Socrates. An Athenian philosopher, whose teaching revolutionized the whole
drift of subsequent philosophical speculation. He was born in the deme Alopece,
near Athens, B.C. 469. His father, Sophroniscus, was a sculptor, and his mother,
Phaenarete, was a midwife. In his youth Socrates for a time followed his father's
occupation, and a group of sculptured Graces, preserved in the Acropolis, was
exhibited as his work down to the time of Pausanias; but there is reason to believe
that this arose from a confusion of names. It is thought by some that the relief
of draped Graces in the Museo Chiaramonte in Rome represents the Athenian group,
in which case it must have belonged to an earlier period of art than the century
in which Socrates lived.
The personal qualities of Socrates were marked, and such as would readily attract attention. He enjoyed vigorous health, and was so robust as to be capable of enduring fatigue and hardship to a degree that astonished all who knew him. He went barefooted at all seasons of the year; and this not merely at Athens, but when serving as a soldier in the much colder climate of Thrace; and he wore the same clothing in winter as in summer. His features were of remarkable ugliness; and his flat nose, thick lips, and bulging eyes led to his being compared to a satyr.
As to the particulars of his life, there is no connected account. It is known that he served as a heavy-armed soldier at Potidaea, Delium, and Amphipolis; but he seems not to have filled any public office until B.C. 406, when he was a member of the Senate of Five Hundred, and as such refused, in spite of all personal risk, to put an unconstitutional question to vote. He displayed the same moral courage in refusing to obey the order of the Thirty Tyrants for the arrest of Leon of Salamis.
From the period of his middle life, at any rate, he devoted his time wholly to the self-imposed task of teaching, giving up all other business, both public and private, and neglecting all means of acquiring a fortune. It was probably his remissness in this respect which was responsible for the ill-temper and fretfulness of his wife Xanthippe, whose name has passed into all modern tongues as the type of a shrew. Socrates never opened a school and never lectured publicly, nor did he receive any money for his teaching, but went about in the most public parts of the city, such as the market-place, the gymnasia, and the work-shops, seeking opportunities for awakening in the young and old alike moral consciousness and an impulse towards self-knowledge with respect to the end and value of human action. His object, however, was only to aid those with whom he talked in developing such germs of knowledge as were already present in them, and not to communicate to them dog matically any knowledge of his own. He was especially severe upon false pretences and intellectual conceit; and, consequently, to many persons he became exceedingly obnoxious, and was the object of much dislike and misrepresentation. This is probably the reason why Aristophanes, in The Clouds, selected Socrates as the type of men engaged in philosophical and rhetorical teaching; the more so, as his grotesque physiognomy admitted so well of being imitated in the mask which the actor wore. The audience at the theatre would more readily recognize the peculiar figure which they were accustomed to see every day in the market-place than if Prodicus or Protagoras, whom most of them did not know by sight, had been brought on the stage; nor was it of much importance either to them or to Aristophanes whether Socrates was represented as teaching what he did really teach, or something utterly different.
Attached to none of the prevailing parties, Socrates found in each of them his friends and his enemies. Hated and persecuted by Critias, Charicles, and others among the Thirty Tyrants, who had a special reference to him in the decree which they issued, forbidding the teaching of the art of oratory, he was impeached after their banishment and by their opponents. An orator named Lycon, and a poet (a friend of Thrasybulus) named Meletus, had united in the impeachment with the powerful demagogue Anytus, an embittered antagonist of the Sophists and their system, and one of the leaders of the band which, setting out from Phyle, forced their way into the Piraeus, and drove out the Thirty Tyrants. The judges also are described as persons who had been banished, and who had returned with Thrasybulus. The chief articles of impeachment were that Socrates was guilty of corrupting the youth and of despising the tutelary deities of the State, putting in their place other new divinities. At the same time it had been made a matter of accusation against him that Critias, the most ruthless of the Tyrants, had come forth from his school. Some expressions of his, in which he had found fault with the democratic mode of electing by lot, had also been brought up against him; and there can be little doubt that use was made of his friendly relations with Theramenes, one of the most influential of the Thirty, with Plato's uncle Charmides, who fell by the side of Critias in the struggle with the popular party, and with other aristocrats, in order to irritate against him the party which at that time was dominant. The substance of the speech which Socrates delivered in his defence is probably preserved by Plato in the discourse which goes under the name of the "Apology of Socrates." Being condemned by a majority of only six votes, he expresses the conviction that he deserved to be maintained at the public cost in the Prytaneum, and refuses to acquiesce in the adjudication of imprisonment or a large fine or banishment. He will assent to nothing more than a fine of sixty minae, on the security of Plato, Crito, and other friends. Condemned to death by the judges, who were incensed by this speech, by a majority of eighty votes, he departs from them with the protestation that he would rather die after such a defence than live after one in which he should have endeavoured to excite their pity. The sentence of death could not be carried into execution until after the return of the vessel which had been sent to Delos on the periodical Theoric mission. The thirty days which intervened between its return and the condemnation of Socrates were devoted by him in prison to poetic attempts (the first he had made in his life) and to his usual conversation with his friends. One of these conversations, on the duty of obedience to the laws, Plato has reported in the Crito, so called after the faithful follower of Socrates, who had endeavoured without success to persuade him to make his escape. In another, imitated or worked up by Plato in the Phaedo, Socrates immediately before he drank the cup of hemlock developed the grounds of his immovable conviction of the immortality of the soul. He died with composure and cheerfulness in his seventieth year, B.C. 399.
