Another source for the historical Socrates is the soldier-historian, Xenophon. Xenophon was a practical man whose ability to recognize philosophical issues is almost imperceptible, so it is plausible that his Socrates appears as such a practical and helpful advisor because that is the side of Socrates Xenophon witnessed. Although Xenophon tends to moralize and does not follow the superior conventions introduced by Thucydides, still it is sometimes argued that, having had no philosophical axes to grind, Xenophon may have presented a more accurate portrait of Socrates than Plato does.
But two considerations have always weakened that claim: He left Athens in on an expedition to Persia and, for a variety of reasons mercenary service for Thracians and Spartans; exile , never resided in Athens again.
And now a third is in order. Philosophers have usually privileged the account of Socrates given by their fellow philosopher, Plato. Plato was about twenty-five when Socrates was tried and executed, and had probably known the old man most of his life. The extant sources agree that Socrates was often to be found where youths of the city spent their time. The dialogues have dramatic dates that fall into place as one learns more about their characters and, despite incidental anachronisms, it turns out that there is more realism in the dialogues than most have suspected.
It does not follow, however, that Plato represented the views and methods of Socrates or anyone, for that matter as he recalled them, much less as they were originally uttered. There are a number of cautions and caveats that should be in place from the start. Even when a specific festival or other reference fixes the season or month of a dialogue, or birth of a character, one should imagine a margin of error.
Although it becomes obnoxious to use circa or plus-minus everywhere, the ancients did not require or desire contemporary precision in these matters. All the children born during a full year, for example, had the same nominal birthday, accounting for the conversation at Lysis b, odd by contemporary standards, in which two boys disagree about who is the elder.
This is a way of asking a popular question, Why do history of philosophy? One might reply that our study of some of our philosophical predecessors is intrinsically valuable , philosophically enlightening and satisfying. The truly great philosophers, and Plato was one of them, are still capable of becoming our companions in philosophical conversation, our dialectical partners.
Because he addressed timeless, universal, fundamental questions with insight and intelligence, our own understanding of such questions is heightened. That explains Plato, one might say, but where is Socrates in this picture? Is he interesting merely as a predecessor to Plato? That again is the Socratic problem. Inconsistencies among the dialogues seem to demand explanation, though not all philosophers have thought so Shorey Most famously, the Parmenides attacks various theories of forms that the Republic , Symposium , and Phaedo develop and defend.
In some dialogues e. There are differences on smaller matters as well. A related problem is that some of the dialogues appear to develop positions familiar from other philosophical traditions e. Three centuries of efforts to solve the Socratic problem are summarized in the following supplementary document:. Contemporary efforts recycle bits and pieces—including the failures—of these older attempts.
Until relatively recently in modern times, it was hoped that confident elimination of what could be ascribed purely to Socrates would leave standing a coherent set of doctrines attributable to Plato who appears nowhere in the dialogues as a speaker. Many philosophers, inspired by the nineteenth century scholar Eduard Zeller, expect the greatest philosophers to promote grand, impenetrable schemes.
Nothing of the sort was possible for Socrates, so it remained for Plato to be assigned all the positive doctrines that could be extracted from the dialogues. In the latter half of the twentieth century, however, there was a resurgence of interest in who Socrates was and what his own views and methods were. The result is a narrower, but no less contentious, Socratic problem.
Two strands of interpretation dominated views of Socrates in the twentieth century Griswold ; Klagge and Smith Although there has been some healthy cross-pollination and growth since the mid s, the two were so hostile to one another for so long that the bulk of the secondary literature on Socrates, including translations peculiar to each, still divides into two camps, hardly reading one another: The literary-contextual study of Socrates, like hermeneutics more generally, uses the tools of literary criticism—typically interpreting one complete dialogue at a time; its European origins are traced to Heidegger and earlier to Nietzsche and Kierkegaard.
The analytic study of Socrates, like analytic philosophy more generally, is fueled by the arguments in the texts—typically addressing a single argument or set of arguments, whether in a single text or across texts; its origins are in the Anglo-American philosophical tradition.
Hans-Georg Gadamer — was the doyen of the hermeneutic strand, and Gregory Vlastos — of the analytic. Thus terms, arguments, characters, and in fact all elements in the dialogues should be addressed in their literary context.
For both varieties of contextualism, the Platonic dialogues are like a brilliant constellation whose separate stars naturally require separate focus. Marking the maturity of the literary contextualist tradition in the early twenty-first century is a greater diversity of approaches and an attempt to be more internally critical see Hyland Beginning in the s, Vlastos , 45—80 recommended a set of mutually supportive premises that together provide a plausible framework in the analytic tradition for Socratic philosophy as a pursuit distinct from Platonic philosophy.
