Socrates

(469-399 B.C.)



Reasons for Greatness:

    (1) His pupil, Plato

        -Plato wrote his Dialogues & Apologia

 

    (2) Became a threat to Athens' political stability

 

    (3) Dead seriousness re: his questioning

 

Starting point: Agnosticism: "One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing."

Ethical Dictum: "Know thyself." Man was the measure of all things.

4 Principles of the Socratic Method:

    (1) "The unexamined life is not worth living."

    (2) There are true principles of thought and action for good and happy lives.

    (3) The truth lies within. Only relentless self-examination will bring it out.

    (4) While no one can teach anyone else the basic principles of life, some                                   people-philosophers, teachers, or "gadflies"-can prod others so as to begin the process of    self-examination. Socrates, whose mother was a midwife, likened this process to midwifery.

The key=Dialogue

Socrates would inquire of a person's life philosophy, play dumb, and ask follow-up questions that would expose the irrationality of the person's reason for being.

From a jury of approximately 500 people, Socrates received the sentence of death by poisoning for corrupting the youth of Athens. He had undercut the polytheism of Athens by his rigorous method of examining the personal ethical values of the people of the city. He could have plea-bargained and spent the rest of his life in exile, but chose instead to face the issue squarely, convinced he had done nothing wrong, and so he drank the hemlock which the jailer gave him and ended his life as a martyr for the principle of rational inquiry.