Three peculiarities distinguished Socrates: (a) His long life passed in contented poverty and in public dialectics, of which we have already spoken. (b) His persuasion of a special religious mission. He had been accustomed constantly to hear, even from his childhood, a divine voice-- interfering, at moments when he was about to act, in the way of restraint, but never in the way of instigation. Such prohibitory warning was wont to come upon him very frequently, not merely on great but even on small occasions, intercepting what he was about to do or to say. Though later writers speak of this as the Daemon or Genius of Socrates, he himself did not personify it, but treated it merely as a "divine sign, a prophetic or supernatural voice." He was accustomed not only to obey it implicitly, but to speak of it publicly and familiarly to others, so that the fact was well known both to his friends and to his enemies. (c) His great intellectual originality, both of subject and of method, and his power of stirring and forcing the germ of inquiry and ratiocination in others. He was the first who turned his thoughts and discussions distinctly to the subject of ethics, and was the first to proclaim that "the proper study of mankind is man." With the philosophers who preceded him, the subject of examination had been Nature, or the Cosmos as one undistinguishable whole, blending together cosmogony, astronomy, geometry, physics, metaphysics, etc. In discussing ethical subjects Socrates employed the dialectic method, and thus laid the foundation of formal logic, which was afterwards expanded by Plato and systematized by Aristotle.
The originality of Socrates is shown by the results he achieved. Out of his intellectual school sprang not merely Plato, himself a host, but all the other leaders of Grecian speculation for the next half century, and all those who continued the great line of speculative philosophy down to later times. Euclid and the Megaric School of philosophers--Aristippus and the Cyrenaic Antisthenes and Diogenes, the first of those called the Cynics--all emanated more or less directly from the stimulus imparted by Socrates, and so, for that matter, did the Stoics and Epicureans, though each followed a different vein of thought. Ethics continued to be what Socrates had first made them --a distinct branch of philosophy--alongside of which politics, rhetoric, logic, and other speculations relating to man and society gradually arranged themselves; all of them more popular, as well as more keenly controverted, than physics, which at that time presented comparatively little charm, and still less of attainable certainty. There can be no doubt that the individual influence of Socrates permanently enlarged the horizon, improved the method, and multiplied the ascendant minds, of the Grecian speculative world, in a manner never since paralleled. Subsequent philosophers had a more elaborate doctrine and a larger number of disciples who imbibed their ideas; but none of them applied the same stimulating method with the same efficacy, and none of them so struck out of other minds that fire which sets light to original thought.
This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Nov 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
Socrates. Greek philosopher and educational reformer of the fifth century B.C.;
born at Athens, 469 B.C.; died there, 399 B.C. After having received the usual
Athenian education in music (which included literature), geometry, and gymnastics,
he practised for a time the craft of sculptor, working, we are told, in his father's
workshop. Admonished, as he tells us, by a divine call, he gave up his occupation
in order to devote himself to the moral and intellectual reform of his fellow
citizens. He believed himself destined to become "a sort of gadfly" to the Athenian
State. He devoted himself to this mission with extraordinary zeal and singleness
of purpose. He never left the City of Athens except on two occasions, one of which
was the campaign of Potidea and Delium, and the other a public religious festival.
In his work as reformer he encountered, indeed he may be said to have provoked,
the opposition of the Sophists and their influential friends. He was the most
unconventional of teachers and the least tactful. He delighted in assuming all
sorts of rough and even vulgar mannerisms, and purposely shocked the more refined
sensibilities of his fellow citizens. The opposition to him culminated in formal
accusations of impiety and subversion of the existing moral traditions. He met
these accusations in a spirit of defiance and, instead of defending himself, provoked
his opponents by a speech in presence of his judges in which he affirmed his innocence
of all wrongdoing, and refused to retract or apologize for anything that he had
said or done. He was condemned to drink the hemlock and, when the time came, met
his fate with a calmness and dignity which have earned for him a high place among
those who suffered unjustly for conscience sake. He was a man of great moral earnestness,
and exemplified in his own life some of the noblest moral virtues. At the same
time he did not rise above the moral level of his contemporaries in every respect,
and Christian apologists have no difficulty in refuting the contention that he
was the equal of the Christian saints. His frequent references to a "divine voice"
that inspired him at critical moments in his career are, perhaps, best explained
by saying that they are simply his peculiar way of speaking about the promptings
of his own conscience. They do not necessarily imply a pathological condition
of his mind, nor a superstitous belief in the existence of a "familiar demon".
Socrates was, above all things, a reformer. He was alarmed at the condition of affairs in Athens, a condition which he was, perhaps, right in ascribing to the Sophists. They taught that there is no objective standard of the true and false, that that is true which seems to be true, and that that is false which seems to be false. Socrates considered that this theoretical scepticism led inevitably to moral anarchy. If that is true which seems to be true, then that is good, he said, which seems to be good. Up to this time morality was taught not by principles scientifically determined, but by instances, proverbs, and apothegms. He undertook, therefore, first to determine the conditions of universally valid knowledge, and, secondly, to found on universally valid moral principles a science of human conduct. Self-knowledge is the starting point, because, he believed, the greatest source of the prevalent confusion was the failure to realize how little we know about anything, in the true sense of the word know. The statesman, the orator, the poet, think they know much about courage; for they talk about it as being noble, and praiseworthy, and beautiful, etc. But they are really ignorant of it until they know what it is, in other words, until they know its definition. The definite meaning, therefore, to be attached to the maxim "know thyself" is "Realize the extent of thine own ignorance".