The first premise marks a break with a tradition of regarding Plato as a dialectician who held his assumptions tentatively and revised them constantly; rather,. The evidence Vlastos uses varies for this claim, but is of several types: The result of applying the premises is a firm list contested, of course, by others of ten theses held by Socrates, all of which are incompatible with the corresponding ten theses held by Plato , 47— Many analytic ancient philosophers in the late twentieth century mined the gold Vlastos had uncovered, and many of those who were productive in the developmentalist vein in the early days went on to constructive work of their own see Bibliography.
It is a risky business to say where ancient philosophy is now, but an advantage of an entry in a dynamic reference work is that authors are allowed, nay, encouraged to update their entries to reflect recent scholarship and sea changes in their topics. To use them in that way is to announce in advance the results of a certain interpretation of the dialogues and to canonize that interpretation under the guise of a presumably objective order of composition—when in fact no such order is objectively known.
And it thereby risks prejudicing an unwary reader against the fresh, individual reading that these works demand. As in any peace agreement, it takes some time for all the combatants to accept that the conflict has ended—but that is where we are.
In short, one is now more free to answer, Who was Socrates really? In the smaller column on the right are dates of major events and persons familiar from fifth century Athenian history. Although the dates are as precise as allowed by the facts, some are estimated and controversial Nails Assuming that his stoneworker father, Sophroniscus, kept to the conventions, he carried the infant around the hearth, thereby formally admitting him into the family, five days after he was born, named him on the tenth day, presented him to his phratry a regional hereditary association and took responsibility for socializing him into the various institutions proper to an Athenian male.
Athens was a city of numerous festivals, competitions, and celebrations, including the Panathenaea which attracted visitors to the city from throughout the Mediterranean. Like the Olympics, the Panathenaea was celebrated with special splendor at four-year intervals. This he delivered to Socrates in the presence of witnesses, instructing Socrates to present himself before the king archon within four days for a preliminary hearing the same magistrate would later preside at the pre-trial examination and the trial.
At the end of the Theaetetus , Socrates was on his way to that preliminary hearing. As a citizen, he had the right to countersue, the right to forgo the hearing, allowing the suit to proceed uncontested, and the right to exile himself voluntarily, as the personified laws later remind him Crito 52c. Socrates availed himself of none of these rights of citizenship. Rather, he set out to enter a plea and stopped at a gymnasium to talk to some youngsters about mathematics and knowledge.
This preliminary hearing designated the official receipt of the case and was intended to lead to greater precision in the formulation of the charge. In Athens, religion was a matter of public participation under law, regulated by a calendar of religious festivals; and the city used revenues to maintain temples and shrines.
Evidence for irreverence was of two types: Socrates did not believe in the gods of the Athenians indeed, he had said on many occasions that the gods do not lie or do other wicked things, whereas the Olympian gods of the poets and the city were quarrelsome and vindictive ; Socrates introduced new divinities indeed, he insisted that his daimonion had spoken to him since childhood. Meletus handed over his complaint, and Socrates entered his plea. Socrates had the right to challenge the admissibility of the accusation in relation to existing law, but he did not, so the charge was published on whitened tablets in the agora and a date was set for the pre-trial examination.
From this point, word spread rapidly, probably accounting for the spike of interest in Socratic conversations recorded Symposium a—b. At the pre-trial examination, Meletus paid no court fees because it was considered a matter of public interest to prosecute irreverence.
Unlike closely timed jury trials, pre-trial examinations encouraged questions to and by the litigants, to make the legal issues more precise. This procedure had become essential because of the susceptibility of juries to bribery and misrepresentation.
Spectators gathered along with the jury Apology 25a for a trial that probably lasted most of the day, each side timed by the water clock. For example, there are no indications in the Greek text at 35d and 38b that the two votes were taken; and there are no breaks at 21a or 34b for witnesses who may have been called.
Though Socrates denied outright that he studied the heavens and what is below the earth, his familiarity with the investigations of natural philosophers and his own naturalistic explanations make it no surprise that the jury remained unpersuaded.
And, seeing Socrates out-argue Meletus, the jury probably did not make fine distinctions between philosophy and sophistry. Socrates three times took up the charge that he corrupted the young, insisting that, if he corrupted them, he did so unwillingly; but if unwillingly, he should be instructed, not prosecuted Apology 25e—26a.
The jury found him guilty. By his own argument, however, Socrates could not blame the jury, for it was mistaken about what was truly in the interest of the city cf. Theaetetus d—e and thus required instruction. In a last-minute capitulation to his friends, he offered to allow them to pay a fine of six times his net worth Xenophon Oeconomicus 2.
The jury rejected the proposal. It is more likely, however, that superstitious jurors were afraid that the gods would be angry if they failed to execute a man found guilty of irreverence.
