, Gregory Vlastos, Socrates, Ironist and Moral Philosopher,weblink 1991, Cornell University Press, 978-0-8014-9787-2, 43, of the Western ethical tradition of thought.Moral Philosophy – The Discovery of Ethics : Socrates Jacques Maritain Center Accessed November 24, 2017Peter Singer (1985) – Encyclopædia Britannica Chicago, 1985, pp. 627–648 Accessed November 24, 2017Anne Rooney – The Story of Philosophy: From Ancient Greeks to Great Thinkers of Modern Times (search page) Arcturus Publishing, 2014 {{ISBN|1-78212-995-2}} Accessed November 24, 2017An enigmatic figure, he made no writings, and is known chiefly through the accounts of classical writers writing after his lifetime, particularly his students Plato and Xenophon. Other sources include the contemporaneous Antisthenes, Aristippus, and Aeschines of Sphettos. Aristophanes, a playwright, is the main contemporary author to have written plays mentioning Socrates during Socrates' lifetime, though a fragment of Ion of Chios' Travel Journal provides important information about Socrates' youth.Charles H. Kahn (1998) – Ethics – p. 42, Cambridge University Press. 1998 {{ISBN|0-521-38832-5}} Accessed December 22, 2017Stern, T (2013) – Philosophy and Theatre: An Introduction – ix Routledge 2013 {{ISBN|1-134-57591-2}} Accessed December 22, 2017Plato's dialogues are among the most comprehensive accounts of Socrates to survive from antiquity, from which Socrates has become renowned for his contributions to the fields of ethics and epistemology. It is this {{visible anchor|Platonic Socrates}} who lends his name to the concepts of Socratic irony and the Socratic method, or (wikt:elenchus|elenchus). However, questions remain regarding the distinction between the real-life Socrates and Plato's portrayal of Socrates in his dialogues.BOOK, Socrates: Fictions of a Philosopher, Kofman, Sarah, 1998, 978-0-8014-3551-5, 34, Socrates exerted a strong influence on philosophers in later antiquity and in the modern era. Depictions of Socrates in art, literature and popular culture have made him one of the most widely known figures in the Western philosophical tradition.{{TOC limit|4}}

Socratic problem

File:Σωκράτης, Ακαδημία Αθηνών 6616.jpg|thumb|Statue of Socrates in front of the Academy of Athens (modern)Academy of Athens (modern)As Socrates did not write down any of his teachings,
  • ...Socrates, of course, is the only of these philosophers who didn't write anything... S. Phineas Upham, Joshua Harlan – Philosophers in Conversation: Interviews from the Harvard Review of Philosophy p. 141 – Psychology Press 2002 {{ISBN|0-415-93778-7}}
  • ...The historical Socrates undoubtedly existed, but he did not write anything... J.S. McClelland A History of Western Political Thought p. 19 Psychology Press 1996 {{ISBN|0-415-11961-8}}
  • ...Socrates is especially pure because he does not write. “Socrates was the West's greatest thinker insofar as he did not write anything... – M. Blitz, Ann Ward – Socrates: Reason or Unreason as the Foundation of European Identity p. 221 Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2009 {{ISBN|1-4438-0870-9}}
  • ...As Socrates did not write anything and assigned to the living word and to dialogue with his followers all of his thought, ... – Giovanni Reale, John R. Catan – A History of Ancient Philosophy IV: The Schools of the Imperial Age p. 75 SUNY Press 1985 {{ISBN|0-7914-0128-6}}
  • ...Socrates explains to Meno: “It is not because I myself am on the right track (euporon) that I leave others with no way out (aporein), but because ... This is why Socrates did not write anything; he had nothing to teach that could be fixed in writing... – Walter Kohan – Childhood, Education and Philosophy: New Ideas for an Old Relationship p. 84 Routledge 2014 {{ISBN|1-317-65845-0}}
  • ...They achieved renown precisely because they did not write at all. The vice of graphorrhoea was frequently contrasted with the virtue of such ancient philosophers as Pythagoras, Aristarchus, Favorinus and Socrates, who did not write anything ... – Sari Kivisto – The Vices of Learning: Morality and Knowledge at Early Modern Universities p. 106 Brill 2014 {{ISBN|90-04-27645-9}}C. Salutati in Renaissance Debates on Rhetoric Cornell University Press, 2000 {{ISBN|0-8014-8206-2}} secondary sources provide the only information on his life and thought. The sometimes contradictory nature of these sources is known as the Socratic problem,BOOK, Roberson, C., 24, Ethics for Criminal Justice Professionals, CRC Press, 2009, 978-1-4200-8672-0, or the Socratic question.BOOK, A., Rubel, M., Vickers, 147, Fear and Loathing in Ancient Athens: Religion and Politics During the Peloponnesian War, Routledge, 11 September 2014, 978-1-317-54480-7, BOOK, Dorion, Louis-André,weblink The Rise and Fall of the Socratic Problem (pp. 1–23) (The Cambridge Companion to Socrates), 1–23, Cambridge University Press, 978-0-521-83342-4, 2015-05-07, 10.1017/CCOL9780521833424.001, The Rise and Fall of the Socratic Problem, 2010, 10795/1977,weblink
Plato and Xenophon's dialogues provide the main source of information on Socrates's life and thought.BOOK, May, H., On Socrates, Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2000, 20, catalogue of Harvard University Press – Xenophon Volume IV. Retrieved 2015-3-26. These writings are the Sokratikoi logoi, or Socratic dialogues, which consist of reports of conversations apparently involving Socrates.Kahn, CH', Plato and the Socratic Dialogue: The Philosophical Use of a Literary Form, Cambridge University Press, 1998, p. xvii.Many other writers added to the fashion of Socratic dialogues (called Sokratikoi 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).As for discovering the real-life Socrates, the difficulty is that ancient sources are mostly philosophical or dramatic texts, apart from Xenophon. There are no straightforward histories, contemporary with Socrates, that dealt with his own time and place. A corollary of this is that sources that do mention Socrates do not necessarily claim to be historically accurate, and are often partisan. For instance, those who prosecuted and convicted Socrates have left no testament. Historians therefore face the challenge of reconciling the various evidence from the extant texts in order to attempt an accurate and consistent account of Socrates's life and work. The result of such an effort is not necessarily realistic, even if consistent.Two factors emerge from all sources pertaining to the character of Socrates: that he was ugly (at least as an older man), and had a brilliant intellect.BOOK, Morrison, D.R.,weblink The Cambridge Companion to Socrates (p. xiv), Cambridge University Press, 978-0-521-83342-4, 2011, BOOK, Nails, D.,weblink Socrates:Socrates's strangeness, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), 2015-04-16, He lived entirely within ancient Athens (at least from his late 30s, and other than when serving on military campaigns in Potidaea, Delium, etc.), he made no writings (at least not about philosophy - a single verse of poetry composed by him survives),JOURNAL, El Murr, Dimitri, Socrates, Oxford Bibliographies, 27 July 2016, 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0211, and he was executed by being made to drink hemlock.Peter J. Ahrensdorf – The Death of Socrates and the Life of Philosophy: An Interpretation of Plato's Phaedo p. 17 SUNY Press, 1995 {{ISBN|0-7914-2634-3}} Accessed November 23, 2017

