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Sócrates





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Socrates (Greek: Σωκράτης, invariably anglicized as [ˈsɔkɹətiːz], Sǒcratēs; circa 470–399 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher who is widely credited for laying the foundation for Western philosophy. The most important source of information concerning Socrates is Plato. Plato's dialogues portray Socrates as a teacher who denies having disciples, as a man of reason who obeys a divine voice in his head, and a pious man who is executed for the state's own expediency. Socrates disparages the pleasures of the senses, yet is excited by beauty; he is devoted to the education of the citizens of Athens, yet indifferent to his own sons. He is often held to be the founder of Western philosophy, and its most influential practitioner.

The trial and execution of Socrates was the climax of his career and the central event of the dialogues of Plato. According to Plato, both were unnecessary. Socrates admits in court that he could have avoided the trial by abandoning philosophy and going home to mind his own business. After his conviction, he could have avoided the death penalty by escaping with the help of his friends. The reason for his cooperation with the state's mandate forms a valuable philosophical insight in its own right, and is best articulated by the dialogues themselves, especially in his dialogue with Crito.

Life
Details about Socrates are derived from three contemporary sources: the dialogues of Plato, the plays of Aristophanes, and the dialogues of Xenophon. There is no evidence that Socrates wrote anything himself.

Aristophanes' play The Clouds portrays Socrates as a clown who teaches his students how to bamboozle their way out of debt. Most of Aristophanes' works, however, function as parodies. Thus one should not take his portrayal of Socrates at face value.

According to Plato, Socrates' father was Sophroniscus and his mother Phaenarete, a midwife. Socrates married Xanthippe, who was much younger than her husband. She bore him three sons, Lamprocles, Sophroniscus and Menexenus. Socrates was executed when the boys were all quite young. His friend Crito criticized him for abandoning his sons when he refused to try to escape before his execution.

It is unclear how Socrates earned a living. According to Timon of Phlius and later sources, Socrates took over the profession of stonemasonry from his father. There is evidence that he crafted statues of the Three Graces that stood near the Acropolis until the second century CE. According to Xenophon's Symposium, Socrates is reported as saying he devotes himself only to what he regards as the most important art or occupation: discussing philosophy. Aristophanes portrays Socrates as accepting payment for teaching and running a sophist school with Chaerephon, in The Clouds, while in Plato's Apology and Symposium and 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.

Several of Plato's dialogues refer to Socrates' military service. Socrates says he served in the Athenian army during three campaigns: at Potidaea, Amphipolis, and Delium. In the Symposium Alcibiades describes Socrates' valour in the battles of Potidaea and Delium, recounting how Socrates saved his life in the former battle (219e-221b). Socrates' exceptional service at Delium is also mentioned in the Laches, by the general the dialogue is named after (181b). In the Apology Socrates compares his military service to his courtroom troubles, and says that anyone on the jury who thinks he ought to retreat from philosophy must also think that soldiers should retreat when it looks like they will be killed in battle.

Socrates lived during the time of the transition from the height of the Athenian Empire to its decline with the defeat by Sparta and its allies in the Peloponnesian War. At a time when Athens was seeking to stabilize and recover from its humiliating 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 his trial is interpreted by some scholars to be an expression of political infighting.

Despite claiming death-defying loyalty to his city, Socrates' pursuit of virtue and his strict adherence to truth clashed with the current course of Athenian politics and society. Here it is telling to refer to Thucydides: "Applause, in a word, went to one who got in first with some evil act, and to him who cheered on another to attempt some crime that he was not thinking of."[1] He praises Sparta, arch rival to Athens, directly and indirectly in various dialogs. But perhaps the most historically accurate of Socrates' offences to the city was his position as a social and moral critic. Rather than upholding a status quo and accepting the development of immorality within his region, Socrates worked to undermine the collective notion of "might makes right" so common to Greece during this period. Plato refers to Socrates as the gadfly of the state, insofar as he irritated the establishment with considerations of justice and the pursuit of goodness. His attempts to improve the Athenian's allegiance to justice may have been the source of his execution.

According to Plato's Apology, Socrates' life as the "gadfly" of Athens began when his friend Chaerephon asked the oracle at Delphi if anyone was wiser than Socrates; the Oracle responded that none was wiser than Socrates. Socrates believed that what the Oracle had said was a riddle, considering there is no record of the oracle ever giving individuals praise for their achievements or knowledge. He proceeded to test the riddle through approaching men who were considered to be wise by the people of Athens. He questioned the men of Athens about their knowledge of good, beauty, and virtue. Finding that they knew nothing and yet believed themselves to know much, Socrates came to the conclusion that he was wise only in so far as "that what I don't know, I don't think I know." Socrates' paradoxical wisdom made the prominent Athenians he publicly questioned look foolish, turning them against him and leading to accusations of wrongdoing.

