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Socrates frequently says his ideas are not his own, but his teachers'. He mentions several influences: Prodicus the rhetor and Anaxagoras the philosopher. Perhaps surprisingly, Socrates claims to have been deeply influenced by two women besides his mother: he says that Diotima (cf. Plato's Symposium), a witch and priestess from Mantinea, taught him all he knows about eros, or love; and that Aspasia, the mistress of Pericles, taught him the art of rhetoric.[113] John Burnet argued that his principal teacher was the Anaxagorean Archelaus but his ideas were as Plato described them; Eric A. Havelock, on the other hand, did not accept the view that Socrates's view was identical with that of Archelaus, in large part due to the reason of such anomalies and contradictions that have surfaced and "post-dated his death."[questions are posed to help a person or group determine their underlying beliefs and the extent of their knowledge. The Socratic method is a negative method of hypothesis elimination, in that better hypotheses are found by steadily identifying and eliminating those that lead to contradictions. It was designed to force one to examine one's own beliefs and the validity of such beliefs.

An alternative interpretation of the dialectic is that it is a method for direct perception of the Form of the Good. Philosopher Karl Popper describes the dialectic as "the art of intellectual intuition, of visualising the divine originals, the Forms or Ideas, of unveiling the Great Mystery behind the common man's everyday world of appearances."[108] In a similar vein, French philosopher Pierre Hadot suggests that the dialogues are a type of spiritual exercise. Hadot writes that "in Plato's view, every dialectical exercise, precisely because it is an exercise of pure thought, subject to the demands of the Logos, turns the soul away from the sensible world, and allows it to convert itself towards the Good."[109]

The beliefs of Socrates, as distinct from those of Plato, are difficult to discern. Little in the way of concrete evidence exists to demarcate the two. The lengthy presentation of ideas given in most of the dialogues may be the ideas of Socrates himself, but which have been subsequently deformed or changed by Plato, and some scholars think Plato so adapted the Socratic style as to make the literary character and the philosopher himself impossible to distinguish. Others argue that Socrates did have his own theories and beliefs distinct from Plato.[110] There is a degree of controversy inherent in the identifying of what these might have been, owing to the difficulty of separating Socrates from Plato and the difficulty of interpreting even the dramatic writings concerning Socrates. Consequently, distinguishing the philosophical beliefs of Socrates from those of Plato and Xenophon has not proven easy, so it must be remembered that what is attributed to Socrates might actually be more the specific concerns of these two thinkers instead.

The matter is complicated because the historical Socrates see

The matter is complicated because the historical Socrates seems to have been notorious for asking questions but not answering, claiming to lack wisdom concerning the subjects about which he questioned others.[111]

If anything in general can be said about the philosophical beliefs of Socrates, it is that he was morally, intellectually, and politically at odds with many of his fellow Athenians. When he is on trial for heresy and corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens, he uses his method of elenchos to demonstrate to the jurors that their moral values are wrong-headed. He tells them they are concerned with their families, careers, and political responsibilities when they ought to be worried about the "welfare of their souls". Socrates's assertion that the gods had singled him out as a divine emissary seemed to provoke irritation, if not outright ridicule. Socrates also questioned the Sophistic doctrine that arete (virtue) can be taught. He liked to observe that successful fathers (such as the prominent military general Pericles) did not produce sons of their own quality. Socrates argued that moral excellence was more a matter of divine bequest than parental nurture. This belief may have contributed to his lack of anxiety about the future of his own sons.

