SocratesIn ” The Trails and Death of Socrates” we discover Socrates unique approach to philosophy. His method involves questioning people’s theories and making them think in order to discover the right answers. Socrates’ goals were to achieve more knowledge and at the same time influence other people. I plan to identify and evaluate Socrates practice of philosophy, along with his beliefs and goals.
Socrates lived in Athens during the Periclean Age until his death in 399 B.C. He was a well known philosopher who would express his knowledge to anyone who cared to listen. Socrates was a clever and intelligent man, while at the same time very modest. He was truthful and spoke not in fancy phrases, but in random words that came to his mind. During the time in which “The Trial and Death of Socrates” took place, Socrates was seventy years old.
Socrates lived in a time when people did not really question things. Socrates’, on the other hand, main method of philosophizing involved asking many questions. By questioning people and making them think he was able to obtain knowledge and understanding of life and its values. At the same time, Socrates was helping the people he was questioning understand the reasoning of his concepts and where they went wrong.
People would gather around and listen to Socrates question someone in order to gain knowledge and understanding from his words. Socrates believed that people ” take pleasure in hearing people questioned”(Ap 23c). This method of questioning, however, was not very popular with many of the people Socrates talked with. People started getting upset with Socrates for making them look unintelligent, but that did not stop him. He kept questioning more people in his search of knowledge.
One of Socrates’ main goals in questioning people like this was intellectual pursuit. In other words, he was on a search for human wisdom. Socrates believed ” The understanding of life and its values.was the very basis of the good life and philosophy”(Grube 1). The main intention of all Socrates’ conversations with people was to discover the unknown truth. He was trying to find the real answers to difficult questions and define ethical terms through discussions with the people of Athens. Another goal of Socrates’ methods of philosophy, ” Was to expose the ignorance of those who thought themselves wise and try to convince his fellow citizens that every man is responsible for his own moral attitudes”(Grube 1). By this Socrates means that those who consider themselves wise are not because they think they know what they do not. An example of this was when Socrates talked to the people who were thought to be the wisest and he discovered that they were really the most deficient.
Through out his life Socrates has developed many theories and beliefs. Many of these were not accepted by other people, but Socrates did not care. One illustration of Socrates beliefs was that man should not take into account the risk of death when he has taken a position. He believes a man should face danger and risk his life rather than be a disgrace to himself. In the Apology Socrates states ” To fear death.is no other than to think oneself wise when one is not, to think he knows what one does not know”(Ap 29a). One of his main arguments for this belief is that nobody knows about death. It may be the greatest thing that could happen to man. Socrates believed that death is an advantage because he will be able to keep company with other famous people who have died, and examine their thoughts.
Another theory of Socrates was that he was a blessing for the city of Athens. He believed that his practice of questioning people and discovering wisdom and truth was what the gods ordered him to do. Socrates believed he was persuading people to care for their soul and not personal wealth as a service to the gods. He explains that ” Wealth does not bring about excellence, but excellence makes wealth and everything else good for men, both individually and collectively”(Ap 30b). Socrates also claimed that because he told the truth during his trial, which was not what the jury wanted to hear, he will be taken care of by the gods. He did not apologize for his approach at the trial because he ” would rather die after this kind of defense then live after making the other kind”(Ap 38e).
My opinion on Socrates style of philosophizing, based on the reading, is a positive one. I think his approach is very effective in making people think and realize where they are wrong. Socrates was determined to accept nothing but the whole truth of a subject, so he criticized and picked apart every statement. An example of this is when Socrates was asking Euthyphro what it means to be pious and impious. Euthyphro had his own definition of the terms, but of course his explanations are subjected to Socrates questioning. In the end Euthyphro is not certain if his definitions of pious and impious are correct. I also agree with Socrates approach to philosophizing because he was not afraid of the results. His style made him unpopular with many people and ultimately led to his death. This did not stop Socrates. He was not ashamed of his occupation and beliefs, and said he would keep questioning and examining people in his afterlife.
Socrates main objectives in life were the search for knowledge and the quest for the truth. He accomplished these things using his particular approach to philosophy despite the negative attention he received. In the end, Socrates life was a success because he stood up for what he believed in and persuaded almost half of the jury into letting him go.