He was nevertheless found guilty for corrupting the youth of Athens and sentenced to death by drinking a mix of the poisonous hemlock. Socrates turned down the pleas of Crito to attempt an escape from prison. After drinking the poison, he was instructed to walk around until his limbs felt heavy. After lying 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. Shortly before dying, Socrates spoke his last words to Crito saying, "Crito, we owe a ****** to Asclepius. Please, don't forget to pay the debt." Asclepius was the Greek god for curing illness, and its likely that Socrates' last words were implied to mean that death is the cure, and freedom, of the soul from the body. The Roman philosopher Seneca attempted to emulate Socrates' death by hemlock when forced to commit suicide by the Emperor Nero.

According to Xenophon and Plato, Socrates had an opportunity to escape, as his followers were able to bribe the prison guards. After escaping, Socrates would have had to flee from Athens. However, Socrates refused to escape for several reasons. 1. He believed that such a flight would indicate a fear of death, which he believed no true philosopher has. 2. Even if he did leave, he, and his teaching, would fare no better in another country. 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 'contract' with the state, and by so doing harming it, an act contrary to Socratic principle. The full reasoning behind his refusal to flee is the main subject of the Crito.

According to Xenophon's story of Socrates' defense to the jury, Socrates' purposefully gives a defiant defense to the jury because "he believed he would be better off dead." Xenophon's explanation goes on to describe a defense by Socrates that explains the rigors of old age, and how Socrates will be glad to circumvent these by being sentenced to death. It is also understood that Socrates not only wished to avoid the pains of old age, but also to die because he "actually believed the right time had come for him to die."

Philosophy
Socratic method
Perhaps his most important contribution to Western thought is his dialectic method of inquiry, known as the Socratic Method or method of elenchos, 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, you would ask a question and when finding the answer, you would also have an answer to your problem. This led to the beginning of the Scientific Method, in which the first step says to name the problem in the form of a question. For this, Socrates is customarily regarded as the father of political philosophy and ethics or moral philosophy, and as a fountainhead of all the main themes in Western philosophy in general. (The method may have been suggested by Zeno of Elea, but Socrates refined it and applied it to ethical problems.)

In this 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 which lead to contradictions. It was designed to force one to examine one's own beliefs and the validity of such beliefs. In fact, Socrates once said, "I know you won't believe me, but the highest form of Human Excellence is to question oneself and others."

The beliefs of Socrates, as opposed to those of Plato, are difficult to discern. Little in the way of concrete evidence demarcates the two. The lengthy theories given in most of the dialogues are those of Plato, and it is thought that Plato so adapted the Socratic style as to make the literary character and the philosopher himself impossible to demarcate. Others argue that he did have his own theories and beliefs, but there is much controversy over 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 is not easy and it must be remembered that what is attributed to Socrates might more closely reflect the specific concerns of these thinkers.

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 his fellow Athenians. When he is on trial for heresy and corrupting the young, he uses his method of elenchos to demonstrate to the jurors that their moral values are wrong-headed. He tells them that they are concerned with their families, careers, and political responsibilities when they ought to be worried about the "welfare of their souls." Socrates' belief in the immortality of the soul, and his conviction that the gods had singled him out as a divine emissary seemed to provoke if not annoyance, at least ridicule. Socrates also questioned the Sophistic doctrine that arete (that is, 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.

Socrates frequently says that his ideas are not his own, but his teachers'. He mentions several influences: Prodicus the rhetor and Anaxagoras the scientist. Perhaps surprisingly, Socrates claims to have been deeply influenced by two women besides his mother. He says that Diotima, 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 funeral orations. John Burnet argued that his principal teacher was the Anaxagorean Archelaus but that his ideas were as Plato described them; Eric A. Havelock, on the other hand, considered Socrates' association with the Anaxagoreans to be evidence of Plato's philosophical separation from Socrates.

Socrates seems to have often said that his wisdom was limited to an awareness of his own ignorance. Socrates may have believed that wrongdoing was a consequence of ignorance, that those who did wrong knew no better. The one thing Socrates consistently claimed to have knowledge of was "the art of love" which he connected with the concept of "the love of wisdom", i.e., philosophy. He never actually claimed to be wise, only to understand the path that a lover of wisdom must take in pursuing it. It is debatable whether Socrates believed that 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 himself to a true matchmaker (προμνηστικός), as distinguished from a panderer (προᾰγωγός). 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 practise the art of pandering. For his part as a philosophical interlocutor, he leads his respondent to a clearer conception of wisdom, although he claims that he is not himself a teacher (Apology). His role, he claims, is more properly to be understood as analogous to a midwife (μαῖα). 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). Perhaps significantly, he points out that midwives are barren due to age, and women who have never given birth are unable to become midwives; a truly barren woman 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 that the best way for people to live was to focus on self-development rather than the pursuit of material wealth. (Gross 2). He always invited others to try to concentrate more on friendships and a sense of true community, for Socrates felt that this was the best way for people to grow together as a populace. His actions lived up to this: 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 humans possessed certain virtues formed a common thread in Socrates' 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 "virtue was the most valuable of all possessions; the ideal life was spent in search of the Good. Truth lies beneath the shadows of existence, and that it is the job of the philosopher to show the rest how little they really know." (Solomon 44) Ultimately, virtue relates to the form of the Good; to truly be good and not just act with "right opinion"; one must come to know the unchanging Good in itself. In the Republic, he describes the "divided line", a continuum of ignorance to knowledge with the Good on top of it all; only at the top of this line do we find true good and the knowledge of such.

