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Socrates Was Against Writing

❶And if alive today, Socrates would probably be a prolific email, IM, forum, Facebook, and Twitter user.

Interesting, funny stuff.

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In the play, the character Socrates heads a Think-o-Rama in which young men study the natural world, from insects to stars, and study slick argumentative techniques as well, lacking all respect for the Athenian sense of propriety. The actor wearing the mask of Socrates makes fun of the traditional gods of Athens lines —48, , —24 , mimicked later by the young protagonist, and gives naturalistic explanations of phenomena Athenians viewed as divinely directed lines —33; cf.

Theaetetus e, c—d, e—a; Phaedo 96a—a. Worst of all, he teaches dishonest techniques for avoiding repayment of debt lines — and encourages young men to beat their parents into submission lines — Thus, what had seemed comical a quarter century earlier, Socrates hanging in a basket on-stage, talking nonsense, was ominous in memory by then. Comedy by its very nature is a tricky source for information about anyone. A good reason to believe that the representation of Socrates is not merely comic exaggeration but systematically misleading is that Clouds amalgamates in one character, Socrates, features now well known to be unique to other particular fifth-century intellectuals Dover , xxxii-lvii.

That Socrates eschewed any earning potential in philosophy does not seem to have been significant to the great writer of comedies. 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.

Aristophanes appears to have given up on reviving Clouds in about , but his attacks on Socrates continued.

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. That is to say, Times Square can be photographed; but someone only seeing the photograph will only know what the Square is in the vaguest of senses.

The reality of being there is lost by the photograph, and no picture or even video can truly capture what that experience is like. However, to someone that has been to Times Square, a picture will help them reminisce about it and in some ways evoke that knowledge of the place. Socrates saw writing in the same way: However, writing can be used as as entertainment, for example to help someone reminisce about something they wrote down.

Real knowledge, Socrates said, can only be gathered via dialog: But with a book, that cannot be done unless one has access to the author. In the excerpt, he says:. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.

In other words, if a child grew up alone with a Kindle containing all of the books in the Library of Congress, could he gain the same kind of knowledge which a normal person gains via social interaction? Both arguments seem to hold water, with the exception of the part about Socrates being wrong.


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Platonic writings is deprived of credit by the admission of the Epistles, which are not only unworthy of Plato, and in several passages plagiarized from him, but flagrantly at variance with historical fact.

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Chapter 1: Know Yourself — Socrates Lesson 1: Self Awareness Unit 3: Foundations for Success 3 doing but how that influences people and situations. you can use the information to make a GIVING AND RECEIVING FEEDBACK positive difference in your communication biuiawjdh.ga Author: cowelld.

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Although Socrates himself left behind no writings for us, his disciples Aeschines, Antisthenes, Aristippus, Cebes, Crito, Euclides, Phaedo, Simmias, Xenophon, and Plato wrote Socratic dialogues portraying his teaching in literary form. He studied under Socrates, who appears as a character in many of his dialogues. Plato wrote extensively and most of his writings survived. His works are in the form of dialogues, where several characters argue a topic by asking questions of each other. This form allows Plato to raise various points of view and let the reader decide which is.

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The philosopher Socrates remains, as he was in his lifetime (– B.C.E.), [] an enigma, an inscrutable individual who, despite having written nothing, is considered one of the handful of philosophers who forever changed how philosophy itself was to be conceived. All our information about him is second-hand and most of it vigorously disputed, but his trial and death at the hands of the. (Although Socrates also appears as a character in the later dialogues of Plato, these writings more often express philosophical positions Plato himself developed long after Socrates's death.) In the Socratic dialogues, his extended conversations with students, statesmen.