Consequently, the Socratic method of teaching included two stages, the negative and the positive. In the negative stage, Socrates, approaching his intended pupil in an attitude of assumed ignorance, would begin to ask a question, apparently for his own information. He would follow this by other questions, until his interlocutor would at last be obliged to confess ignorance of the subject discussed. Because of the pretended deference which Socrates payed to the superior intelligence of his pupil, this stage of the method was called "Socratic Irony". In the positive stage of the method, once the pupil had acknowledged his ignorance, Socrates would proceed to another series of questions, each of which would bring out some phase or aspect of the subject, so that when. at the end, the answers were all summed up in a general statement, that statement expressed the concept of the subject, or the definition. Knowledge through concepts, or knowledge by definition, is the aim, therefore, of the Socratic method. The entire process was called "Hueristic", because it was a method of finding,and opposed to "Eristic", which is the method of strife, or contention. Knowledge through concepts is certain, Socrates taught, and offers a firm foundation for the structure not only of theoretical knowledge, but also of moral principles, and the science of human conduct, Socrates went so far as to maintain that all right conduct depends on clear knowledge, that not only does a definition of a virtue aid us in acquiring that virtue, but that the definition of the virtue is the virtue. A man who can define justice is just, and, in general, theoretical insight into the principles of conduct is identical with moral excellence in conduct; knowledge is virtue. Contrariwise, ignorance is vice, and no one can knowingly do wrong. These principles are, of couse only partly true. Their formulation, however, at this time was of tremendous importance, because it marks the beginning of an attempt to build up on general principles a science of human conduct.
Socrates devoted little attention to questions of physics and cosmogony. Indeed, he did not conceal his contempt for these questions when comparing them with questions affecting man, his nature and his destiny. He was, however, interested in the question of the existence of God and formulated an argument from design which was afterwards known as the "Teleological Argument" for the existence of God. "Whatever exists for a useful purpose must be the work of an intelligence" is the major premise of Socrates' argument, and may be said to be the major premise, explicit or implicit, of every teleological argument formulated since his time. Socrates was profoundly convinced of the immortality of the soul, although in his address to his judges he argues against fear of death in such a way as apparently to offer two alternatives: "Either death ends all things, or it is the beginning of a happy life." His real conviction was that the soul survives the body, unless, indeed, we are misled by our authorities, Plato and Xenophon. In the absence of primary sources -- Socrates, apparently, never wrote anything -- we are obliged to rely on these writers and on a few references of Aristotle for our knowledge of what Socrates taught. Plato's portrayal of Socrates is idealistic; when, however, we correct it by reference to Xenophon's more practical view of Socrates' teaching, the result cannot be far from historic truth.
William Turner, ed.
Transcribed by: Michael Murphy and Patrick Swain
This text is cited July 2005 from The Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent online edition URL below.
Socrates (Sokrates), the celebrated Athenian philosopher, was the son of a statuary
of the name of Sophroniscus. He belonged to the deme Alopece, in the immediate
neighbourhood of Athens, and according to the statement of Demetrius Phalereus
and Apollodorus, was born in the 4th year of the 77th Olympiad (B. C. 468). The
assumption that he was born ten years later (Diog. Laert. ii. 45) is confuted
by his expression in the Apology of Plato, that, though he was more than seventy
years old, that was his first appearance before a judicial tribunal, since the
date of the conviction that ensued is well established (Ol. 95. 1). Whether in
his youth he devoted himself to the art of his father, and himself executed the
group of clothed Graces which was shown on the Acropolis as a work of Socrates
(Paus. ix. 35), we must leave undecided; the statements that in his youth he had
in turn given himself up to an employment unworthy of a freeman, or even to a
licentious life, we cannot regard as authenticated. Nevertheless it appears that
it was not without a struggle that he became master of his naturally impetuous
appetite. That he was a disciple of the physiologists Anaxagoras and Archelaus,
rests on the evidence of doubtful authorities. Plato and Xenophon know nothing
of it; on the contrary, in the former (Phaed.) Socrates refers his knowledge of
the doctrine of Anaxagoras to the book of that philosopher, and in the latter
(Xen. Symp, i. 5) he designates himself as self-taught. But that, while living
in Athens, at that time so rich in the means of mental culture, he remained without
any instruction, as the disparaging Aristoxenus maintains, is confuted by the
testimony of Xenophon (Mem. iv. 7.3) and Plato (Meno) respecting his mathematical
knowledge, and the thankfulness with which he mentions the care of his native
city for public education (Plato, Crito). Although he complains of not having
met with the wished for instruction at the hands of those whom he had regarded
as wise (Plat. Apol.; comp. Xen. Oecon. 2. 16), intercourse with the most distinguished
men and women of his age could not remain entirely without fruit for one who was
continually striving to arrive at an understanding with himself by means of an
understanding with others (Plat. Charm.). In this sense he boasts of being a disciple
of Prodicus and Connus, of Aspasia and Diotime, and says that the reason why he
so seldom went outside the walls of the city was, that it was only within it that
he found instruction by means of intercourse. Devoted as he was to his native
city in love and thankfulness, and faithfully as he fulfilled the duties of a
citizen in the field (at Potidaea, Delion, and Amphipolis B. C. 432 and 424) and
in the city, he did not seek to exert his influence either as a general or as
a statesman; not that he shunned a contest with unbridled democracy, -for he thoroughly
proved his courage, not only in the above-mentioned expeditions, but also by the
resistance which he offered, first, as president of the Prytaneia, to the unjust
sentence of death pronounced against the victors of Arginusae, and afterwards
to the order of the Thirty Tyrants for the apprehension of Leon the Salaminian;--but
because he entertained the most lively conviction that he was called by the Deity
to strive, by means of his teaching and life, after a revival of moral feeling,
and the laying of a scientific foundation for it. For this reason an internal
divine voice had Warned him against participating in political affairs , and therefore
the skill requisite for such pursuits had remained undeveloped in him. When it
was that he first recognised this vocation, cannot be ascertained; and probably
it was by degrees that, owing to the need which he felt in the intercourse of
minds of coming to an understanding with himself, he betook himself to the active
duties of a teacher. Since Aristophanes exhibited him as the representative of
the witlings and sophists in the "Clouds," which was exhibited for the first time
in B. C. 423, he must already have obtained a widespread reputation. But he never
opened a school, nor did he, like the sophists of his time, deliver public lectures.
