A History And Understanding Of Socrates Philosophy

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Socrates was a recognized personality in Athens with general non-conformist ideas from the mainstream Athenian mentality. The Oracle of Delphi described Socrates as the wisest one, but not because he possessed special knowledge that others did not, but because he recognized his own lack of knowledge while others remained ignorant of their beliefs. Socrates' critical view of democracy and his determination to stay truthful to his ideology is apparent from the very beginning of his trial onwards. He was accused by Meleteus and the Athenian citizens for corrupting the youth impious ideas. Even though he was aware that his beliefs opposed the Athenian laws, his unbending personality was the main reason for his adamant and unfaltering faith in his beliefs. He was so completely convinced of this that he didn't give up his ideological preference and attitude even in the shattering view that certain death awaited him. Socrates, undeterred in his ideology, stated that he'd rather prefer to face unjust and unwarranted punishment, even possibly death, simply because he was able to acknowledge and accept it, while still remaining completely unafraid.

When Socrates firstly appears before the court of the Athenians, he addresses them all by saying "attempt must be made in this short time to take away from you this slander, which you acquired over a long time" (19a). During the trial he always remains fearless and forever clear-sighted as to the goal of achieving his version of "the truth". He also stated that he is inexperienced with the law courts and therefore he would speak in layman's terms, with the language of the common people, which in his own way would signify honesty and directness. On a certain account, he also mentions the Oracle of Delphi's statement which portrays Socrates as the wisest man in all of Athens. The Oracle proved to be a turning point in Socrates' life, since it painted a different picture of the psychology of the common Athenian citizen. In fact, Socrates had incessantly strived to find meaning in the intellects of the higher order of the "Patrician" (or the Greek equivalent of one) Athenian. He remained convinced that he was not one of the "wise" ones, and he constantly showed an air of modestly in all his endeavors. The complete paradox of the whole ordeal is that what he actually encountered was the highest class of snobbish ignorance, and intolerable elitism. By that time, Socrates had created many enemies, most of them being from older generations which he had attempted to enlighten unsuccessfully. Their animosity could be understood however, since Socrates had called out their incompetence quite publicly as well as enthusiastically. On the other hand, he had a great many disciples (including of course, Plato), in the younger generation, where they were quite fond of him and his unconventional, but convincing, principles. Socrates believed that the young mind could prepare itself for life only after perceiving knowledge by means of seeking answers. Nevertheless, his way of radical thinking was not consistent with the Athenian rules and they brought him a second charge from Meletus, Lycon and Anytus for corrupting the youth and creating a novel concept of daimonia, which proved to be quite influential among the youth.

In his second trial, Socrates is interrogated by Meletus, and fails to build a convincing argument in his favor, for the teaching of his followers. Meletus argues that only those who know and uphold the law should have the prerogative of teaching the young. Moreover, Meletus goes out of his way to prove that Socrates voluntarily corrupts the young. Socrates defends his position by saying that even if he was corrupting the youth, he shouldn't be punished but instead he should be taught and advised. Socrates arguments always tend to be ambiguous and vague in the way they are stated and defended. Thus, he does not establish enough credibility on his Gnostic beliefs to warrant a favorable audience Once the daimonia are mentioned, Socrates turns the accusation on its head, and successfully manages to make Meletus contradict himself, since he shows how the daimons are simply inferior divinities which hold real spiritual value. He also proves that the accusers don't have any legal basis to condemn him for being an atheist. Socrates states that if his life is considered to be good then his accusations are not consistent with reality, and he tries to defend himself by using complex but quite understandable notions. Yet, Socrates never managed to prove his innocence, showing the ignorance and discriminatory practices which existed even in enlightening times such as those.

Later on, Socrates claims that people shouldn't care more about their material possessions, but should instead focus on their virtue. He tries to encourage Athenian critical thinking in their beliefs, since he notices their conceptual blindness of their materialistic worldviews. For Socrates, the soul was incomparable to the concrete reality, and the essence and idealistic reality of the individual persona must be valued over everything else. He also stated that "everyone was welcome to listen to his discussions, but if those people became honest men or not he would not be justly held responsible, since he has never promised or taught any instruction to any of them" (33b). Inevitably however, Socrates accepts his death punishment and argues that death is as good as sleep and that it is only the beginning of a much larger journey.

In Crito, Socrates refuses to escape from the jail where he is placed when his friend Crito offers him the chance to go in exile and save his life. He wants to prove to Crito that the death penalty is the right thing and explains that if he escapes he would be betraying his own principles and that it would be truly an unjust act of cowardice. He compares himself to Achilles in order to show the relationship of between two figures who were both ready to sacrifice themselves in order to uphold higher values as true men (28c). Socrates also sates that he would be impious, if he were to betray the city where he had spent all his life. He truly believed that if he were to leave, he would let down each and every person who believed in his ideals. This notion is surmised elegantly in this paragraph:

"If you depart now, you will depart having been done injustice not by us laws, but by human beings. If you go away so shamefully doing injustice in return, transgressing your own agreement and contracts with us and doing evil deeds to those to whom they should least be done". [] From this, we are led to believe that Socrates accepted to die on behalf of his ideas and but also as a firm believer in the laws established by society as well as his respectable city.

By the end of the trial, Socrates as the man was severely punished for his controversy and stubbornness, but his philosophy forever remained untarnished. His novel and unconventional ideas inspired the greatest schism in human philosophical thinking, even though his contemporary thinkers could not accept such radical preconceptions at the time. His death only empowered the eternal truths which he embodied, his unfaltering standing of values which continue to this day on. Plato was very careful to preserve the great personality of his master, teacher, and their genius continues to inspire modern philosophy in every aspect, ranging from ethics to the description of our reality at large. Never again will there be such an inexorable force of complete dedication in a field which was completely unthought-of at the time, an idea which revolutionized human logic and reasoning to the point of no return.

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