Socrates as a figure

The character of Socrates as exhibited in Apology, Crito, Phaedo and Symposium concurs with other sources to an extent to which it seems possible to rely on the Platonic Socrates, as demonstrated in the dialogues, as a representation of the actual Socrates as he lived in history.weblink" title="">CH Kahn, Plato and the Socratic Dialogue: The Philosophical Use of a Literary Form (p. 75), Cambridge University Press, 1998, {{ISBN|0-521-64830-0}}. At the same time, however, many scholars believe that in some works, Plato, being a literary artist, pushed his avowedly brightened-up version of "Socrates" far beyond anything the historical Socrates was likely to have done or said. Also, Xenophon, being a historian, is a more reliable witness to the historical Socrates. It is a matter of much debate over which Socrates it is who Plato is describing at any given point—the historical figure, or Plato's fictionalization. As British philosopher Martin Cohen 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."Cohen, M., Philosophical Tales: Being an Alternative History Revealing the Characters, the Plots, and the Hidden Scenes That Make Up the True Story of Philosophy, John Wiley & Sons, 2008, p. 5, {{ISBN|1-4051-4037-2}}.It is also clear from other writings and historical artefacts, that Socrates was not simply a character, nor an invention, of Plato. The testimony of Xenophon and Aristotle, alongside some of Aristophanes's work (especially The Clouds), is useful in fleshing out a perception of Socrates beyond Plato's work.According to one source, the name ({{transl|grc|Sōkrátēs}}), has the meaning "whole, unwounded, safe" (the part of the name corresponding to , {{transl|grc|sôs}}) and "power" (the part of the name corresponding to , {{transl|grc|krátos}}).Socrates Behind the Name Accessed November 28, 2017Google translation – Greek for Socrates Accessed November 28, 2017

Socrates as a philosopher

The problem with discerning Socrates's philosophical views stems from the perception of contradictions in statements made by the Socrates in the different dialogues of Plato; and in later dialogues Plato used the character Socrates to give voice to views that were his own. These contradictions produce doubt as to the actual philosophical doctrines of Socrates, within his milieu and as recorded by other individuals.D Nails {{webarchive|url= |date=2015-03-27 }}, Agora, Academy, and the Conduct of Philosophy (p. 9), Springer, 1995, {{ISBN|0-7923-3543-0}}. Aristotle, in his Magna Moralia, refers to Socrates in words which make it patent that the doctrine virtue is knowledge was held by Socrates. Within the Metaphysics, he states Socrates was occupied with the search for moral virtues, being the "first to search for universal definitions for them".Ahbel-Rappe, S., Socrates: A Guide for the Perplexed (p. 2 and footnote 10 on pp. 157–58), A&C Black, 2009.The problem of understanding Socrates as a philosopher is shown in the following: In Xenophon's Symposium, Socrates is reported as saying he devotes himself only to what he regards as the most important art or occupation, that of discussing philosophy. However, in The Clouds, Aristophanes portrays Socrates as running a Sophist school with Chaerephon. Also, in Plato's Apology and Symposium, as well as in Xenophon's accounts, Socrates explicitly denies accepting payment for teaching. More specifically, in the Apology, Socrates cites his poverty as proof that he is not a teacher.File:Regnault Socrates Tears Alcibiades from the Embrace of Sensual Pleasure.jpg|thumb|upright=1.35|Socrates Tears Alcibiades from the Embrace of Sensual Pleasure by Jean-Baptiste RegnaultJean-Baptiste RegnaultTwo fragments are extant of the writings by the Pyrrhonist philosopher Timon of Phlius pertaining to Socrates.BOOK, Bett, R.,weblink A Companion to Socrates, 299–30, John Wiley & Sons, 978-1-4051-9260-6, 2009-05-11, (A translation of one fragment reads: "But from them the sculptor, blatherer on the lawful, turned away. Spellbinder of the Greeks, who made them precise in language. Sneerer trained by rhetoroticians, sub-Attic ironist.") Both appear to be from Timon's Silloi in which Timon ridiculed and lampooned dogmatic philosophers.Lieber, F. Encyclopedia Americana (pp. 266–67), published 1832 (original from Oxford University).CS. Celenza (2001), Angelo Poliziano's Lamia: Text, Translation, and Introductory Studies (note 34), Brill, 2010, {{ISBN|90-04-18590-9}}.


File:Socrates and Alcibiades, Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg.jpg|thumb|Socrates and Alcibiades, by Christoffer Wilhelm EckersbergChristoffer Wilhelm EckersbergFile:SocratesCarnelianGemImprintRome1stBCE1stCE.jpg|thumb|upright|CarnelianCarnelian