Everywhere, in the market-place. in the gymnasia, and in the workshops, he sought
and found opportunities for awakening and guiding, in boys, youths, and men, moral
consciousness and the impulse after self-knowledge respecting the end and value
of our actions. On those whom he had convinced that the care of continually becoming
better and more intelligent must take precedence of all other cares, he was sure
he had conferred the greatest benefit. But he only endeavoured to aid them in
developing the germs of knowledge which were already present in them, not to communicate
to them ready made knowledge; and he therefore professed to practise a kind of
mental mid wifery, just as his mother Phaenarete exercised the corresponding corporeal
art. Unweariedly and inexorably did he fight against all false appearance and
conceit of knowledge, in order to pave the way for correct self-cognition, and
therewith, at the same time, true knowledge. Consequently to the mentally proud
and the mentally idle he appeared an intolerable bore, and often enough experienced
their bitter hatred and calumny, Such persons might easily be misled by the "
Clouds " of Aristophanes into regarding Socrates as the head of the sophists,
although he was their victorious opponent. Although the story that it was after
entering into a bargain with the accusers of Socrates that the poet held him up
to public scorn and ridicule, is a palpable invention, since the first exhibition
of the " Clouds" (in B. C. 423) preceded the prosecution and condemnation of Socrates
by twenty-four years, still that the comedy produced a lasting unfavourable impression
respecting the philosopher, he himself declared in the speech which he made in
his own defence on his trial. Yet it does not appear that personal enmity against
Socrates was the motive for the production of the comedy (Plato exhibits Socrates
engaged in the most confidential conversation with the poet, Symp.). As little
can we tax the poet with a calumny proceeding from maliciousness, or with meaningless
buffoonery, since almost all his comedies exhibit great moral earnestness and
warm love for his country. It appears rather to have been from a conviction that
the ancient faith and the ancient manners could be regained only by thrusting
aside all philosophy that dealt in subtleties, that he represented Socrates, the
best known of the philosophers, as the head of that sophistical system which was
burying all morals and piety. In adopting this view we do not venture to decide
how far Aristophanes regarded his exhibition as corresponding to the peculiarities
of Socrates, or contented himself with portraying in his person the hated tendency.
Attached to none of the prevailing parties, Socrates found in each of them his friends and his enemies. Hated and persecuted by Critias, Charicles, and others among the Thirty Tyrants, who had a special reference to him in the decree which they issued, forbidding the teaching of the art of oratory (Xen. Mem. i. 2.31, 37), he was impeached after their banishment and by their opponents. An orator named Lycon, and a poet (a friend of Thrasybulus) named Melitus, had united in the impeachment with the powerful demagogue Anytus, an embittered antagonist of the sophists and their system, and one of the leaders of the band which, setting out from Phyle, forced their way into the Peiraeeus, and drove out the Thirty Tyrants. The judges also are described as persons who had been banished, and who had returned with Thrasybulus. The chief articles of impeachment were, that Socrates was guilty of corrupting the youth, and of despising the tutelary deities of the state, putting in their place another new divinity. At the same time it had been made a matter of accusation against him, that Critias, the most ruthless of the Tyrants, had come forth from his school. Some expressions of his, in which he had found fault with the democratical mode of electing by lot, had also been brought up against him; and there can be little doubt that use was made of his friendly relations with Theramenes, one of the most influential of the Thirty, with Plato's uncle Charmides, who fell by the side of Critias in the struggle with the popular party, and with other aristocrats, in order to irritate against him the party which at that time was dominant; though some friends of Socrates, as Chaerephon for example, were to be found in its ranks. But, greatly as his dislike to unbridled democracy may have nourished the hatred long cherished against him, that political opposition was not, strictly speaking, the ground of the hatred ; and the impeachment sought to represent him as a man who in every point of view was dangerous to the state.