Also, according to A. A. Long, "There should be no doubt that, despite his claim to know only that he knew nothing, Socrates had strong beliefs about the divine", and, citing Xenophon's Memorabilia, 1.4, 4.3,:

According to Xenophon, he was a teleologist who held that god arranges everything for the best.[112]

Socrates frequently says his ideas are not his own, but his teachers'. He mentions several influences: Prodicus the rhetor and Anaxagoras the philosopher. Perhaps surprisingly, Socrates claims to have been deeply influenced by two women besides his mother: he says that Diotima (cf. Plato's Symposium), a witch and priestess from Mantinea, taught him all he knows about eros, or love; and that Aspasia, the mistress of Pericles, taught him the art of rhetoric.[113] John Burnet argued that his principal teacher was the Anaxagorean Archelaus but his ideas were as Plato described them; Eric A. Havelock, on the other hand, did not accept the view that Socrates's view was identical with that of Archelaus, in large part due to the reason of such anomalies and contradictions that have surfaced and "post-dated his death."[clarification needed][114]

Many of the beliefs traditionally attributed to the historical Socrates have been characterized as "paradoxical" because they seem to conflict with common sense. The following are among the so-called Socratic paradoxes:[115]

  • No one desires evil.
  • No one errs or does wrong wil

    The term, "Socratic paradox" can also refer to a self-referential paradox, originating in Socrates's utterance, "what I do not know I do not think I know",[116] often paraphrased as "I know that I know nothing."

    Knowledge

    The statement "I know that I know nothin

    The statement "I know that I know nothing" is often attributed to Socrates, based on a statement in Plato's Apology.[117] The conventional interpretation of this is that Socrates's wisdom was limited to an awareness of his own ignorance. During the Academic Skeptic period of the Platonic Academy, the Academics based their philosophical skepticism on Socrates' comments in the Phaedo, sections 64-67,[118] in which Socrates discusses how knowledge is not accessible to mortals.[119]

    Socrates considered virtuousness to require or consist of Socrates considered virtuousness to require or consist of phronēsis, "thought, sense, judgement, practical wisdom, [and] prudence."[120][121] Therefore, he believed that wrongdoing and behaviour that was not virtuous resulted from ignorance, and that those who did wrong knew no better.[122]

    The one thing Socrates claimed to have knowledge of was "the art of love" (ta erôtikê). This assertion seems to be associated with the word erôtan, which means to ask questions. Therefore, Socrates is claiming to know about the art of love, insofar as he knows how to ask questions.[123][124]

    The only time he actually claimed to be wise was within Apology, in which he says he is wise "in the limited sense of having human wisdom".[125] It is debatable whether Socrates believed humans (as opposed to gods like Apollo) could actually become wise. On the one hand, he drew a clear line between human ignorance and ideal knowledge; on the other hand, Plato's Symposium (Diotima's Speech) and Republic (Allegory of the Cave) describe a method for ascending to wisdom.

    In Plato's Theaetetus (150a), Socrates compares his treatment of the young people who come to him for philosophical advice to the way midwives treat their patients, and the way matrimonial matchmakers act. He says that he himself is a true matchmaker (προμνηστικός promnestikós) in that he matches the young man to the best philosopher for his particular mind. However, he carefully distinguishes himself from a panderer (προᾰγωγός proagogos) or procurer. This distinction is echoed in Xenophon's Symposium (3.20), when Socrates jokes about his certainty of being able to make a fortune, if he chose to practice the art of pandering. For his part as a philosophical interlocutor, he leads his respondent to a clearer conception of wisdom, although he claims he is not himself a teacher (Apology). His role, he claims, is more properly to be understood as analogous to a midwife (μαῖα maia).[126][127]

    In the Theaetetus, Socrates explains that he is himself barren of theories, but knows how to bring the theories of others to birth and determine whether they are worthy or mere "wind eggs" (ἀνεμιαῖον anemiaion). Perhaps significantly, he points out that midwives are barren due to age, and women who have never given birth are unable to become midwives; they would have no experience or knowledge of birth and would be unable to separate the worthy infants from those that should be left on the hillside to be exposed. To judge this, the midwife must have experience and knowledge of what she is judging.[128][129]

    Socrates believed the best way for people to live was to focus on the pursuit of virtue rather than the pursuit, for instance, of material wealth.[130] He always invited others to try to concentrate more on friendships and a sense of true community, for Socrates felt this was the best way for people to grow together as a populace.[131] His actions lived up to this standard: in the end, Socrates accepted his death sentence when most thought he would simply leave Athens, as he felt he could not run away from or go against the will of his community; as mentioned above, his reputation for valour on the battlefield was without reproach.