Details about the life of Socrates are derived from both contemporary sources, and later ancient period sources. Of the contemporary sources, the greater extent of information is taken from the dialogues of Plato and Xenophon (both devotees of Socrates), and the testaments of Antisthenes, Aristippus, and Aeschines of Sphettos, and the lesser from the plays of Aristophanes.Ong, pp. 78–79. Later ancient period sources include Aristoxenus, Apollodorus of AthensApollodorus (N.D. Smith, P. Woodruff) – Reason and Religion in Socratic Philosophy p. 154 Oxford University Press, 2000 {{ISBN|0-19-535092-8}} Retrieved November 19, 2017Apollodorus of Athens Encyclopædia Britannica Retrieved November 19th, 2017 (alive during the second century BC),The Library of Apollodorus (Delphi Classics) Delphi Classics, 13 February 2016 Accessed November 25, 2017Andreas Willi, Theater Outside Athens: Drama in Greek Sicily and South Italy p. 56 Cambridge University Press, 2012 {{ISBN|0-521-76178-6}} Accessed November 25, 2017Cicero (alive 106–43 BC),Cicero : in twenty-eight volumes. 20. De senectute, De amicitia, De divinatione Harvard University Press, 1923 Accessed November 25, 2017 and Diogenes LaërtiusDiogenes Laërtius Lives of Eminent Philosophers 2.5. Socrates {{DOI|10.4159/DLCL.diogenes_laertius-lives_eminent_philosophers_book_ii_chapter_5_socrates.1925}} Harvard University Press, Loeb Classics Library Accessed November 25, 2017 sourced via William Musgrave Calder – The Unknown Socrates: Translations, with Introductions and Notes, of Four Important Documents in the Late Antique Reception of Socrates the Athenian p. 3 Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 2002 {{ISBN|0-86516-498-3}} Accessed November 25, 2017 (alive probably in the earlier half of the third century AD).Diogenes Laërtius Translated by R.D. Hicks Loeb Classical Library 184 Harvard University Press Accessed November 25, 2017The sources are thought to have in part or wholly made use of the factual information of the life of Socrates available to each of them, to give their own interpretation of the nature of his teaching, giving rise to differing versions in each case. For example, in Aristophanes's play The Clouds, Socrates is made into a clown of sorts, particularly inclined toward sophistry, who teaches his students how to bamboozle their way out of debt. However, since most of Aristophanes's works function as parodies, it is presumed that his characterization in this play was also not literal.P.J. King, One Hundred Philosophers (p. 23), Zebra, 2006, {{ISBN|1-77022-001-1}}. In Phaedo, which is the only attested source describing the death of Socrates, Plato is thought to have selected and omitted details to provide material for his argument for the existence of the liberation of the soul from the body,C. Gill (1973) – The Death of Socrates (p. 27) Cambridge University Press: The Classical Quarterly Accessed November 23, 2017 an argument he possessed from learning of the ideas of PythagorasKahn, Charles H. (2001) – Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans: A Brief History – p. 4, Indianapolis, IN and Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, {{ISBN|978-0-87220-575-8}} Accessed December 2, 2017 (born sometime after 606 and died sometime after 510 BC).A Brief History of the Pythagorean Theorem University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Accessed December 2, 2017 – shows "569–500"Pythagoras and his Theorem Università degli Studi di Firenze Accessed December 2, 2017 – shows "c.572–c.494"L. Brisson (2007), Griechische Biographie in hellenistischer Zeit: Akten des internationalen Kongresses vom 26.–29. Juli 2006 in Würzburg – Aristoxenus: His Evidence on Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans. The case of Philolaus Walter de Gruyter, 2007 {{ISBN|3-11-019504-6}} Accessed December 2, 2017Thomas Stewart Traill (1859), The Encyclopaedia Britannica: Or, Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and General Literature, Volume 18 – p. 710 Little, Brown, & Company, 1859 Accessed December 2, 2017

Early life

The year of birth of Socrates stated is an assumed date,Sir Thomas Heath, Aristarchus of Samos: The Ancient Copernicus (Chapter IX (page first) Courier Corporation, 2004 {{ISBN|0-486-43886-4}} Accessed November 24, 2017 "assume" or estimate,Linda Pound, Quick Guides for Early Years: Cognitive Development Profile: Socrates Hachette UK, 2013 {{ISBN|1-4441-9965-X}} Accessed November 24, 2017 given the fact of the dating of anything in ancient history in part being sometimes reliant on argument stemming from the inexact period floruit of individuals.John Burnet, Platonism weblink Edicions Enoanda, 19 July 2014, Classical Sather Lectures. California 1928, Accessed November 24, 2017 Diogenes Laërtius stated Socrates birth date was "the sixth day of Thargelion, the day when the Athenians purify the city".B. Hudson McLean, The Cursed Christ: Mediterranean Expulsion Rituals and Pauline Soteriology p. 91 A&C Black, 1996 {{ISBN|1-85075-589-2}}, Accessed November 24, 2017 Contemporaneous sources state he was born not very much later than sometime after the year 471,P.E. Easterling, The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy, p. 352 Cambridge University Press, 1997 {{ISBN|0-521-42351-1}} Retrieved November 19th, 2017 his date of birth is within the period of years ranging 470 to 469 BC,Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition or within a range 469 to 468 BC (corresponding to the fourth year of the 77th Olympiad).Socrates was born in Alopeke, and belonged to the tribe Antiochis. His father was Sophroniscus, a sculptor, or stonemason.G.W.F. Hegel (trans. Frances H. Simon), Lectures on History of PhilosophyNails, D., "Socrates" – A Chronology of the historical Socrates in the context of Athenian history and the dramatic dates of Plato's dialogues, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.). Retrieved 2015-04-17.BOOK, Howatson, M.C.,weblink The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, 528, Oxford University Press, 2013, reprint, 3rd, 978-0-19-954855-2, His mother was a midwife named Phaenarete.BOOK, Plato,weblink Theaetetus, 149a, Fowler, Harold N., Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1999, 1921, reprint of London, William Heinemann Ltd., In his 50s Socrates married Xanthippe, who is especially remembered for having an undesirable temperament.A Grafton, GW Most, Settis, S., The Classical Tradition Harvard University Press, 2010, {{ISBN|0-674-03572-0}}. She bore for him three sons,WEB,weblink Plato, Phaedo 116b,, 2012-08-19, Lamprocles, Sophroniscus and Menexenus; though Aristotle claimed that the latter two were his sons by another (presumably earlier) wife, Myrto, daughter of Lysimachus (a close friend of Socrates' father, which means Myrto is likely to have been roughly of Socrates' own age).Socrates is likely to have been trained as a stonemason, and there was a tradition in antiquity, not credited by modern scholarship, that Socrates crafted the statues of the Charites, which stood near the Acropolis until the 2nd century AD.The ancient tradition is attested in Pausanias, 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 9.25.3, a contemporary of Pindar.Xenophon reports that because youths were not allowed to enter the Agora, they used to gather in workshops surrounding it.Xen. Mem. 4.2.1. Socrates frequented these shops in order to converse with the merchants. Most notable among them was Simon the Shoemaker.J. Sellars, (2003), Simon the Shoemaker and the Problem of Socrates. Classical Philology 98, 207–16.