In the fullest consciousness of his innocence, Socrates repels the charge raised against him. His constant admonition in reference to the worship of the gods had been, not to deviate from the maxims of the state; and with this faith that which he placed in his Daemonium stood in the closest connection. That he intended to introduce new divinities, or was attached to the atheistical meteorosophia of Anaxagoras, his accusers could hardly be in earnest in believing ; any more than that he had taught that it was allowable to do anything, even what was disgraceful, for the sake of gain, or that he had exhorted his disciples to despise their parents and relations, and to disobey the laws, or had sanctioned the maltreatment of the poor by the rich. Did then all these accusations take their rise merely in personal hatred and envy? Socrates himself seems to have assumed that such was the case. Yet the existence of deeper and more general grounds is shown by the widespread dislike towards Socrates, which, five years after his death, Xenophon thought it necessary to oppose by his apologetic writings. This is also indicated by the antagonism in which we find Aristophanes against the philosopher, an antagonism which, as we have seen, cannot be deduced from personal dislike. Just as the poet was influenced by the conviction that every kind of philosophy, equally with that of the sophists, could tend only to a further relaxation of the ancient morals and the ancient faith, so probably were also a considerable part of the judges of Socrates. They might imagine that it was their duty to endeavour to check, by the condemnation of the philosopher, the too subtle style of examining into morals and laws, and to restore the old hereditary faith in their unrestricted validity; especially at a time, when, after the expulsion of the Thirty, the need may have been felt of returning to the old faith and the old manners. But the assertion with regard to a well-known depreciatory opinion of Cato, that that opinion is the most just that was ever uttered, cannot be maintained without rejecting the best authenticated accounts that we have of Socrates, and entirely misconceiving the circumstances of the time. The demand that the individual, abjuring all private judgment, should let himself be guided simply by the laws and maxims of the state, could no longer be made at the time of the prosecution, when poets, with Aristophanes at their head,--ardently desirous as he was for the old constitution and policy,--ridiculed, often with unbridled freedom, the gods of the state and old maxims; and when it never occurred to any orator to uphold the demand that each should unconditionally submit himself to the existing constitution. If it was brought to bear against Socrates, it could only be through a passionate misconception of his views and intentions. In the case of some few this misconception might rest upon the mistake, that, by doing away with free, thoughtful inquiry, the good old times might be brought back again. With most it probably proceeded from democratical hatred of the political maxims of Socrates, and from personal dislike of his troublesome exhortation to moral self-examination.
While Socrates, in his defence, describes the wisdom which he aimed after as that which, after conscientious self-examination, gets rid of all illusion and obscurity, and only obeys the better, God or man, and God more than man, and esteems virtue above everything else, he repudiates any acquittal that should involve the condition that he was not to inquire and teach any more. Condemned by a majority of only six votes, and called upon to speak in mitigation of the sentence, while lie defends himself against the accusation of stiffnecked self-conceit, he expresses the conviction that he deserved to be maintained at the public cost in the Prytaneium, and refuses to acquiesce in the adjudication of imprisonment, or a large fine, or banishment. He will assent to nothing more than a fine of thirty minae, on the security of Plato, Crito, and other friends. Condemned to death by the judges, who were incensed by this speech, by a majority of eighty votes, he departs from them with the protestation, that he would. rather die after such a defence than live after one in which he should have betaken himself to an endeavour to move their pity; and to those who had voted for him he justifies the openness with which he had exhibited his contempt of death. The sentence of death could not be carried into execution until after the return of the vessel which had been sent to Delos on the periodical Theoric mission, The thirty days which intervened between its return and the condemnation of Socrates were devoted by the latter, in undisturbed repose, to poetic attempts (the first he had made in his life), and to the usual conversation with his friends. One of these conversations, on the duty of obedience to the laws even in the case of an unjust application of them, Plato has reported in the Crito, so called after the faithful follower of the condemned man, who bore that name, and who, although he himself had become bail for Socrates, had endeavoured without success to persuade him to make his escape. In another, imitated or worked up by Plato in the Phaedo, Socrates immediately before he drank the poison developed the grounds of his immovable conviction of the immortality of the soul. The manner in which the assembled friends, in the alternation of joyful admiration and profound grief, lauded him as one who, by the divine appointment, was going to a place where it must fare well with him, if with any-one ;--how he departed from them with the one wish, that, in their care for themselves, that is, for their true welfare, they would cherish in their memories his latest and his earlier sayings ;--and how, with his last breath, he designates the transition to the life that lies beyond death as the true recovery from a state of impurity and disease, --all this is set before us with such liveliness, that we gladly accord with the closing words of the dialogue :--"Thus died the man, who of all with whom we were acquainted was in death the noblest, in life the wisest and most just."
To the accusations which were brought against Socrates in his impeachment subsequent enviers and haters added others, of which that impeachment takes no cognizance, and which are destitute of all credibility on other grounds. The accusation that he was addicted to the vice of paederastia, we do not hesitate, supported by his unambiguous expressions respecting the essence of true, spiritual love in Xenophon and Plato, to reject as a calumny. Also the account that in consequence of a resolution of the people allowing bigamy, which was passed during the Peloponnesian war, he was married to two women at the same time, is to be set aside as unfounded, since the existence of any such resolution of the people cannot be proved, while the Socratics know of only one wife, Xanthippe, and the account itself is not free from contradictions. J. Luzac, following Bentley and others, completely refutes it.
