IAS Target

Socrates

Introduction

Socrates (470–399 BC) was a Greek (Athenian) thinker and philosopher regarded as one of the most prominent founders of Western philosophy and the first moral philosopher in the Western ethical school of thought. He was an enigmatic character who left no writings and is only known from the tales of ancient writers writing after his death, mainly Plato, one of his disciples. Plato's dialogues are among the most extensive descriptions of Socrates that have survived from antiquity. Socrates has become recognized for his contributions to ethics and epistemology. Socrates had a significant impact on philosophers in late antiquity and the contemporary age. Socrates' depictions in art, literature and popular culture have made him one of the most well-known characters in Western philosophy.

Socrates philosophy

In these books, he is presented as a man of great intelligence, honesty, self-mastery, and persuasive prowess. The importance of his life was amplified by how it ended. Instead of apologizing to the corrupt ruling class, Socrates happily took poison for the false allegation. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle all believed in virtue ethics.
  • Value: temperance and justice
  • Moralism: died for the principle
Socrates advocated for democracy, moral principles, and ethics. There was democracy among the Greeks, but for name and vested interests, information flow that challenged their authority and power was stifled. The government does not appreciate Socrates' radical ideas since they may jeopardize their authority.

Socrates Ethical Philosophy

  • According to Socrates' ethical theory, the mind and soul that we have inside our bodies are far more significant to us than our physical bodies. The qualities and values that we have developed have had a far bigger influence on our lives than we anticipated. 
  • The quality that our souls carry, the character that we build within ourselves, is highly significant and has a greater effect than our health and whether we are affluent or poor. Socrates' Ethical Philosophy stated that if all of us want to live a happy life free of regrets or harshness, we must take care of our souls. To do so, we must instill the various virtues and morals that are required to form a better human being, and only then can we satisfy and keep our souls healthy. Finding such virtues, on the other hand, is a difficult undertaking. 
  • Socrates' ethical philosophy depicts a somewhat counterintuitive understanding of the nature of these qualities. To begin with, understanding the proper way to act and behave is critical and will have the most effect on forming a person's character.
  • It is also critical to have adequate control over our sentiments and emotional quotient to think clearly and freely. Controlling the emotional component of our brain, which might obstruct our ability to think correctly, is another key stage. Furthermore, according to Socrates, emotions have no place in our lives and maybe simply set aside during the course. 
  • He stated that if you act badly or have poor morals, it is not because of your psychology but because of your incapacity to recognize what is right and wrong. You are unable to choose which approaches to use in a given circumstance. This may also be seen as your ignorance of the concept that there are specific ways a person should respond to a circumstance and the reasons for doing so. Our bodies have all of the virtues and morals necessary to cause a person to act correctly and appropriately in situations. All we have to do is work on them, and we'll be set to go.
  • In municipal court, he was charged with a life sentence for not believing in Olympian Gods and Goddesses. Plato, his pupil, had an apology to make in front of the court, which may potentially rescue his instructor. The lines that Socrates used in his defense that focused on the methods of life and the meanings associated with them are still a significant element of literature and are studied even now.

What did Socrates have to say?

Socrates claimed not to teach (or even know anything significant) but simply to seek solutions to pressing human issues (such as "What is virtue?" and "What is justice?") and to assist others in doing the same. His philosophizing method was to join in public debates on some human greatness and, by deft questioning, demonstrate that his interlocutors didn't know what they were talking about. Despite the poor outcomes of these interactions, Socrates had several general good notions, such as virtue being a type of knowledge and "care of the soul" (the development of virtue) being the essential human task. 

Socrates' Contribution to Ethics 

  • Human Realm

Before Socrates, philosophy was largely concerned with metaphysical, religious, or scientific issues. Socrates was the first to give philosophy and ethics a practical and political focus. He contended that the primary emphasis of philosophical investigation should be on the Human domain. 

  • Dialogue 

Socrates felt that "dialogue," or meaningful interactions with individuals about topics like justice, righteousness, and virtue, was the greatest approach to investigating the virtues and ethical behavior. This style of extensive talk is known as "dialectic," often known as the Socratic Method, and it has largely supplanted solitary contemplation. It was the conversation that impacted Athenians' students and young and served as the foundation for contemporary philosophy, science, ethics, social theory, and other subjects.

  • Inquiry 
Socrates was tried & found guilty of "corrupting the young of Athens" by challenging authority. Socrates was a firm believer in the need to inquire and ask questions, even about – or perhaps, especially about – things that everyone takes for granted. He did not consider assessing an action based on life and death to be moral. Instead, Socrates emphasized that judgments should be made based on what was right or wrong, good or terrible, standards that might be attained via dialogue and moral advice. His faith in the inquiry process was so great and pure that he was slain by being forced to swallow hemlock.
  • Virtue 
Socrates associated knowledge with virtue, which leads to ethical behavior. According to him, the only life worth living has been exhaustively scrutinized. He sought concepts and acts that were worthy of living by, so establishing an ethical foundation upon which judgments should be made. Socrates was a staunch believer that knowledge and comprehension of virtue, or "the good," were sufficient for happiness. Knowledge of the good was nearly comparable to enlightenment to him. He felt that if people were completely aware of the worth of life, they would never choose to do something harmful or unpleasant. 