Military service

File:Battle of Potidaea Socrates saving Alcibiades (detail).jpg|thumb|left|Battle of Potidaea (432 BC): Athenians against Corinthians (detail). Scene of Socrates (center) saving AlcibiadesAlcibiadesFor a time, Socrates fulfilled the role of hoplite, participating in the Peloponnesian War—a conflict which stretched intermittently over a period spanning 431 to 404 BC.BOOK, Colaiaco, J.A.,weblink Socrates Against Athens: Philosophy on Trial, Routledge, 978-1-135-02493-2, 2013, Several of Plato's dialogues refer to Socrates's military service.In the monologue of the Apology, Socrates states he was active for Athens in the battles of Amphipolis, Delium, and Potidaea.Monoson, S.S., Meineck, P., Konstan, D., Combat Trauma and the Ancient Greeks (p. 136), Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, {{ISBN|1-137-39886-8}}. In the Symposium, Alcibiades describes Socrates's valour in the battles of Potidaea and Delium, recounting how Socrates saved his life in the former battle (219e–221b). Socrates's 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 seems likely that they will be killed in battle.Iain King details Socrates's military service, including how it may have affected his ideas, in Socrates at War (article), accessed 2014-03-21.

Epistates at the trial of the six commanders

{{Further|Battle of Arginusae#Trial of the generals}}During 406, he participated as a member of the Boule.Ober, J., Political Dissent in Democratic Athens: Intellectual Critics of Popular Rule (p. 184 – footnote 54), Martin Classical Lectures, Princeton University Press, 2001, {{ISBN|0-691-08981-7}}. His tribe the Antiochis held the Prytany on the day it was debated what fate should befall the generals of the Battle of Arginusae, who abandoned the slain and the survivors of foundered ships to pursue the defeated Spartan navy.BOOK, Plato, Plato,weblink Miller, P.L., Introductory Readings in Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy, 72, Hackett Publishing, 2015, 978-1-62466-354-3, Dillon, M., Garland, L., Ancient Greece: Social and Historical Documents from Archaic Times to the Death of Alexander (p. 119), Routledge, 2010, {{ISBN|1-136-99138-7}} (revised).According to Xenophon, Socrates was the Epistates for the debate,Garland, L., Ancient Greece: Social and Historical Documents from Archaic Times to the Death of Socrates (p. 321), Routledge, 2005, {{ISBN|1-134-60372-X}}. but Delebecque and Hatzfeld think this is an embellishment, because Xenophon composed the information after Socrates's death.C Tuplin, V Azoulay, Xenophon and His World: Papers from a Conference Held in Liverpool in July 1999 (p. 379, footnote 92), Geschichte'', Franz Steiner Verlag, 2004, {{ISBN|3-515-08392-8}}.The generals were seen by some to have failed to uphold the most basic of duties, and the people decided upon capital punishment. However, when the prytany responded by refusing to vote on the issue, the people reacted with threats of death directed at the prytany itself. They relented, at which point Socrates alone as Epistates blocked the vote, which had been proposed by Callixeinus.BOOK, Larcher, P.H., Pierre Henri Larcher,weblink Larcher's Notes on Herodotus: Historical and Critical Remarks on the Nine Books of the History of Herodotus, with a Chronological Table, 2, 330, John R. Priestley, 1829, 2015-04-18, BOOK, Munn, Henderson,weblink The School of History: Athens in the Age of Socrates (p. 186), University of California Press, 978-0-520-92971-5, 2000-06-08, The reason he gave was that "in no case would he act except in accordance with the law".BOOK, Hayek, F.A., Law, Legislation and Liberty, Volume 3: The Political Order of a Free People,weblink 978-0-226-32126-4, 2011, The outcome of the trial was ultimately judged to be a miscarriage of justice, or illegal, but, actually, Socrates's decision had no support from written statutory law, instead being reliant on favouring a continuation of less strict and less formal nomos law.BOOK, Harris, E.M.,weblink The Rule of Law in Action in Democratic Athens, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-989916-6, September 2013, BOOK, Pangle, T.L.,weblink The Laws of Plato, 511, University of Chicago Press, reprint, 978-0-226-67110-9, 1988-03-15, One of the generals executed was Pericles the Younger, son of Pericles by Aspasia of Miletus.

Arrest of Leon

Plato's Apology, parts 32c to 32d, describes how Socrates and four others were summoned to the Tholos, and told by representatives of the oligarchy of the Thirty (the oligarchy began ruling in 404 BC) to go to Salamis, and from there, to return to them with Leon the Salaminian. He was to be brought back to be subsequently executed. However, Socrates returned home and did not go to Salamis as he was expected to.Ober, J. in Morrisson, D.R. (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Socrates Cambridge University Press, 2011, pp. 167–69. {{ISBN|0-521-83342-6}}.LD LeCaire, Tyranny and Terror:The Failure of Athenian Democracy and the Reign of the Thirty Tyrants. Eastern Washington University. Spring 2013.

Trial and death

Causes of the trial

Socrates lived during the time of the transition from the height of the Athenian hegemony to its decline with the defeat by Sparta and its allies in the Peloponnesian War. At a time when Athens sought to stabilize and recover from its 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,BOOK, Smith, W., The Apology of Socrates, the Crito, and Part of the Phaedo: With Notes from Stallbaum, Schleiermacher's Introductions, A Life of Socrates, and Schleiermacher's Essay on the Worth of Socrates as a Philosopher, Taylor Walton and Maberly, 1852, ciii note 1, and some scholars interpret his trial as an expression of political infighting.BOOK, Wilson, Emily R., The Death of Socrates, Harvard University Press, 2007, 55, File:David - The Death of Socrates.jpg|thumb|upright=1.35|left|The Death of Socrates, by Jacques-Louis DavidJacques-Louis DavidClaiming loyalty to his city, Socrates clashed with the current course of Athenian politics and society.Here it is telling to refer to Thucydides (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 praised Sparta, archrival to Athens, directly and indirectly in various dialogues. One of Socrates's purported offenses to the city was his position as a social and moral critic. Rather than upholding a status quo and accepting the development of what he perceived as immorality within his region, Socrates questioned the collective notion of "might makes right" that he felt was common in 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 various Athenians), insofar as he irritated some people with considerations of justice and the pursuit of goodness.BOOK, Waterfield, Robin, Why Socrates Died: Dispelling the Myths, New York, W.W. Norton and Company, 2009, According to Plato's Apology, Socrates's life as the "gadfly" of Athens began when his friend Chaerephon asked the Oracle at Delphi if anyone were wiser than Socrates; the Oracle responded that no one was wiser. Socrates believed the Oracle's response was not correct, because he believed he possessed no wisdom whatsoever. He proceeded to test the riddle by approaching men considered wise by the people of Athens—statesmen, poets, and artisans—in order to refute the Oracle's pronouncement. Questioning them, however, Socrates concluded: while each man thought he knew a great deal and was wise, in fact they knew very little and were not wise at all. So Socrates interpreted the meaning of the Oracle thus: 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's 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 suggested a wage paid by the government and free dinners for the rest of his life instead, to finance the time he spent as Athens's benefactor.Brun (1978).Robin Waterfield suggests that Socrates was a voluntary scapegoat; his death was the purifying remedy for Athens's misfortunes. In this view, the token of appreciation for Asclepius (the Greek god for curing illness - the cockerel that he speaks of to Crit - would represent a cure for Athens's ailments. However, because a cockerel was a common thanks-offering and of no great value, this interpretation has been disputed; Socrates may only have been asking Crito to remember to fulfil a vow taken for the sake of an (unnamed) friend who had recovered from illness.