Whether, and how soon after the death of Socrates, repentance seized the Athenians, and his accusers met with contempt and punishment; and further whether and when, to expiate the crime, a brazen statue, the work of Lysippus, was dedicated to his memory, it is not easy to determine with any certainty, in consequence of the indefiniteness of the statements. Five years after his execution, Xenophon found himself obliged to compose the Memorabilia, in vindication of Socrates.
II. Among those who attached themselves with more than ordinary intimacy to Socrates, some were attracted mainly by the spiritual power which he exercised over men. To learn this power from him, that they might apply it in the conduct of the affairs of the state, was probably the immediate object of men like Critias (for Alcibiades, who is here named in connection with him was doubtless actuated by a nobler admiration for the whole personal character of the philosopher; see especially (Plat. Symp.), and such remained attached to him only till ambition hurried them in other directions. Others sought to dive into the teaching and life of Socrates, in order to obtain for themselves and others an enduring rule of morality. How his image had exhibited itself to them and impressed itself upon them, several among them endeavoured to render manifest by noting down the conversations at which they had been present. Among such Xenophon and Aeschines hold the chief rank, though they could hardly have been the only ones who composed such memorials. Others felt themselves urged to develope still further the outlines of the Socratic doctrine, and, according to their original bent and their different modes of apprehending and developing it, arrived at very different theories. But, persuaded that they were only advancing on the path marked out by Socrates, they referred to him their own peculiar amplifications of his doctrines. Just as in the dialogues of Plato. even in the Timaeus and the Laws, we find Socrates brought forward as leading, or at least introducing the conversations and investigations, so also Eu, cleides, Antisthenes, and others seem to have endeavoured in their dialogues to glorify him, and to exhibit him as the originator of their doctrines. In this way arose two essentially different representations of Socrates, and in antiquity it was already disputed whether Plato or Xenophon, or even whether Plato or Aeschines had sketched the more accurate picture of the man. He himself left either absolutely nothing in a written form, or only a rhythmical version of some of Aesop's fables and the introduction to a hymn to Apollo, which he had composed during his imprisonment, when for the first time in his life he made any attempts in verse (Plat. Phaed.). The quotations that antiquity possessed of it were of doubtful authenticity. What we possess from Aeschines, that is well authenticated, is limited to fragments. We have therefore only to decide for Xenophon, who exhibited considerable mental affinity with Socrates, or for Plato. Now Plato manifestly makes Socrates occupy his own place, and transfers to him the doctrines that were peculiar to himself. Xenophon on the contrary exhibits no other intention than that of communicating information with fidelity, and refrains from mixing up with his representation anything that was peculiar to himself. This was so much the easier for him, as it was not his purpose to develope the Socratic doctrine, and as he was not capable of penetrating into the peculiarity of a philosophic mode of thinking. But for that very reason his representation, with all its fidelity, is not adapted to give us a sufficient picture of the man whom all antiquity regarded as the originator of a new era in philosophy, and whose life each of his disciples, especially Plato the most distinguished of them, regarded as a model. Moreover it was the object of Xenophon, by way of defence against the accusers of Socrates, merely to paint him as the morally spotless, pious, upright, temperate, clear-sighted, unjustly condemned man, not as the founder of new philosophical inquiry. It may easily be understood therefore that there were various opinions in antiquity as to whether the more satisfactory picture of Socrates was to be found in Plato, in Xenophon, or in Aeschines. Since the time of Brucker however it had become usual to go back to Xenophon, to the exclusion of the other authorities, as the source of the only authentic delineation of the personal characteristics and philosophy of Socrates, or to fill up the gaps left by him by means of the accounts of Plato, till Schleiermacher started the inquiry, " What can Socrates have been, besides what Xenophon tells us of him, without contradicting that authority, and what must he have been, to have justified Plato in bringing him forward as he does in his dialogues?" Dissen, too, had already pointed out some not inconsiderable contradictions in the doctrines of the Xenophontic Socrates. Now we know indeed that Socrates, the teacher of human wisdom, who, without concerning himself with the investigation of the secrets of nature, wished to bring philosophy back from heaven to earth, was far from intending to introduce a regularly organised system of philosophy; but that he made no endeavours to go back to the ultimate foundations of his doctrine, or that that doctrine was vacillating and not without contradictions, as Wiggers and others assume, we cannot possibly regard as a well founded view, unless his almost unexampled influence upon the most distinguished men of his time is to become an inexplicable riddle, and the conviction of a Plato, a Eucleides, and others, that they were indebted to him for the fruits of their own investigations, is to be regarded as a mere illusion. Now we fully admit that in the representation of the personal character of Socrates Plato and Xenophon coincide; and further, that Socrates adjusted his treatment of the subject of his conversation according as those with whom he had to do entertained such or such views, were more or less endowed, and had made more or less progress; and therefore did not always say the same on the same subject. But, on the other hand, in Xenophon we miss every thing like a penetrating comprehension of the fundamental ideas of the Socratic doctrine to which he himself makes reference. The representations of Plato and Xenophon however may be very well harmonised with each other, partly by the assumption that Socrates, as the originator of a new era of philosophical development, must have made the first steps in that which was its distinctive direction, and the immediate manifestation of which consisted in bringing into more distinct and prominent relief the idea and form of scientific knowledge; partly by the careful employment of the remarks made by Aristotle respecting the Socratic doctrine and the points of distinction between it and that of Plato. These remarks, though not numerous, are decisive on account of their acuteness and precision, as well as by their referring to the most important points in the philosophy of Socrates.
