Philosophers: 2: Socrates I Oxford Open Learning

Philosophers: 2: Socrates

The Life and Works of Socrates

Socrates was an ancient Greek philosopher, widely considered one of the most influential thinkers in Western philosophy. He is best known for his contributions to the field of ethics, although he also wrote on a variety of other topics, including politics, metaphysics, and epistemology (the theory of knowledge). He is credited with founding a method of inquiry used to explore philosophical questions and their answers – later to be known as The Socratic Method.

Socrates was born in Athens in the 5th century BCE. He was the son of Sophroniscus, a stonemason and sculptor, and Phaenarete, a midwife. Very little is known about his early life, but it is believed that he was educated in the same manner as other Athenian citizens, which included reading, writing, and music. His life’s work was devoted to understanding the nature of life and the pursuit of wisdom. He was known for his dialogue method of teaching, in which he asked questions of his students in order to help them come to their own conclusions about a topic. He also emphasised the importance of examining one’s beliefs and opinions in order to determine if they were truly valid.

The Apology

Socrates’ most famous work is probably his “Apology.” This work is an account of Socrates’s defence against charges of “corrupting the youth” and “not believing in the gods of the state.” It is also an exploration of the nature of justice and the ideal life.

The Apology is divided into three sections. In the first, Socrates defends himself against the charges. He argues that he has done nothing wrong and has only sought to help the young people of Athens by encouraging them to think for themselves. He also states that his pursuit of wisdom and knowledge is in accordance with the gods of the state. In the second part, he explains why he believes in his philosophy. He claims that he is guided by an inner “divine sign” and that he only speaks the truth. He also defends his philosophy of questioning and examining everything, stating that this is the only way to true knowledge. Finally, in the third part of the Apology, Socrates explains his view of the ideal life, arguing that one’s aim in life should be to become wise and virtuous. He also states that the only way to become wise is to constantly question and examine oneself and the world around them.

The Apology is a powerful, influential work that has shaped the Western philosophical tradition. It is a timeless work still debated and discussed today. Its ideas of questioning and examining everything, seeking knowledge, and striving for the ideal life still resonate.

Controversial Ideas

Socrates was renowned for his staunch commitment to truth and justice. He believed that the only way to determine the truth was through rigorous examination of evidence and argumentation. He also strongly opposed any kind of tyranny or injustice, and was known for standing up against powerful figures in government. In 399 BCE, Socrates was charged with corrupting the youth of Athens and impiety – from which came The Apology – or lack of respect for the gods. Despite his apology, which may in fact have worsened his case, Socrates was found guilty and sentenced to death by drinking a cup of hemlock. He accepted his fate, but is believed to have maintained his innocence until the very end.

Lasting Legacy

Socrates’ influence continues to be felt today in the fields of philosophy, ethics, and politics. His works have been studied and debated for centuries, and his teachings are still used in classrooms and universities around the world. He is remembered as one of the most influential philosophers in human history and his legacy lives on in the form of the Socratic Method and his contributions to the field of ethics.

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