In 399 BC, Socrates went on trialM.F. Burnyeat (1997), The Impiety of Socrates Mathesis publications; Ancient Philosophy 17 Accessed November 23, 2017 and was subsequently found guilty of both corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens and of impiety (asebeia,Debra Nails, A Companion to Greek and Roman Political Thought Chapter 21 – The Trial and Death of Socrates John Wiley & Sons, 2012 {{ISBN|1-118-55668-2}} Accessed November 23, 2017 "not believing in the gods of the state"),Plato. Apology, 24–27. and as a punishment sentenced to death, caused by the drinking of a mixture containing poison hemlock.Fallon, Warren J. (2001). "Socratic suicide." {{PMID|19681231}}. US National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health. 121:91–106. Retrieved September 12, 2013.Linder, Doug (2002). "The Trial of Socrates". University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law. Retrieved September 12, 2013."Socrates (Greek philosopher)". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved September 12, 2013.R. G. Frey (January 1978). Did Socrates Commit Suicide?. Philosophy, Volume 53, Issue 203, pp. 106–08. University of Liverpool. {{DOI|10.1017/S0031819100016375}}File:Socrates Pio-Clementino Inv314.jpg|right|thumb|upright=0.7|Bust of Socrates in the Vatican MuseumVatican Museum

Death of Socrates

Socrates's death is described at the end of Plato's Phaedo, although Plato was not himself present at the execution. As to the veracity of Plato's account it seems possible he made choice of a number of certain factors perhaps omitting others in the description of the death, as the Phaedo description does not describe progress of the action of the poison (Gill 1973) in concurrence with modern descriptions.C. Gill (1973), "The Death of Socrates" Cambridge University Press: The Classical Quarterly & Houston Community College, Accessed November 23, 2017 Phaedo states, after drinking the poison, he was instructed to walk around until his legs felt numb. 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.Socrates chose to cover his face during the execution (118 a6 Phaedo).C. Gill (1973), The Death of Socrates Cambridge University Press: The Classical Quarterly Accessed November 23, 2017According to Phaedo (61c–69e),WEB,weblink SparkNotes: Phaedo: 61c - 69e,, Socrates stated that "[a]ll of philosophy is training for death".Laurel A. Madison (2002), "Have We Been Careless with Socratess Last Words? A Rereading of the Phaedo" Journal of the History of Philosophy Wilson Quarterly Archives Accessed November 23, 2017Socrates and Platon (translated by Benjamin Jowett), excerpt of Phaedo "And the true philosophers, and they only, study and are eager to release the soul"

Last words

Socrates's last words are thought to be ironic (C. Gill 1973), or sincere (J. Crooks 1998).J. Crooks, Socrates's Last Words: Another Look at an Ancient Riddle Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Classical Association, The Classical Quarterly Vol. 48, No. 1 (1998), pp. 117–25 Accessed November 23, 2017 Socrates speaks his last words to Crito; there are several different translations:
Crito, we owe a rooster to Asclepius. Please, don't forget to pay the debt., as found in Plato's Phaedo. Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius, Pay it and do not neglect it. Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius, make this offering to him and do not forget.Laurel A. Madison, "Have We Been Careless with Socrates's Last Words? A Rereading of the Phaedo", Wilson Quarterly Archives, Accessed November 23, 2017

Refusal to escape

Socrates turned down Crito's pleas to attempt an escape from prison. Xenophon and Plato agree that Socrates had an opportunity to escape, as his followers were able to bribe the prison guards. There have been several suggestions offered as reasons why he chose to stay:
  1. He believed such a flight would indicate a fear of death, which he believed no true philosopher has.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 unprincipled act.
  4. If he escaped at the instigation of his friends, then his friends would become liable in law.BOOK, Allen, R.E., Socrates and Legal Obligation, U of Minnesota Press, 1981, 65–96,
The full reasoning behind his refusal to flee is the main subject of the Crito.BOOK, Weiss, R., Socrates Dissatisfied: An Analysis of Plato's Crito, Oxford University Press, 1998, 85, Enid Bloch, Hemlock poisoning and the death of Socrates: did Plato tell the truth? January 2001 Accessed November 23, 2017 In as much as Socrates drank hemlock willingly without complaint (having decided against fleeing), R.G. Frey (1978) has suggested in truth, Socrates chose to commit suicide.R.G. Frey (1978), Did Socrates commit suicide? Cambridge University Press : Royal Institute of Philosophy Philosophy Volume 53 No. 203 Accessed November 23, 2017Rahman Haghighat (2014) – Historical Memories in Culture, Politics and the Future: The Making of History and the World to Come p. 103 Peter Lang, 2014 Accessed November 25, 2017 {{ISBN|3-0343-1746-8}}



Socratic method

Perhaps his most important contribution to Western thought is his dialectic method 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 Plato in 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 a person would seek. The development and practice of this method is one of Socrates's most enduring contributions, and is a key factor in earning his mantle as the father of political philosophy, ethics or moral philosophy, and as a figurehead of all the central themes in Western philosophy. The Socratic method has often been considered as a defining element of American legal education.WEB,weblink The Decline of the Socratic Method at Harvard 78 Nebraska Law Review 1999,, 2016-11-26, 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 hypothesis elimination, in that better hypotheses are found by steadily identifying and eliminating those that lead to contradictions. It was designed to force one to examine one's own beliefs and the validity of such beliefs.An alternative interpretation of the dialectic is that it is a method for direct perception of the Form of the Good. Philosopher Karl Popper describes the dialectic as "the art of intellectual intuition, of visualising the divine originals, the Forms or Ideas, of unveiling the Great Mystery behind the common man's everyday world of appearances."Popper, K. (1962) The Open Society and its Enemies, Volume 1 Plato, London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, p133. In a similar vein, French philosopher Pierre Hadot suggests that the dialogues are a type of spiritual exercise. Hadot writes that "in Plato's view, every dialectical exercise, precisely because it is an exercise of pure thought, subject to the demands of the Logos, turns the soul away from the sensible world, and allows it to convert itself towards the Good."Hadot, P. (1995) Philosophy as a Way of Life, Oxford, Blackwells, p. 93.