III. The philosophy of the Greeks before Socrates had sought first (among the Ionians) after the inherent foundation of generated existence and changing phenomena, and then (among the Eleatics) after the idea of absolute existence. Afterwards, when the ideas of being and coming into being had come into hostile opposition to each other, it had made trial of various inefficient modes of reconciling them; and lastly, raising the inquiry after the absolutely true and certain in our knowledge, had arrived at the assumption that numbers and their relations are not only the absolutely true and certain, but the foundation of things. Its efforts, which had been pervaded by a pure appreciation of truth, were then exposed to the attacks of a sophistical system, which concerned itself only about securing an appearance of knowledge, and which in the first instance indeed applied itself to the diametrically opposite theories of eternal, perpetual coming into existence, and of unchangeable, absolutely simple and single existence, but soon directed its most dangerous weapons against the ethico-religious consciousness, which in the last ten years before the Peloponnesian war had already been so much shaken. Whoever intended to oppose that sophistical system with any success would have, at the same time, at least to lay the foundation for a removal of the contradictions, which, having been left by the earlier philosophy without any tenable mode of reconciling them, had been employed by the sophists with so much skill for their own purposes. In order to establish, in confutation of the sophists, that the human mind sees itself compelled to press on to truth and certainty, not only in the general but also in reference to the rules and laws of our actions, and is capable of doing so, it was necessary first of all that to the inquiries previously dealt with there should be added a new one, that after knowledge, as such. It was a new inquiry, inasmuch as previously the mind, being entirely directed towards the objective universe, had regarded knowledge respecting it as a necessary reflection of it, without paying any closer regard to that element of knowledge which is essentially subjective. Even the Pythagoreans, who came the nearest to that inquiry, had perceived [p. 852] indeed that the existence of something absolutely true and certain must be presupposed, but without investigating further what knowledge is and how it may be developed. It was the awakening of the idea of knowledge, and the first utterances of it, which made the philosophy of Socrates the turning-point of a new period, and gave to it its fructifying power. Before we inquire after the existence of things we must establish in our own minds the idea of them; and for that reason we must come to an understanding with ourselves respecting what belongs to man, before we inquire after the nature of things in genera. Socrates accordingly takes up the inquiry respecting knowledge in the first instance, and almost exclusively, in reference to moral action; but he is so penetrated with a sense of the power of knowledge, that he maintains that where it is attained to, there moral action will of necessity be found; or, as he expresses it, all virtue is knowledge; for knowledge is always the strongest, and cannot be overpowered by appetite. Therefore no man willingly acts wickedly; for will appeared to him to be inseparably connected with knowledge. But just as knowledge, as such, that is without regard to the diversity of the objects to which it is directed, is something single, so also he could admit only a single virtue; and as little could he recognise an essential diversity in the directions which virtue took, as in the practice of it by persons of different station and sex. It may easily be conceived, therefore, that he did not venture to separate happiness from virtue, and that he expressly defined the former more accurately as good conduct (eupraxia) in distinction from good fortune; a distinction in which is expressed the most important diversity in all later treatment of ethics, which sets down either a certain mode of being or acting, as such, or else the mere enjoyment that results therefrom, as that which is in itself valuable.
But how does knowledge develope itself in us? In this way : the idea, obtained by means of induction, as that which is general, out of the individual facts of consciousness, is settled and fixed by means of definition. Those are the two scientific processes, which, according to the most express testimonies of Aristotle and others, Socrates first discovered, or rather first pointed out; and although he did not attempt to develope a logical theory of them, but rather contented himself with the masterly practice of them, he may with good reason be regarded as the founder of the theory of scientific knowledge. Socrates, however, always setting out from what was immediately admitted, exercised this twofold process on the most different subjects, and in doing so was led to obtain an insight into this or that one of them, not so much by the end in view as by the necessity for calling forth self-knowledge and self-understanding. For this end he endeavoured in the first place, and chiefly, to awaken the consciousness of ignorance; and inasmuch as the impulse towards the development of knowledge is already contained in this, he maintains that he had been declared by the Delphic god to be the wisest of men, because he did not delude himself with the idea that he knew what he did not know, and did not arrogate to himself any wisdom. To call forth distrust in pretended knowledge he used to exercise his peculiar irony, which, directed against himself as against others, lost all offensive poignancy. Convinced that he could obtain his object only by leading to the spontaneous search after truth, he throughout made use of the dialogical form (which passed from him to the most different ramifications of his school), and designates the inclination to supply one's deficiencies in one's own investigation by association with others striving towards the same end, as true love. But however deeply Socrates felt the need of advancing in self-development with others, and by means of them, the inclination and the capability for wrapping himself up in the abstraction of solitary meditation and diving into the depths of his own mind, was equally to be found in him. And again, side by side with his incessant endeavour thoroughly to understand himself there stood the sense of the need of illumination by a higher inspiration. This he was convinced was imparted to him from time to time by the monitions or warnings of an internal voice, which he designated his daimonion. By this we are not to understand a personal genius, as Plutarch (de Genio Socratis, c. 20), Apulcius (de Deo Socrat.), and others, and probably also the accusers of Socrates, assumed; as little was it the offspring of an enthusiastic phantasy, as moderns have thought, or the production of the Socratic irony, or of cunning political calculation. It was rather the yet indefinitely developed idea of a divine revelation. On that account it is always described only as a divine something, or a divine sign, a divine voice. This voice had reference to actions the issue of which could not be anticipated by calculation, whether it manifested itself, at least immediately, only in the way of warning against certain actions, or even now and then as urging him to their performance. On the other hand this daemonium was to be perceived as little in reference to the moral value of actions as in reference to subjects of knowledge. Socrates on the contrary expressly forbids the having recourse to oracles on a level with which he places his daemonium, in reference to that which the gods have enabled men to find by means of reflection.