Sentenced to death, Socrates reflected that it might be a blessing: While the sacred ship was on its journey to Delos, no executions were allowed in the city. Although the duration of the annual voyage varied with conditions, Xenophon says it took thirty-one days in Memorabilia 4. Xanthippe commiserated with Socrates that he was about to enjoy his last conversation with his companions; then, in the ritual lamentation expected of women, was led home.
After meeting with his family again in the late afternoon, he rejoined his companions. The poisoner described the physical effects of the Conium maculatum variety of hemlock used for citizen executions Bloch , then Socrates cheerfully took the cup and drank.
Allusions to Socrates abound in literature, history, and political tracts, and he has been a subject for artists since ancient times. Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob. Richard, The Founders and the Classics. I found this [Socratic] method the safest for myself and very embarrassing to those against whom I used it; therefore, I took delight in it, practiced it continually, and grew very artful and expert in drawing people, even of superior knowledge, into concessions the consequences of which they did not foresee, entangling them in difficulties out of which they could not extricate themselves, and so obtaining victory that neither myself nor my causes always deserved.
Like Benjamin Franklin, the English romantic era poets were taken with Socrates as a model for moral behavior and pressed the comparison with Jesus. I can remember but two—Socrates and Jesus. In contemporary political life, and internationally, Socrates is invoked for widely variant purposes. Equally contemporary, but contemptuous of Socrates, is the introduction of the Al Qaeda Training Manual Department of Justice translation, ellipses in original:.
The confrontation that we are calling for with the apostate regimes does not know Socratic debates …, Platonic ideals …, nor Aristotelian diplomacy. But it knows the dialogue of bullets, the ideals of assassination, bombing, and destruction, and the diplomacy of the cannon and machine-gun. Philosophers and students of philosophy with a desire to see how Socrates is viewed outside the discipline might wish to consult the following supplementary document:. Who was Socrates really?
Aristophanes, Xenophon, and Plato 2. Three centuries of efforts to solve the Socratic problem are summarized in the following supplementary document: Early Attempts to Solve the Socratic Problem Contemporary efforts recycle bits and pieces—including the failures—of these older attempts.
The Twentieth Century Until relatively recently in modern times, it was hoped that confident elimination of what could be ascribed purely to Socrates would leave standing a coherent set of doctrines attributable to Plato who appears nowhere in the dialogues as a speaker. Analytic developmentalism [ 6 ] Beginning in the s, Vlastos , 45—80 recommended a set of mutually supportive premises that together provide a plausible framework in the analytic tradition for Socratic philosophy as a pursuit distinct from Platonic philosophy.
Finally, Plato puts into the mouth of Socrates only what Plato himself believes at the time he writes each dialogue. When Socrates was born in , a Persian invasion had been decisively repulsed at Plataea, and the Delian League that would grow into the Athenian empire had already been formed.
After an initial battle, a long siege reduced the population to cannibalism before it surrendered Thucydides 2. As the army made its way home, it engaged in battle near Spartolus and suffered heavy losses Thucydides 2. Socrates distinguished himself there by saving the life and armor of the wounded Alcibiades Plato, Symposium d—e. When the army finally returned to Athens in May of , nearly three years had elapsed since its deployment.
Soon after his return, Socrates was accused by a comic playwright of helping Euripides to write his tragedies, a claim that was to be repeated at least twice more, by other comedy writers, on the Athenian stage. This was another defeat for the Athenian army which, while already under attack from Boeotian footsoldiers, was surprised by a troop of cavalry. Any anonymity Socrates may have enjoyed came to an abrupt end at the annual Dionysian festival in the spring of In the comedy category, at least two of the plays involved Socrates: Plato sets a dialogue about the etymologies of words [ Cratylus ] upon his return.
Socrates, so far as we know, did not return to war again. Athens and Sparta entered into a treaty named for Nicias that—while never completely effective—allowed Attica to remain free of Spartan invasion and crop-burnings for several years.
Again education is a central theme, but so are the democracy and Eleusinian Mystery religion. From the fact that they named their first son Lamprocles, it has been assumed both that her father was named Lamprocles and that her dowry was enough to provide for her needs. Meanwhile, Alcibiades persuaded the Assembly, over prescient objections from Nicias Thucydides 6.
Both Nicias and Alcibiades, along with Lamachus, were elected to command. Since Hermes was the god of travel, the city feared a conspiracy against the democracy. A commission was formed to investigate not only the herm-smashing, but all crimes of irreverence asebeia that could be discovered, offering rewards for information. In a climate of near-hysteria over three months, accusations led to executions including summary executions , exile, torture, and imprisonment affecting hundreds of people, some of whom were close to Socrates Alcibiades, Phaedrus, Charmides, Critias, Eryximachus, and others.