Philosophical beliefs

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 presentation of ideas given in most of the dialogues may be the ideas of Socrates himself, but which have been subsequently deformed or changed by 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.JOURNAL, Cohn, Dorrit, Does Socrates Speak for Plato? Reflections on an Open Question, New Literary History, 32, 3, 2001, 485–500, 1080-661X, 10.1353/nlh.2001.0030, There is a degree of controversy inherent in the identifying of 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 has not proven easy, so it must be remembered that what is attributed to Socrates might actually be more the specific concerns of these two thinkers instead.The matter is complicated because 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 and 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 many of 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's assertion that the gods had singled him out as a divine emissary seemed to provoke irritation, if not outright ridicule. 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.Also, according to A. A. Long, "There should be no doubt that, despite his claim to know only that he knew nothing, Socrates had strong beliefs about the divine", and, citing Xenophon's Memorabilia, 1.4, 4.3,:
According to Xenophon, he was a teleologist who held that god arranges everything for the best.Long, AA., in BOOK, Ahbel-Rappe, S., Kamtekar, R., A Companion to Socrates, John Wiley & Sons, 2009, 59,weblink 978-1-4051-9260-6,
Socrates frequently says his ideas are not his own, but his teachers'. He mentions several influences: Prodicus the rhetor and Anaxagoras the philosopher. Perhaps surprisingly, Socrates claims to have been deeply influenced by two women besides his mother: he says that Diotima (cf. Plato's Symposium), a witch and priestess from Mantinea, taught him all he knows about eros, or love; and that Aspasia, the mistress of Pericles, taught him the art of rhetoric.Plato, Menexenus 235e John Burnet argued that his principal teacher was the Anaxagorean Archelaus but his ideas were as Plato described them; Eric A. Havelock, on the other hand, did not accept the view that Socrates's view was identical with that of Archelaus, in large part due to the reason of such anomalies and contradictions that have surfaced and "post-dated his death."{{clarify|date=May 2019|reason=What does "post-dated his death" mean here? What postdated who's death?}}BOOK, Essays in Ancient Greek Philosophy Volume Two, Anton, John P., SUNY Press, 1983, 978-0-87395-623-9, Albany, NY, 147–73, "The Socratic Problem: Some Second Thoughts" by Eric A. Havelock,

Socratic paradoxes

Many of the beliefs traditionally attributed to the historical Socrates have been characterized as "paradoxical" 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 or knowingly.
  • Virtue—all virtue—is knowledge.
  • Virtue is sufficient for happiness.
The term, "Socratic paradox" can also refer to a self-referential paradox, originating in Socrates's utterance, "what I do not know I do not think I know",Apology of Socrates 21d. often paraphrased as "I know that I know nothing."


The statement "I know that I know nothing" is often attributed to Socrates, based on a statement in Plato's Apology.Plato, Apology 21d; A. Andrea, J Overfield, The Human Record: Sources of Global History, Volume I: To 1500 (p. 116), Cengage Learning, 2015, {{ISBN|1-305-53746-7}}. The conventional interpretation of this is that Socrates's wisdom was limited to an awareness of his own ignorance. Socrates considered virtuousness to require or consist of phronēsis, "thought, sense, judgement, practical wisdom, [and] prudence."Oxford English Dictionary, Etymology for phronesis. "ϕρόνησις thought, sense, judgement, practical wisdom, prudence".T Engberg-Pedersen, Aristotle's Theory of Moral Insight (p. 236), Oxford University Press, 1983, {{ISBN|0-19-824667-6}}. Therefore, he believed that wrongdoing and behaviour that was not virtuous resulted from ignorance, and that those who did wrong knew no better.Amélie Rorty, Essays on Aristotle's Ethics (p. 267), University of California Press, 1980, {{ISBN|0-520-04041-4}}The one thing Socrates claimed to have knowledge of was "the art of love" (ta erôtikê). This assertion seems to be associated with the word erôtan, which means to ask questions. Therefore, Socrates is claiming to know about the art of love, insofar as he knows how to ask questions.Reeve, C.D.C., Plato on Love, Hackett Publishing, 2006, pp. xix–xx, {{ISBN|1-60384-406-6}}.G Rudebusch, Socrates, John Wiley & Sons, 2011, {{ISBN|1-4443-5870-7}}.The only time he actually claimed to be wise was within Apology, in which he says he is wise "in the limited sense of having human wisdom".D P Verene, Speculative Philosophy (p. 19), Lexington Books, 2009, {{ISBN|0-7391-3661-5}}. 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 his treatment of the young people who come to him for philosophical advice to the way midwives treat their patients, and the way matrimonial matchmakers act. He says that he himself is a true matchmaker (προμνηστικός promnestikós) in that he matches the young man to the best philosopher for his particular mind. However, he carefully distinguishes himself from a panderer (προᾰγωγός proagogos) or procurer. 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).Boys-Stones, G., Rowe, C., The Circle of Socrates: Readings in the First-Generation Socratics, Hackett Publishing, 2013, pp. 173–75.Vander Waerdt, PA., The Socratic Movement, Cornell University Press, 1994, pp. 200–02.In the Theaetetus, 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; they 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.Plato, Theaetetus.Guthrie, WKC., Socrates, Cambridge University Press, 1971, p. 126.


(File:Palermsoc.jpg|right|thumb|upright=0.7|Bust of Socrates in the Palermo Archaeological Museum)Socrates believed the best way for people to live was to focus on the pursuit of virtue rather than the pursuit, for instance, of material wealth.BOOK, Brickhouse, TC., Smith, N.D., Socrates on Trial, Oxford University Press, 1990, 165, 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.BOOK, Nichols, M.P., Socrates and the Political Community: An Ancient Debate, SUNY Press, 1987, 67, His actions lived up to this standard: in the end, Socrates accepted his death 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 there are certain virtues formed a common thread in Socrates's 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 "the unexamined life is not worth living [and] ethical virtue is the only thing that matters."BOOK, Duignan, B., The 100 Most Influential Philosophers of All Time, The Rosen Publishing Group, 2009, 33,