Thus far the statements of Xenophon and Plato admit of being very well reconciled both with one another and with those of Aristotle. But this is not the case with reference to the more exact definition and carrying out of the idea of that knowledge which should have moral action as its immediate and necessary consequence. What is comprised in, and what is the source of, this knowledge? Is it to be derived merely from custom and the special ends and interests of the subject which acts? Every thing, according to the Xenophontic Socrates, is good and beautiful merely for that to which it stands in a proper relation. The good is nothing else than the useful, the beautiful nothing else than the serviceable, and almost throughout, moral precepts are referred to the motives of utility and enjoyment; while on the contrary the Platonic Socrates never makes use of an argument founded on the identity of the good and the agreeable. In the passages which have been brought forward to show that he does, he is manifestly arguing ad hominem from the point of view of his sophistical antagonist. Now, that the doctrine of Socrates must have been a self-contradictory one, if on the one hand it laid down the above assertions respecting knowledge, and undertook to prove that only good conduct, and not good fortune (eupraxia not eutuchia), was valuable in itself, and yet on the other hand referred the good to the useful and the agreeable, even the defenders of the representation given by Xenophon admit, but suppose that this contradiction was an unavoidable consequence of the abstract and merely formal conception of virtue as knowledge. But however little Socrates may have had occasion for, or been capable of, analysing what was comprised in this knowledge, i. e. of establishing a scientifically organised system of ethics (and in fact, according to Aristotle, Eth. Eudem. i. 5, he investigated what virtue was, not how and whence it originated), he could not possibly have subordinated knowledge, to which he attributed such unlimited power, and of which he affirmed that opposing desires were powerless against it, to enjoyment and utility. A man who himself so manifestly annulled his own fundamental maxim could not possibly have permanently enchained and inspired minds like those of Alcibiades, Eucleides, Plato, and others. In fact Socrates declared in the most decisive manner that the validity of moral requirements was independent of all reference to welfare, nay even to life and death, and unlimited, and in those dialogues of Plato in which the historical Socrates is more particularly exhibited, as in the Protagoras, Charmides, Laches, and Euthyphro, we find him offering the most vigorous resistance to the assumption that the agreeable or useful has any value for us. That Socrates must rather have had in view a higher species of knowledge, inherent in the self-consciousness, as such, or developing itself from it, is shown by the expressions selected by Aristotle (epistemai, logoi, phroneseis), which even still make their appearance through the shallow notices of Xenophon. But in connection with this, Socrates might, nay must have endeavoured to show how tile good is coincident with real utility and real enjoyment; and it is quite conceivable that Xenophon's unphilosophical mind may on the one hand have confounded sensual enjoyment and utility with that of a more exalted and real kind, and on the other comprehended and preserved the externals and introductions of the conversations of Socrates rather than their internal connection and objects. Besides, his purpose was to refute the prejudice that Socrates aspired after a hidden wisdom, and for that very reason he might have found himself still more induced to bring prominently forward every thing by which Socrates appeared altogether to fall in with the ordinary conceptions of the Athenians.
Whether and how Socrates endeavoured to connect the moral with the religious consciousness, and how and how far he had developed his convictions respecting a divine spirit arranging and guiding the universe, respecting the immortality of the soul, the essential nature of love, of the state, &c., we cannot here inquire.
This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited July 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
, 540 - 468
(Aristeides). An Athenian, surnamed "the Just," son of Lysimachus, of an ancient and noble family. He fought at the battle of Marathon, B.C. 490; and in the next year, 489, was archon. He was the great rival of Themistocles, and it was through the influence of the latter with the people that he suffered ostracism in 483 or 482. He was still in exile in 480 at the battle of Salamis, where he did good service by dislodging the enemy, with a band raised and armed by himself, from the islet of Psyttalea. He was recalled from banishment after the battle, was appointed general in the following year (479), and commanded the Athenians at the battle of Plataea. In 477, when the allies had become disgusted with the conduct of Pausanias and the Spartans, he and his colleague Cimon had the glory of obtaining for Athens the command of the maritime confederacy; and to Aristides was by general consent intrusted the task of drawing up its laws and fixing its assessments. The first tribute of four hundred and sixty talents, paid into a common treasury at Delos, bore his name. This is his last recorded act. He probably died in 468, and so poor that he did not leave enough to pay for his funeral. His daughters were portioned by the State, and his son Lysimachus received a grant of land and of money.
This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Nov 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
Aristedes : Son of Lysimachus, imposes tribute on Greek islands, an Athenian, ostracised by the people, his conference with Themistocles before Salamis, his part in the battle, at Plataea
Receive our daily Newsletter with all the latest updates on the Greek Travel industry.Subscribe now!