    The idea that there are certain virtues, formed a common thread in Socrates's teachings. These virtues represented the most important qualities for a person to have, foremost of which were the philosophical or intellectual virtues. Socrates stressed that "the unexamined life is not worth living [and] ethical virtue is the only thing that matters."[132]

    Politics

    It is argued that Socrates believed "ideals belong in a world only the wise man can understand",

    The idea that there are certain virtues, formed a common thread in Socrates's teachings. These virtues represented the most important qualities for a person to have, foremost of which were the philosophical or intellectual virtues. Socrates stressed that "the unexamined life is not worth living [and] ethical virtue is the only thing that matters."[132]

    It is argued that Socrates believed "ideals belong in a world only the wise man can understand",[133] making the philosopher the only type of person suitable to govern others. In Plato's dialogue the Republic, Socrates openly objected to the democracy that ran Athens during his adult life. It was not only Athenian democracy: Socrates found short of ideal any government that did not conform to his presentation of a perfect regime led by philosophers, and Athenian government was far from that. It is, however, possible that the Socrates of Plato's Republic is colored by Plato's own views. During the last years of Socrates's life, Athens was in continual flux due to political upheaval. Democracy was at last overthrown by a junta known as the Thirty Tyrants, led by Plato's relative, Critias, who had once been a student and friend of Socrates. The Tyrants ruled for about a year before the Athenian democracy was reinstated, at which point it declared an amnesty for all recent events.

    Socrates's opposition to democracy is often denied, and the que

    Socrates's opposition to democracy is often denied, and the question is one of the biggest philosophical debates when trying to determine exactly what Socrates believed. The strongest argument of those who claim Socrates did not actually believe in the idea of philosopher kings is that the view is expressed no earlier than Plato's Republic, which is widely considered one of Plato's "Middle" dialogues and not representative of the historical Socrates' views. Furthermore, according to Plato's Apology of Socrates (an "early" dialogue), Socrates refused to pursue conventional politics; he often stated he could not look into others' matters or tell people how to live their lives when he did not yet understand how to live his own. He believed he was a philosopher engaged in the pursuit of Truth, and did not claim to know it fully. Socrates' acceptance of his death sentence after his conviction can also be seen to support this view. It is often claimed much of the anti-democratic leanings are from Plato, who was never able to overcome his disgust at what was done to his teacher. In any case, it is clear Socrates thought the rule of the Thirty Tyrants was also objectionable; when called before them to assist in the arrest of a fellow Athenian, Socrates refused and narrowly escaped death before the Tyrants were overthrown. He did, however, fulfill his duty to serve as prytanis when a trial of a group of Generals who presided over a disastrous naval campaign were judged; even then, he maintained an uncompromising attitude, being one of those who refused to proceed in a manner not supported by the laws, despite intense pressure.[134] Judging by his actions, he considered the rule of the Thirty Tyrants less legitimate than the Democratic Senate that sentenced him to death.

    Socrates's apparent respect for democracy is one of the themes emphasized in the 2008 play Socrates on Trial by Andrew David Irvine. Irvine argues that it was because of his loyalty to Athenian democracy that Socrates was willing to accept the verdict of his fellow citizens. As Irvine puts it, "During a time of war and great social and intellectual upheaval, Socrates felt compelled to express his views openly, regardless of the consequences. As a result, he is remembered today, not only for his sharp wit and high ethical standards, but also for his loyalty to the view that in a democracy the best way for a man to serve himself, his friends, and his city—even during times of war—is by being loyal to, and by speaking publicly about, the truth."[135]