It is argued that Socrates believed "ideals belong in a world only the wise man can understand",Attributed to "Solomon" in BOOK, 100 Most Influential People of All Times for Smartphones and Mobile Devices, Mobile Reference, 2007, making the philosopher the only type of person suitable to govern others. In Plato's dialogue the Republic, Socrates openly objected to the democracy that ran Athens during his adult life. It was not only Athenian democracy: Socrates found short of ideal any government that did not conform to his presentation of a perfect regime 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's 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 once been a student and friend of Socrates. The Tyrants ruled for about a year before the Athenian democracy was reinstated, at which point it declared an amnesty for all recent events.Socrates's 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's 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's acceptance of his death sentence after his conviction 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 also objectionable; 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.Socrates's apparent respect for democracy is one of the themes emphasized in the 2008 play Socrates on Trial by Andrew David Irvine. Irvine argues that it was because of his loyalty to Athenian democracy that Socrates was willing to accept the verdict of his fellow citizens. As Irvine puts it, "During a time of war and great social and intellectual upheaval, Socrates felt compelled to express his views openly, regardless of the consequences. As a result, he is remembered today, not only for his sharp wit and high ethical standards, but also for his loyalty to the view that in a democracy the best way for a man to serve himself, his friends, and his city—even during times of war—is by being loyal to, and by speaking publicly about, the truth."Irvine, Andrew D. "Introduction," Socrates on Trial, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008, p. 19.


In the Dialogues of Plato, though Socrates sometimes seems to support a mystical side, discussing reincarnation and the mystery religions, this is generally attributed to Plato.BOOK, McPherran, M.L., The Religion of Socrates, Penn State Press, 1998, 268, Regardless, this view of Socrates 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, one comes to the Sea of Beauty or to the sight of "the beautiful itself" (211C); 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's 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. According to Olympiodorus the Younger in his Life of Plato,Olympiodorus the Younger, Life of Plato, in The Works of Plato: A New and Literal Version Chiefly from the Text of Stallbaum, p. 234, Bohm, 1854. Plato himself "received instruction from the writers of tragedy" 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 ever-interpretable nature of his writings, as he has been called a "dramatist of reason". What is more, the first word of nearly all Plato's works is a significant term for that respective dialogue, and is used with its many connotations in mind. Finally, the Phaedrus and the Symposium each allude to Socrates's 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 covertness we often find in Plato, appearing here and there couched in some enigmatic use of symbol and/or irony, may be at odds with the mysticism Plato's Socrates expounds in some other dialogues. These indirect methods may fail to satisfy some readers.Perhaps the most interesting facet of this is Socrates's reliance on what the Greeks called his "daimōnic 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 insanity that is a gift from the gods and gives us poetry, mysticism, love, and even philosophy itself. Alternately, the sign is often taken to be what we would call "intuition"; however, Socrates's characterization of the phenomenon as daimōnic may suggest that its origin is divine, mysterious, and independent of his own thoughts.Socrates practiced and advocated divination.BOOK,weblink J. Mikalson, Greek Popular Religion in Greek Philosophy, OUP Oxford, June 2010, 123, 978-0-19-161467-5, 2015-12-16, Xenophon was thought skilled at foretelling from sacrifices, and attributed many of his knowledges to Socrates within his writing "The Cavalry Commander".

Satirical playwrights

He was prominently lampooned in Aristophanes's comedy The Clouds, produced when Socrates was in his mid-forties; he said at his trial (according to Plato) that the laughter of the theater was a harder task to answer than the arguments of his accusers. Søren Kierkegaard believed 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. Other comic poets who lampooned Socrates include Mnesimachus and Ameipsias. In all of these, Socrates and the Sophists were criticized for "the moral dangers inherent in contemporary thought and literature".

Prose sources

Plato, Xenophon, and Aristotle are the main sources for the historical Socrates; however, Xenophon and Plato were students of Socrates, and they may idealize him; however, they wrote the only extended descriptions of Socrates that have come down to us in their complete form. Aristotle refers frequently, but in passing, to Socrates in his writings. Almost all of Plato's works center on Socrates. However, Plato's later works appear to be more his own philosophy put into the mouth of his mentor.

The Socratic dialogues

File:Socrates Botanic Gardens 1.jpg|thumb|right|Statue of Socrates in the Irish National Botanic GardensIrish National Botanic GardensThe Socratic Dialogues are a series of dialogues written by Plato and Xenophon in the form of discussions between Socrates and other persons of his time, or as discussions between Socrates's 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 an anglicized 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's 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.BOOK, Khan, C.H., Plato and the Socratic Dialogue: The Philosophical Use of a Literary Form, Cambridge University Press, 1998, 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 Plato are considered to be close to the spirit of Socrates, whereas the later works—including Phaedo and Republic—are considered to be possibly products of Plato's elaborations.BOOK, Morrison, D.R., The Cambridge Companion to Socrates, Cambridge University Press, 2011, 1,


Immediate influence

{{See also|Cyrenaics}}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 Alcibiades and Critias. Critias's cousin Plato would go on to found the Academy in 385 BC, which gained so much renown that "Academy" became the standard word for educational institutions in later European languages such as English, French, and Italian.BOOK, Ahbel-Rappe, S., Kamtekar, R., A Companion to Socrates, John Wiley & Sons, 2009, 306–09, Plato's protégé, another important figure of the Classical era, Aristotle went on to tutor Alexander the Great and also to found his own school in 335 BC—the Lyceum—whose name also now means an educational institution.BOOK, Magee, B, The Great Philosophers: An Introduction to Western Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 2000, 34, While "Socrates dealt with moral matters and took no notice at all of nature in general",BOOK, Carruccio, E., Mathematics And Logic in History And in Contemporary Thought, Transaction Publishers, 2006, 44, in his Dialogues, Plato would emphasize mathematics 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 extensive work in the fields of biology and physics.Socratic thought which challenged conventions, especially in stressing a simplistic way of living, became divorced from Plato's more detached and philosophical pursuits. This idea was inherited by one of Socrates's older students, Antisthenes, who became the originator of another philosophy in the years after Socrates's death: Cynicism.The idea of asceticism being 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—Stoicism when Zeno of Citium would discover Socrates's works and then learn from Crates, a Cynic philosopher.BOOK, Long, A.A., Stoic Studies, Cambridge University Press, 1996, 31–32,