He was not relieved, but reinforcements were sent—too few, too late. The war in Sicily ended in complete and humiliating defeat. Spring brought a new attack on Socrates by Aristophanes Birds , lines —3, —5. Plato sets a dialogue between Socrates and a rhapsode before the news of the defeat reached Athens [ Ion ] , while the city—short of military leaders—was trying to attract foreign generals to help with the war.
To understand Socrates and his thought, one must turn primarily to the works of Plato , whose dialogues are thought the most informative source about Socrates's life and philosophy,  and also Xenophon. 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: 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. Also, Xenophon, being an historian, is a more reliable witness to the historical Socrates.
It is a matter of much debate over which Socrates it is whom 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.
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.
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. Within the Metaphysics , he states Socrates was occupied with the search for moral virtues, being the "first to search for universal definitions for them".
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 accepting payment for teaching and 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. Two fragments are extant of the writings by Timon of Phlius pertaining to Socrates,  although Timon is known to have written to ridicule and lampoon philosophy. 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.
The 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.
The year of birth of Socrates stated is an assumed date,  or estimate,  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. Socrates was born in Alopeke , and belonged to the tribe Antiochis. His father was Sophroniscus , a sculptor, or stonemason. Socrates first worked 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.
Xenophon reports that because youths were not allowed to enter the Agora , they used to gather in workshops surrounding it. Most notable among them was Simon the Shoemaker. In the monologue of the Apology , Socrates states he was active for Athens in the battles of Amphipolis , Delium , and Potidaea. Socrates's exceptional service at Delium is also mentioned in the Laches by the General after whom the dialogue is named b.
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. During , he participated as a member of the Boule.
According to Xenophon, Socrates was the Epistates for the debate,  but Delebecque and Hatzfeld think this is an embellishment, because Xenophon composed the information after Socrates's death.
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. 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.
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. 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,  and some scholars interpret his trial as an expression of political infighting. Claiming loyalty to his city, Socrates clashed with the current course of Athenian politics and society. 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.
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: Socrates realized the Oracle was correct; 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: Robin Waterfield suggests that Socrates was a voluntary scapegoat; his death was the purifying remedy for Athens' misfortunes.
In this view, the token of appreciation for Asclepius the Greek god for curing illness would represent a cure for Athens' ailments. 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 in concurrence with modern descriptions. 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 a6 Phaedo.
According to Phaedo 61c—69e ,  Socrates states that "[a]ll of philosophy is training for death". Socrates last words are thought to be ironic C. Gill ,  or sincere J. Crito, we owe a rooster to Asclepius. Please, don't forget to pay the debt. Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius, make this offering to him and do not forget. 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:. The full reasoning behind his refusal to flee is the main subject of the Crito. Frey has suggested in truth, Socrates chose to commit suicide. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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. According to Xenophon, he was a teleologist who held that god arranges everything for the best. 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: 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.
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. 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: 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",  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. Therefore, Socrates is claiming to know about the art of love, insofar as he knows how to ask questions.
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". 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 a , 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. This distinction is echoed in Xenophon's Symposium 3. 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. 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. 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. 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.
It is argued that Socrates believed "ideals belong in a world only the wise man can understand",  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.
Socrates's apparent respect for democracy is one of the themes emphasized in the 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.
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. 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" C ; 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 ,  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. These indirect methods may fail to satisfy some readers. 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. Today, such a voice would be classified under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a command hallucination. Socrates practiced and advocated divination.
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.
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".
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 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: 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?
Socrates saw writing in the same way: writing cannot be used as a sort of standalone memory bank because people who read a text will only have a partial understanding of the author’s meaning, and therefore should not be taken seriously.
Socrates ( BCE) was a Greek Philosopher who thought and taught through argumentative dialogue, or dialectic. Socrates did not write down any of his thoughts, however his dialogues were recorded by his student and protégé, the philosopher Plato ( – BCE).
Socrates on the Invention of Writing and the Relationship of Writing to Memory (Circa BCE) In the Phaedrus, written circa BCE, Plato recorded Socrates's discussion of the Egyptian myth of the creation of writing. Plato, The Phaedrus – a dialogue between Socrates and Phaedrus written down by the pupil of Socrates, Plato, in approximately BC.
In the dialogue, Socrates recounts the story of the god Theuth, or Ammon, who offers the king Thamus the gift of letters: This, said Theuth, will make the Egyptians wiser and give them better memories; it is a specific both for the memory and for the wit. Aristophanes did not stop accusing Socrates in when Clouds placed third behind another play in which Socrates was mentioned as barefoot; rather, he soon began writing a revision, which he published but never produced.