    In the Dialogues of Plato, though Socrates sometimes seems to support a mystical side, discussing reincarnation and the mystery religions, this is generally attributed to Plato.[136] Regardless, this view of Socrates cannot be dismissed out of hand, as we cannot be sure of the differences between the views of Plato and Socrates; in addition, there seem to be some corollaries in the works of Xenophon. In the culmination of the philosophic path as discussed in Plato's Symposium, one comes to the Sea of Beauty or to the sight of "the beautiful itself" (211C); only then can one become wise. (In the Symposium, Socrates credits his speech on the philosophic path to his teacher, the priestess Diotima, who is not even sure if Socrates is capable of reaching the highest mysteries.) In the Meno, he refers to the Eleusinian Mysteries, telling Meno he would understand Socrates's answers better if only he could stay for the initiations next week. Further confusions result from the nature of these sources, insofar as the Platonic Dialogues are arguably the work of an artist-philosopher, whose meaning does not volunteer itself to the passive reader nor again the lifelong scholar. According to Olympiodorus the Younger in his Life of Plato,[137] Plato himself "received instruction from the writers of tragedy" before taking up the study of philosophy. His works are, indeed, dialogues; Plato's choice of this, the medium of Sophocles, Euripides, and the fictions of theatre, may reflect the ever-interpretable nature of his writings, as he has been called a "dramatist of reason". What is more, the first word of nearly all Plato's works is a significant term for that respective dialogue, and is used with its many connotations in mind. Finally, the Phaedrus and the Symposium each allude to Socrates's coy delivery of philosophic truths in conversation; the Socrates of the Phaedrus goes so far as to demand such dissembling and mystery in all writing. The covertness we often find in Plato, appearing here and there couched in some enigmatic use of symbol and/or irony, may be at odds with the mysticism Plato's Socrates expounds in some other dialogues. These indirect methods may fail to satisfy some readers.

    Perhaps the most interesting facet of this is Socrates's reliance o

    Perhaps the most interesting facet of this is Socrates's reliance on what the Greeks called his "daimōnic sign", an averting (ἀποτρεπτικός apotreptikos) inner voice Socrates heard only when he was about to make a mistake. It was this sign that prevented Socrates from entering into politics. In the Phaedrus, we are told Socrates considered this to be a form of "divine madness", the sort of insanity that is a gift from the gods and gives us poetry, mysticism, love, and even philosophy itself. Alternately, the sign is often taken to be what we would call "intuition"; however, Socrates's characterization of the phenomenon as daimōnic may suggest that its origin is divine, mysterious, and independent of his own thoughts.

    Socrates practiced and advocated divination.[138] Xenophon was thought skilled at foretelling from sacrifices, and attributed many of his knowledges to Socrates within his writing "The Cavalry Commander".[138]

    He was prominently lampooned in Aristophanes's comedy The Clouds, produced when Socrates was in his mid-forties; he said at his trial (according to Plato) that the laughter of the theatre was a harder task to answer than the arguments of his accusers. Søren Kierkegaard believed this play was a more accurate representation of Socrates than those of his students. In the play, Socrates is ridiculed for his dirtiness, which is associated with the Laconizing fad; also in plays by Callias, Eupolis, and Telecleides. Other comic poets who lampooned Socrates include Mnesimachus and Ameipsias. In all of these, Socrates and the Sophists were criticized for "the moral dangers inherent in contemporary thought and literature".

    Prose sources

    Plato, Xenoph

    Plato, Xenophon, and Aristotle are the main sources for the historical Socrates; however, Xenophon and Plato were students of Socrates, and they may idealize him; however, they wrote the only extended descriptions of Socrates that have come down to us in their complete form. Aristotle refers frequently, but in passing, to Socrates in his writings. Almost all of Plato's works center on Socrates. However, Plato's later works appear to be more his own philosophy put into the mouth of his mentor.

