Unlike many of the “pre-Socratics” (perhaps) Socrates kicked off a very large and significant tradition in philosophy, generally embraced in Europe, the Americas and other parts of the world, in which significant parts of one’s life may be “judged”. In Socrates’ case his life was judged by a court in Athens. Therefore he had to explain himself to other human beings who perhaps could not or would not fully understand the “reasons” for all the things he said and did in his life. For many of us who may be “religious”, we may find our lives being “judged” by God, Mana, Karma, etc. or perhaps just Fate. For those of us who want to be “successful”, we may find significant portions of our lives judged by our bosses, teachers, or even a “market”. If we go on a “date”, the one perhaps sitting opposite to us (aside from perhaps physical characteristics) may be judging us by “who we are”. When we make friends our friends may create or end a friendship based on “who we are”.
When Socrates was asked to defend himself against “corrupting the youth” (causing those around him to re-evaluate what they were doing and why), he gave his “reasons” for what he did. By some accounts reasons may be “good” ones (“rational”) or “bad” ones (“irrational”). Or perhaps “good”/”bad” can be better translated as the “right” or “wrong” reasons. In any case Socrates was ultimately condemned to death for speaking what he believed was not just the truth but he also gave reasons at his trial for why he thought what he did was the “right” thing to do. Centuries later, philosophers were likewise expelled several times from the Roman Empire.
There are those who thought Socrates egged the Athenians on at his trial and that the Athenians didn’t really want to use the most severe method of silencing him. Perhaps as some had speculated the Athenians hoped Socrates would escape and flee the city (something which was allegedly easy to do in their penal system and almost a “custom” among the accused at the time). Socrates did not try to escape. He met his end drinking a cup of hemlock which he willingly took from the hand of his executioner.
Socrates is a bit of an enigma. What was he trying to get at? Why was he questioning people to find out what things like, “piety”, “justice”, “beauty” etc. meant? Did he think he did not know and was seeking answers from those who said they knew? Or did he suspect that maybe those who said they knew didn’t really know as much as they thought they did? And if Socrates did not know what those things were, then did he ever come to any answers deep inside which he may have kept to himself? What we know of Socrates is only what has been passed down over the years through stories about him from his contemporaries. Socrates wrote nothing that we know of.
Socrates’ last words on his death bed were: “Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius; make this offering to him and do not forget.”
RIP Socrates. You have been very brave and served us all admirably.
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|About Central Florida Philosophy Meetup||July 31, 2014 9:25 PM||former member|