SOCRATES (469-399 BC)
central figure in western philosophy, but what is known about him comes from two of his pupils, Plato and Xenophon,
lived (469-399)the Golden Age of Athens. Father was a sculptor and stonemason while his mother was a midwife.
wealthy Athenian Crito took him out of the stone-mason’s workshop and paid for his education
He was a pupil of Anaxagoras
to the topics raised by the Sophists.
dialogue of Plato has a young Socrates listening to Zeno of Elea and talking with him and Parmenides.
Socrates’ Approach to Philosophy
The Socratic Method 1. The method is skeptical. 1.
It begins with Socrates' real or professed ignorance of the truth of the matter under discussion.
This is the Socratic irony which seemed to some of his listeners an insincere pretense, but which was undoubtedly an expression of Socrates' genuine intellectual humility.
This skepticism Socrates shared with the Sophists and, in his adoption of it, he may very well have been influenced by them. But whereas the Sophistic skepticism was definitive and final, the Socratic is tentative and provisional; Socrates' doubt and assumed ignorance is an indispensable first step in the pursuit of knowledge.
2. It is conversational. 1.
It employs the dialogue not only as a didactic device, but as a technique for the actual discovery of opinions amongst men, there are truths upon which all men can agree,
Socrates proceeds to unfold such truths by discussion or by question and answer.
Beginning with a popular or hastily formed conception proposed by one of the members of the company or taken from the poets or some other traditional source, Socrates subjects this notion to severe criticism, as a result of which a more adequate conception emerges.
4. His method, in this aspect, is often described as the “maieutic method.” It is the art of intellectual midwifery, which brings other men's ideas to birth. It is also known as the dialectical method or the Socratic method.
3. It is conceptual or definitional 1.
The Socratic Method sets as the goal of knowledge the acquisition of concepts, such as the ethical concepts of justice, piety, wisdom, courage and the like.
Socrates tacitly assumes that truth is embodied in correct definition.
Precise definition of terms is held to be the first step in the problem solving process.
4. The Socratic method is empirical or inductive 1. This means that in that the proposed definitions are criticized by reference to particular instances. 2.
Socrates always tested definitions by recourse to common experience and to general usages.
5. The method is deductive 1.
This means that a given definition is tested by drawing out its implications, by deducing its consequences.
This involves the three part arguments called sylagisms.
The definitional method of Socrates is a real contribution to the logic of philosophical inquiry.
It inspired the dialectical method of Plato and exerted a not inconsiderable influence on the logic Aristotle.
THE ETHICS OF SOCRATES
I. Socrates' Life: Several features of Socrates' life give some insight into his ethics. A. As a young man in battle, he distinguished himself for bravery several times. B. Socrates exhibited a "daimon" (his genuis demon)--a sign or inner voice which issued prohibitory messages in periods of dazes (suggestive of epilepsy).
C. The Delphic Oracle: "There is no person living wiser than Socrates." Socrates interpreted this response as indicating his purported wisdom was simply that he knew he was not wise.
D. The great example of the trial and death of Socrates demonstrated, as well, the agreement between his character and his philosophy 1.Socrates was found guilty of impiety (not worshipping the gods the state worships), corruption of the youth (infusing into the young persons the spirit of criticism of Athenian society), among other accusations. 2. Socrates refused to leave Athens, although he could have escaped: (1) escape would have been contrary to his moral principles and (2) escape would have been an injustice to the state which was his parent, education, and origin of law.
II. Socrates was predominantly interested in ethics A. Self-knowledge is the sufficient condition to the good life. He identified knowledge with virtue. If knowledge can be learned, so can virtue. Thus, virtue can be taught. B. The unexamined life is not worth living. One must seek knowledge and wisdom before private interests. Knowledge is sought as a means to ethical action. C. What one truly knows is the dictates of one's conscience or soul: the philosophy of the Socratic Paradox.
III. Socrates' ethical intellectualism has an eudaemological character. A. Socrates presupposed reason was the way to the good life. 1. Our true happiness is promoted by doing what is right. 2. When your true utility is served (tending your soul), you are achieving happiness. Happiness is evident from the long-term effect on the soul. 3. The Socratic ethics has a teleological character -- mechanistic explanation of human behavior is mistaken. Human action aims toward the good, and there is purpose in nature.
B. The Socratic Paradox: People act immorally, but they do not do so deliberately. 1. Everyone seeks what is most serviceable to oneself or what is in one's own self-interest. 2. If one [practically] knows what is good, one will always act in such manner as to achieve it. (Otherwise, one does not know or only knows in a theoretical fashion.) 3. If one acts in a manner not conducive to ones good, then that person must have been mistaken (i.e., that person lacks the knowledge of how to obtain what was serviceable in that instance). 4. If one acts with knowledge then one will obtain that which is serviceable to oneself or that which is in ones self-interest. 5. Thus, for Socrates… knowledge = [def.] virtue, good, arete ignorance = [def.] bad, evil, not useful
6. Since no one knowingly harms himself, if harm comes to that person, then that person must have acted in ignorance. 7. Consequently, it would seem to follow we are responsible for what we know or for that matter what we do not know. So, then, one is responsible for ones own happiness. 8. The essential aspect of understanding the Paradox is to realize that Socrates is referring to the good of the soul in terms of knowledge and doing what's right— not to wealth or freedom from physical pain. The latter play no role in the soul being centered.
C. No one chooses evil or chooses to act in ignorance. 1. We seek the good, but fail to achieve it by ignorance or lack of knowledge as to how to obtain it. 2. No one would harm themselves. When harm comes to us, we thought we were seeking the good, but we lacked knowledge. 3. Aristotle's criticism: an individual might know what is best, yet still do what's wrong.
D. Socrates' influence extended to almost all areas of the history of ethics in the West Socratic Ethics
Zeno of Citium Epictetus Marcus Aurelius
the example of Socrates
emotional independence; self-knowledge