    The Socratic dial

    The Socratic Dialogues are a series of dialogues written by Plato and Xenophon in the form of discussions between Socrates and other persons of his time, or as discussions between Socrates's followers over his concepts. Plato's Phaedo is an example of this latter category. Although his Apology is a monologue delivered by Socrates, it is usually grouped with the Dialogues.

    The Apology professes to be a record of the actual speech Socrates delivered in his own defence at the trial. In the Athenian jury system, an "apology" is composed of three parts: a speech, followed by a counter-assessment, then some final words. "Apology" is an anglicized transliteration, not a translation, of the Greek apologia, meaning "defense"; in this sense it is not apologetic according to our contemporary use of the term.

    Plato generally does not place his own ideas in the mouth of a specific speaker; he lets ideas emerge via the Socratic Method, under the guidance of Socrates. Most of the dialogues present Socrates applying this method to some extent, but nowhere as completely as in the Euthyphro. In this dialogue, Socrates and Euthyphro go through several iterations of refining the answer to Socrates's question, "What is the pious, and what the impious?" (see transliteration, not a translation, of the Greek apologia, meaning "defense"; in this sense it is not apologetic according to our contemporary use of the term.

    Plato generally does not place his own ideas in the mouth of a specific speaker; he lets ideas emerge via the Socratic Method, under the guidance of Socrates. Most of the dialogues present Socrates applying this method to some extent, but nowhere as completely as in the Euthyphro. In this dialogue, Socrates and Euthyphro go through several iterations of refining the answer to Socrates's question, "What is the pious, and what the impious?" (see Euthyphro dilemma).

    In Plato's Dialogues, learning appears as a process of remembering. The soul, before its incarnation in the body, was in the realm of Ideas (very similar to the Platonic "Forms"). There, it saw things the way they truly are, rather than the pale shadows or copies we experience on earth. By a process of questioning, the soul can be brought to remember the ideas in their pure form, thus bringing wisdom.[139]

    Especially for Plato's writings referring to Socrates, it is not always clear which ideas brought forward by Socrates (or his friends) actually belonged to Socrates and which of these may have been new additions or elaborations by Plato—this is known as the Socratic Problem. Generally, the early works of Plato are considered to be close to the spirit of Socrates, whereas the later works—including Phaedo and Republic—are considered to be possibly products of Plato's elaborations.[140]

    Immediately, the students of Socrates set to work both on exercising their perceptions of his teachings in politics and also on developing many new philosophical schools of thought. Some of Athens' controversial and anti-democratic tyrants were contemporary or posthumous students of Socrates including Alcibiades and Critias. Critias's cousin Plato would go on to found the Academy in 385 BC, which gained so much renown that "Academy" became the standard word for educational institutions in later European languages such as English, French, and Italian.[141] Plato's protégé, another important figure of the Classical era, Aristotle went on to tutor Alexander the Great and also to found his own school in 335 BC—the Lyceum—whose name also now means an educational institution.[142]

    While "Socrates dealt with moral matters and took no notice at all of nature in general",[143] in his Dialogues, Plato would emphasize mathematics with metaphysical overtones mirroring that of While "Socrates dealt with moral matters and took no notice at all of nature in general",[143] in his Dialogues, Plato would emphasize mathematics with metaphysical overtones mirroring that of Pythagoras—the former who would dominate Western thought well into the Renaissance. Aristotle himself was as much of a philosopher as he was a scientist with extensive work in the fields of biology and physics.

    Socratic thought which challenged conventions, especially in stressing a simplistic way of living, became divorced from Plato's more detached and philosophical pursuits. This idea was inherited by one of Socrates's older students, Antisthenes, who became the originator of another philosophy in the years after Socrates's death: Cynicism.