Plato and Socrates' Dialectic Method

However, Plato and Socrates used the "Method of Dialectic"—a question and answer session with the audience—and so wisdom was revealed. There is no knowledge if there is no dialogue and conversation. As a result, the actual debate should take place rather than blind acceptance. Also referred to as the midwifery approach. A midwife, for example, helps the delivery of a child from the mother. Similarly, knowledge is contained within you; all you have to do is look for it and bring it to the surface. Socrates summoned a slave and used the dialectic technique to prove a mathematical theorem, establishing that all men are equal, slaves or aristocrats. The dialectic technique is an established approach for eliciting knowledge. Instead of moral reasoning, sophists employed language and propaganda to elicit emotional responses from their audience. They had damaged Greek discourse culture. Similarly, today's young culture of conversation has been eroded by social media and electronic media.

Both Socrates and Plato were anti-democracy because, at the time, the Junta was uninformed owing to a lack of genuine public debate. Socrates' philosophy remained entirely focused on Values. "If you follow my advice, you will think little of Socrates and much more of truth" — Socrates' Moral Heroism. Socrates is often considered the originator of Moral Philosophy. He pioneered the practice of seeking truth via continuous inquiry.

  • Self-awareness is a sufficient requirement for living a happy life. Socrates associates wisdom with virtue. Virtue, like knowledge, can be learned. As a result, Socrates claims that virtue may be taught. This may be created by taking basic measures such as developing a metacognition loop, curiosity, and self-reflection thinking.
  • He feels that "the unexamined existence is not worth living." Priority must be given to knowledge and wisdom over personal desires. Knowledge is pursued as a path to ethical conduct in this manner. 
  • Socrates assumes that reason is necessary for living a decent life: Socrates argues for the concept that all of the virtues—justice, wisdom, courage, piety, and so on—are one. Socrates presents several arguments in support of this concept. Beauty, strength, and health are all beneficial to humans, but they may also be harmful if not accompanied by knowledge or wisdom. 
  • According to Socrates, no one chooses evil, and no one chooses to behave in ignorance. We seek the good but are unable to acquire it due to ignorance or a lack of understanding about how to obtain what is good. 
  • Better to Suffer an Unjustly Than to Commit One": According to him, doing an injustice corrupts one's spirit, and hence committing an injustice is the worst thing a person can do to himself. This attribute was reflected in Mahatma Gandhi's actions. They never endorsed violence despite serving multiple jail sentences during his lifetime.

How do we know what Socrates believed?

Socrates left no writings. Everything we know about him comes from descriptions by members of his circle, chiefly Plato and Xenophon, as well as Plato's student Aristotle, who learned about Socrates through his instructor. Plato's dialogues contain the most depictions of Socrates, with "Socrates" as the main speaker in the majority of them. However, the figure's beliefs are not consistent across the conversations, and in certain dialogues, the persona expresses opinions that are Plato's own. Scholars argue on whether dialogues represent the thoughts of the actual Socrates and which just employ the character as a platform for Plato's philosophy.

Why was Socrates Sentenced to death in Athens?

Socrates was reviled in Athens, mostly because he frequently humiliated individuals by making them look dumb and silly. Socrates was also an ardent critic of the Athenians' beloved democracy, and he was linked with certain members of the Thirty Tyrants, who briefly destroyed Athens' democratic government in 404–403 BCE. He was arguably guilty of the offenses he was accused of, impiety and corrupting the youth because he rejected the city's gods and instilled disdain for authority in his young followers (though that was not his intention). As a result, he was convicted and put to death by poison.

Why didn't Socrates strive to avoid execution?

Socrates had the opportunity to rescue himself. He preferred to be tried rather than go into voluntary exile. In his defense address, he rebutted some but not all of the claims and famously stated, "the unexamined life is not worth living." He could have offered an acceptable sentence other than death after being convicted, but he originally refused. He eventually turned down an option of freedom since it contradicted his vow to never do wrong (escaping would show contempt for the laws and harm the reputations of his family and friends).

Socratic quotations

The following are some of Socrates' most notable quotes, which may be beneficial in answering questions in your test. Please attempt to connect them to the Socratic Method and grasp their explicit and implicit implications.

  • Understanding a question is only half the battle. 
  • "Education is like lighting a fire, not filling a jar." 
  • "Knowledge is the only good, and ignorance is the only bad." 
  • "I'm not capable of teaching anybody something." "All I can do is make a person think." 
  • "Be nice, for everyone you encounter is waging a difficult struggle." 
  • "Strong minds debate ideas, mediocre minds debate events, and weak minds debate individuals." 
  • "By all means, marry; if you have a good wife, you'll be happy; if you get a nasty wife, you'll be a philosopher." 
  • "He who is not satisfied with what he has will not be satisfied with what he would want to have." 
  • "You suffer if you don't get what you want; you suffer if you get what you don't want, and you suffer even if you get precisely what you want since you can't have it forever." Your dilemma is your mind. It wishes to be unaffected by the change. Free of agony, free of the responsibilities of life and death, But change is the law, and no amount of pretending will change that." 
  • "Walls are sometimes built not to keep people out but to see who cares enough to tear them down." 
  • "Wonder is the seed of knowledge."
  •  "Think for yourself to find yourself." 
  • "The life that is not investigated is not worth living."
  •  "Understand thyself." 
  • "Let him who would move the world move first." 
  • "The key to pleasure, you see, is not in pursuing more, but in learning to enjoy less." 
  • "The key to change is to dedicate all of your energy to constructing the new rather than battling the old." 
  • "I am neither an Athenian nor a Greek but a global citizen." 
  • "Prefer knowledge over wealth since the former is fleeting and the latter is eternal." 
  • "The mind is everything; you become what you think." 
  • "True knowledge comes to every one of us when we recognize how little we know about life, ourselves, and our surroundings." 
  • "He who is satisfied with the minimalist is the richest, for content is nature's treasure." 
  • "Being is doing."