Later historical influence

File:Sughrat.jpg|right|thumb|Depiction of Socrates by 13th century Seljuk illustrator ]]While some of the later contributions of Socrates to Hellenistic Era culture and philosophy as well as the Roman Era have 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 Kuzari by Jewish philosopher and rabbi Yehuda Halevi in which a Jew instructs the Khazar king about Judaism.BOOK, Hughes, Bettany, Bettany Hughes, The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2011, The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life, Al-Kindi, a well-known Arabic philosopher, introduced and tried to reconcile Socrates and Hellenistic philosophy to an Islamic audience,BOOK, von Dehsen, C., Philosophers and Religious Leaders, Routledge, 2013, referring to him by the name 'Suqrat'.Socrates influence grew in Western Europe during the fourteenth century as Plato's dialogues were made available in Latin by Marsilio Ficino and Xenophon's Socratic writings were translated by Basilios Bessarion.BOOK, Ahbel-Rappe, S., Kamtekar, R., A Companion to Socrates, John Wiley & Sons, 2009, xix–xx, Voltaire even 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 Regnault and The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David in the later 18th century.To this day, different versions of the Socratic method are still used in classroom and law school discourse to expose underlying issues in both subject and the speaker. He has been recognized with accolades ranging from frequent mentions in pop culture (such as the movie Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and a Greek rock band called Socrates Drank the Conium) to numerous busts in academic institutions in recognition of his contribution to education.Over the past century, numerous plays about Socrates have also focused on Socrates's life and influence. One of the most recent has been Socrates on Trial, a play based on Aristophanes's Clouds and Plato's Apology, Crito, and Phaedo, all adapted for modern performance.


Evaluation of and reaction to Socrates has been undertaken by both historians and philosophers from the time of his death to the present day with a multitude of conclusions and perspectives. Although he was not directly prosecuted for his connection to Critias, leader of the Spartan-backed Thirty Tyrants, and "showed considerable personal courage in refusing to submit to [them]", he was seen by some as a figure who mentored oligarchs who became abusive tyrants, and undermined Athenian democracy. The Sophistic movement that he railed at in life survived him, but by the 3rd century BC, was rapidly overtaken by the many philosophical schools of thought that Socrates influenced.BOOK, Wilson, E.R., The Death of Socrates: Hero, Villain, Chatterbox, Saint, Profile Books, 2007, 61–62, Socrates's death is considered iconic and his status as a martyr of philosophy overshadows most contemporary and posthumous criticism. However, Xenophon mentions Socrates's "arrogance" and that he was "an expert in the art of primping" or "self-presentation".BOOK, Danzig, G., Apologizing for Socrates: How Plato and Xenophon Created Our Socrates, Lexington Books, 2010, 66–67, Direct criticism of Socrates the man almost disappears after this time, 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.Some modern scholarship holds that, with so much of his own thought obscured and possibly altered by Plato, it is impossible to gain a clear picture of Socrates amid all the contradictory evidence. That both Cynicism and Stoicism, which carried heavy influence from Socratic thought, were unlike or even contrary to Platonism further illustrates this. The ambiguity and lack of reliability serves as the modern basis of criticism—that it is nearly impossible to know the real Socrates. Some controversy also exists about Socrates's attitude towards homosexualityW. K. C. Guthrie, Socrates, Cambridge University Press, 1971, p. 70. and as to whether or not he believed in the Olympian gods, was monotheistic, or held some other religious viewpoint.A.A. Long "How Does Socrates' Divine Sign Communicate with Him?", Chapter 5 in: A Companion to Socrates, John Wiley & Sons, 2009, p. 63. However, it is still commonly taught and held with little exception that Socrates is the progenitor of subsequent Western philosophy, to the point that philosophers before him are referred to as pre-Socratic.

In literature

  • Socrates is a major character in Mary Renault's historical novel The Last of the Wine. The book's protagonists, Alexias and Lysis, study under him in Athens.WEB,weblink Mary Renault's 'The Last of the Wine' Reviewed, Gomez, Alex, July 10, 2010, Banderas News, 2014-10-14,
  • A humorous version of the deceased Socrates appears in John Kendrick Bangs's comic novel A House-Boat on the Styx and its sequels.BOOK,weblink A House-Boat on the Styx, Bangs, John Kendrick, 1901, Harper & Bros., 164–70, 2014-10-14,

See also




  • BOOK, Brun, Jean, Socrate (sixth edition), Presses universitaires de France, 1978, 39–40, 978-2-13-035620-2, BOOK, May, Hope, On Socrates, Wadsworth, Belmont, CA, 2000, 978-0-534-57604-2, registration,weblink
  • BOOK, Ong, Walter, Orality and Literacy, Routledge, New York, 2002, 978-0-415-28129-4,
  • Kagan, Donald. The Fall of the Athenian Empire. First. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1987.
  • Pausanias, 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|0-674-99104-4}}. Vol. 4. Books VIII.22–X: {{ISBN|0-674-99328-4}}.
  • Thucydides; The Peloponnesian War. London, J.M. Dent; New York, E.P. Dutton. 1910. 
  • BOOK, Vlastos, Gregory, Socrates, Ironist and Moral Philosopher, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1991, 978-0-8014-9787-2,
  • Bernas, Richard, cond. Socrate. By Erik Satie. LTM/Boutique, 2006
  • JOURNAL, Bruell, C, 1994, On Plato's Political Philosophy, Review of Politics, 56, 2, 261–82, 10.1017/s003467050001843x,
  • 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.
  • BOOK, Socrates on Trial: A play based on Aristophanes's Clouds and Plato's Apology, Crito, and Phaedo, adapted for modern performance, Irvine, Andrew David, 2008, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Socrates on Trial (play), {{ISBN|978-0-8020-9783-5}} (cloth); {{ISBN|978-0-8020-9538-1}} (paper); {{ISBN|978-1-4426-9254-1}} (e-pub)
  • BOOK, Kamtekar, Rachana, Plato's Euthyphro, Apology, and Crito: Critical Essays, Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham, MD, 2004, 978-0-7425-3325-7,
  • BOOK, Kierkegaard, Søren, The Concept of Irony: with Constant Reference to Socrates, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1968, 978-0-253-20111-9,
  • BOOK, Levinson, Paul, The Plot to Save Socrates, Tor Books, New York, 2007, 978-0-7653-1197-9,
  • Luce, J.V. (1992). An Introduction to Greek Philosophy, Thames & Hudson, NY.
  • Maritain, J. (1930, 1991). Introduction to Philosophy, Christian Classics, Inc., Westminster, MD.
  • BOOK, Robinson, R, Plato's Earlier Dialectic, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1953, 978-0-19-824777-7, Ch. 2: "Elenchus", Ch. 3: "Elenchus: Direct and Indirect"
  • Taylor, C.C.W., Hare, R.M. & Barnes, J. (1998). Greek Philosophers â€“ Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, Oxford University Press, NY.
  • Taylor, C.C.W. (2001). Socrates: A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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