    The idea of asceticism being hand in hand with an ethical life or one with piety, ignored by Plato and Aristotle and somewhat dealt with by the Cynics, formed the core of another philosophy in 281 BC—Stoicism when Zeno of Citium would discover Socrates's works and then learn from Crates, a Cynic philosopher.[144]

    While some of the later contributions of Socrates to Hellenistic Era culture and philosophy as well as the Roman Era have been lost to time, his teachings began a resurgence in both medieval Europe and the Islamic Middle East alongside those of Aristotle and Stoicism. Socrates is mentioned in the dialogue Kuzari by Jewish philosopher and rabbi Yehuda Halevi in which a Jew instructs the Khazar king about Judaism.[145] Al-Kindi, a well-known Arabic philosopher, introduced and tried to reconcile Socrates and Hellenistic philosophy to an Islamic audience,[146] referring to him by the name 'Suqrat'.

    Socrates influence grew in Western Europe during the fourteenth century as Plato's dialogues were made available in Latin by Marsilio Ficino and Xenophon's Socratic writings were translated by Basilios Bessarion.[147] Voltaire even went so far as to write a satirical play about the trial of Socrates. There were a number of paintings about his life including Socrates Tears Alcibiades from the Embrace of Sensual Pleasure

    Socrates influence grew in Western Europe during the fourteenth century as Plato's dialogues were made available in Latin by Marsilio Ficino and Xenophon's Socratic writings were translated by Basilios Bessarion.[147] Voltaire even went so far as to write a satirical play about the trial of Socrates. There were a number of paintings about his life including Socrates Tears Alcibiades from the Embrace of Sensual Pleasure by Jean-Baptiste Regnault and The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David in the later 18th century.

    To this day, different versions of the Socratic method are still used in classroom and law school discourse to expose underlying issues in both subject and the speaker. He has been recognized with accolades ranging from frequent mentions in pop culture (such as the movie Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and a Greek rock band called Socrates Drank the Conium) to numerous busts in academic institutions in recognition of his contribution to education.

    Over the past century, numerous plays about Socrates have also focused on Socrates's life and influence. One of the most recent has been Socrates on Trial, a play based on Aristophanes's Clouds and Plato's Apology, Crito, and Phaedo, all adapted for modern performance.

    Evaluation of and reaction to Socrates has been undertaken by both historians and philosophers from the time of his death to the present day with a multitude of conclusions and perspectives. Although he was not directly prosecuted for his connection to Critias, leader of the Spartan-backed Thirty Tyrants, and "showed considerable personal courage in refusing to submit to [them]", he was seen by some as a figure who mentored oligarchs who became abusive tyrants, and undermined Athenian democracy. The Sophistic movement that he railed at in life survived him, but by the 3rd century BC, was rapidly overtaken by the many philosophical schools of thought that Socrates influenced.[148]

    Socrates's death is considered iconic, and his status as a martyr

    Socrates's death is considered iconic, and his status as a martyr of philosophy overshadows most contemporary and posthumous criticism. However, Xenophon mentions Socrates's "arrogance" and that he was "an expert in the art of pimping" or "self-presentation".[149] Direct criticism of Socrates the man almost disappears after this time, but there is a noticeable preference for Plato or Aristotle over the elements of Socratic philosophy distinct from those of his students, even into the Middle Ages.

    Some modern scholarship holds that, with so much of his own thought obscured and possibly altered by Plato, it is impossible to gain a clear picture of Socrates amid all the contradictory evidence. That both Cynicism and Stoicism, which carried heavy influence from Socratic thought, were unlike or even contrary to Platonism further illustrates this. The ambiguity and lack of reliability serves as the modern basis of criticism—that it is nearly impossible to know the real Socrates. Some controversy also exists about Socrates's attitude towards homosexuality[150] and as to whether or not he believed in the Olympian gods, was monotheistic, or held some other religious viewpoint.[151] However, it is still commonly taught and held with little exception that Socrates is the progenitor of subsequent Western philosophy, to the point that philosophers before him are referred to as pre-Socratic.