It is often argued that Socrates believed "ideals belong in a world that only the wise man can understand", making the philosopher the only type of person suitable to govern others. According to Plato's account, Socrates was in no way subtle about his particular beliefs on government. He openly objected to the democracy that ran Athens during his adult life. It was not only Athenian democracy: Socrates objected to any form of government that did not conform to his ideal of a perfect republic led by philosophers (Solomon 49), and Athenian government was far from that. During the last years of Socrates' 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 been a student 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. Four years later, it acted to silence the voice of Socrates.

This argument is often denied, and the question is one of the biggest philosophical debates when trying to determine what, exactly, it was that Socrates believed. The strongest argument of those who claim that Socrates did not actually believe in the idea of philosopher kings is Socrates' constant refusal to enter into politics or participate in government of any sort; he often stated that 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' acceptance of his death sentence, after his conviction by the Boule (Senate), can also be seen to support this view. It is often claimed that 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 that Socrates thought that the rule of the Thirty Tyrants was at least as objectionable as democracy; 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.[3] Judging by his actions, he considered the rule of the Thirty Tyrants less legitimate than that of the democratic senate who sentenced him to death.

In the dialogues of Plato, Socrates often seems to purport a mystical side, discussing reincarnation and the mystery religions; however, this is generally attributed to Plato. Regardless, this 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 and Republic, one comes to the Sea of Beauty or to the sight of the form of the Good in an experience akin to mystical revelation; 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' 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 an artist-philosopher, whose meaning does not volunteer itself to the passive reader nor again the lifelong scholar. Plato himself was a playwright 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 interpretable nature of his writings. What is more, the first word of nearly all Plato's works is a, or the, significant term for that respective study, and is used with the commonly approved definition in mind. Finally, the Phaedrus and the Symposium each allude to Socrates' 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 mysticism we often find in Plato, appearing here and there and couched in some enigmatic tract of symbol and irony, is often at odds with the mysticism that Plato's Socrates expounds in some other dialogue. These mystical resolutions to thitherto rigorous inquiries and analyses fail to satisfy caring readers, without fail. Whether they would fail to satisfy readers who understood them is another question, and will not, in all probability, ever be resolved.

Perhaps the most interesting facet of this is Socrates' reliance on what the Greeks called his "daemonic sign", an averting (ἀποτρεπτικός) inner voice that 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' characterization of the phenomenon as "daemonic" suggests that its origin is divine, mysterious, and independent of his own thoughts.

An Ahmadiyyah Scholar, Mirza Tahir Ahmad, (the Fourth Caliph of the Ahmadiyyat Movement in Islam) argues that Socrates experienced what can be called a prophetic revelation. He writes in his book, Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge & Truth, that "Socrates seems to have a very personalized and intense relationship with the Supreme Being. His very personality is built on the pattern of the messengers of God."[4]

He was prominently lampooned in Aristophanes' comedy The Clouds, produced when Socrates was in his mid-forties; he said at his trial (in Plato's version) that the laughter of the theater was a harder task to answer than the arguments of his accusers. In the play he is ridiculed for his dirtiness, which is associated with the Laconizing fad; also in plays by Callias, Eupolis, and Telecleides. In all of these, Socrates and the Sophists were criticised 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 direct disciples of Socrates, and presumably, they idealize him; however, they wrote the only continuous descriptions of Socrates that have come down to us. Aristotle refers frequently, but in passing, to Socrates in his writings. Almost all of Plato's works center around Socrates. However Plato's latter 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' 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 that 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 a 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' 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.

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 the Republic — are considered to be possibly products of Plato's elaborations.


See Also

Socrate, a symphonic drama by Erik Satie.
The Plot To Save Socrates, a science fiction novel by Paul Levinson.
On the Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates, a treatise on Socrates and Socratic irony by Søren Kierkegaard.
Jacques-Louis David, La Mort de Socrate, paint, 1787, MET, New-York
Francesco Albamonte, The Death of Socrates, short measuring, 2007, with music by the Ensemble Kérylos.
Dalv87
OK ignoring the fact you just copy-pasted several pages from Wikipedia, I don't think there's an accent mark over the o in his name.
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