When we think about philosophy Socrates is seen as most highlighted name in the history of philosophy. Being a Greek Philosopher he is considered as the key figure in development of civilization of the west. He was born 470 B.C.
“The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.”
Socrates – Republic 38c
He never left writings of his own. The material we get about is forwarded from one of his students Plato. Most of the things about Socrates are obtained through Plato. That’s why the possibility for embellishment is present however it is hard to measure. It is assumed that Plato could over-state Socrates to prove him a noble personality to be followed. Still the life of Socrates is considered as inspirational despite of this chance for embellishment.
Socrates married Xanthippe. The couple had three children. They spent a very good life with each other.
The Socratic Method
No one knows how he managed his living except the job he had done in army. Still he attracted a large number of young men. The youth mostly came to him for learning. So he had young students in remarkable numbers. His approach for teaching was that he always used self-inquiry method to demonstrate. He didn’t know the answer to most of the questions that he asked to his students. Actually he started the journey of exploration and learning whenever he asked a question from his students. Students having no answer to the Socrates question started to search for the answer. In this struggle they learned a lot of new things which the Socrates himself didn’t know. Actually this start of journey for learning was the thing to teach to the students. This full story demonstrates the Socratic Method. This was all about Socratic Method. His famous statement demonstrates well the Socratic Method. As he said;
“As for me, all I know is that I know nothing,”
– Republic, 354c
Plato tells how thirty dictators wanted to be involved in unfair execution of Leon of Salamis. However, Socrates was having opposite views to that of those dictators. He was ready to execute himself rather than getting involved in execution of Leon and supporting the view of those tyrants.
Those days Athen’s state was undergoing political chaos after suffering an embarrassing beat in the Peloponnesian war. This aggravated thoughts of patriotism and devotion to the Athenian state. However felt himself to test his own level of patriotism and devotion. He was also ready to criticize narrow sectarian viewpoint and conceptions of justice.
This view of Socrates is clearly reflected from his statement as quoted by Plutarch:
“I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.”—(Socrates)
His continuous questioning and criticism enlarged the number of his political enemies. His position started weakening day by day. A famous friend in the history named Chaerephon asked a question from Oracle. He asked, “Is there anyone wiser than Socrates?” Oracle replied that there was no one wiser than Socrates.
He thought himself as ignorant because he always felt that he knew nothing at all. He spoke to many poets and dignitaries and he found that most of the people who think themselves as they know everything, actually they don’t know anything. So he felt satisfied that even though he doesn’t know anything but he still knows well about himself and his own weaknesses. In other words we can say he was having self-awareness that other people were not having. That was the point that made Socrates admitted that Oracle was right about him. This view of Socrates is well reflected from his these words;
“I am wiser than this man, for neither of us appears to know anything great and good; but he fancies he knows something, although he knows nothing; whereas I, as I do not know anything, so I do not fancy I do. In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than he, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know.” −(Socrates)
He is sometimes portrayed as a saint, a saint having a good sense of self awareness. He tended to have quick anger. Another interesting story concerning was that he along with his students visited a soothsayer. On inquiry from soothsayer about Socrates, she replied that he was a man having negative qualities of arrogance, self-esteem, panic and abhorrence. This statement of soothsayer made his students hyper as they never observed such things in Socrates. But she still continued arguing on Socrates and further she added that however true, Socrates has this individuality, but not like others, he is also capable of rising above them and keep them locked away.
Trial and Execution of Socrates:
He unconventional political perspective and his tendency to prove ignorance of other people created a large number of his enemies. Subsequent to this he was arrested and his trial was started. This trial was exaggerated in the dialogues of Plato. Plato drawn a picture of Socrates who is enough brave to face the death for his commitment to the truth. Before his death, he said the memorable words;
“The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways — I to die and you to live. Which is the better, only God knows.”
He was blamed to change the minds of youth of Athens and his influence on youth was considered harmful for Athens. So they warned Socrates to abandon his proclamation and accept the verdict of majority of Athens. Being loyal to his own verdict or truth he refused to abandon and he accepted death penalty instead. His execution was carried by hemlock poison 399 B.C. Socrates himself accepted the death and he himself drank the poison and proved his loyalty with his verdict. He didn’t have any wish for escape or life. So it was obvious that he was satisfied with what he accepted. He also had feelings for his social links. His last words were;
“Crito, we owe a rooster to Asclepius. Please, don’t forget to pay the debt.” Asclepius was the Greek god for curing illness.
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