Who Was Socrates?

Who Was Socrates?

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In this episode, the second of three devoted to Socrates, Peter Adamson of King’s College London discusses the way he is portrayed in the early dialogues of Plato, especially the “Apology.” Topics include Socratic ignorance and Socrates' claim that no one does wrong willingly.

Listen to the History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps episode on Socrates

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Some 2,400 years ago, in 399 BCE, Athens put Socrates on trial. The charge was impiety, and the trial took place in the People’s Court. Socrates, already 70 years old, had long been a prominent philosopher and a notorious public intellectual. Meletus, the prosecutor, alleged that Socrates had broken Athenian law by failing to observe the state gods, by introducing new gods, and by corrupting the youth.

Meletus, as prosecutor, and Socrates, as defendant, delivered timed speeches before a jury of 501 of their fellow citizens. Meletus’ prosecution speech is lost. Two versions of Socrates’ defence speech, one recorded by Plato and the other by a clever polymath named Xenophon, are preserved. A majority of jurors (about 280) voted Socrates guilty, and he was executed by hemlock poisoning...

Continue reading Josiah Ober's article: The Civic Drama of Socrates' Trial

Further Reading

The philosopher Socrates remains, as he was in his lifetime (469–399 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 Athenian democracy is nevertheless the founding myth of the academic discipline of philosophy, and his influence has been felt far beyond philosophy itself, and in every age. Because his life is widely considered paradigmatic for the philosophic life and, more generally, for how anyone ought to live, Socrates has been encumbered with the admiration and emulation normally reserved for founders of religious sects—Jesus or Buddha—strange for someone who tried so hard to make others do their own thinking, and for someone convicted and executed on the charge of irreverence toward the gods. Certainly he was impressive, so impressive that many others were moved to write about him, all of whom found him strange by the conventions of fifth-century Athens: in his appearance, personality, and behavior, as well as in his views and methods...

Continue reading the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Socrates by Debra Nails

Bonus Webcomic

Socrates Gets Socrates'd - Existential Comics

Related Topics

If you’re interested in Socrates, check out some of the following related topics for more resources:

 The Examined Life | The History of PhilosophyPlatoThe Presocratics | Virtue | Wisdom

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