Portrait: Socrates, a Greek philosopher from Athens

Wednesday, 26 April 2023 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: Portrait
Reading Time:  5 minutes

Socrates statue outside the National Library of Uruguay, Montevideo © Franquito53/cc-by-sa-3.0

Socrates statue outside the National Library of Uruguay, Montevideo © Franquito53/cc-by-sa-3.0

Socrates was a Greek philosopher from Athens who is credited as the founder of Western philosophy and among the first moral philosophers of the ethical tradition of thought. An enigmatic figure, Socrates authored no texts and is known mainly through the posthumous accounts of classical writers, particularly his students Plato and Xenophon. These accounts are written as dialogues, in which Socrates and his interlocutors examine a subject in the style of question and answer; they gave rise to the Socratic dialogue literary genre. Contradictory accounts of Socrates make a reconstruction of his philosophy nearly impossible, a situation known as the Socratic problem. Socrates was a polarizing figure in Athenian society. In 399 BC, he was accused of impiety and corrupting the youth. After a trial that lasted a day, he was sentenced to death. He spent his last day in prison, refusing offers to help him escape.

Plato’s dialogues are among the most comprehensive accounts of Socrates to survive from antiquity. They demonstrate the Socratic approach to areas of philosophy including rationalism and ethics. The Platonic Socrates lends his name to the concept of the Socratic method, and also to Socratic irony. The Socratic method of questioning, or elenchus, takes shape in dialogue using short questions and answers, epitomized by those Platonic texts in which Socrates and his interlocutors examine various aspects of an issue or an abstract meaning, usually relating to one of the virtues, and find themselves at an impasse, completely unable to define what they thought they understood. Socrates is known for proclaiming his total ignorance; he used to say that the only thing he was aware of was his ignorance, seeking to imply that the realization of our ignorance is the first step in philosophizing.

Socrates bust by Victor Wager at University of Western Australia in Crawley © Greg O'Beirne/cc-by-sa-3.0 Socrates statue outside the National Library of Uruguay, Montevideo © Franquito53/cc-by-sa-3.0 Copy of the portrait of Socrates in Louvre, Paris © Sting/cc-by-sa-2.5 © MadMadMadMac/cc-by-sa-4.0 The legendary prison of Socrates in Athens © C messier
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Socrates bust by Victor Wager at University of Western Australia in Crawley © Greg O'Beirne/cc-by-sa-3.0
Socrates exerted a strong influence on philosophers in later antiquity and has continued to do so in the modern era. He was studied by medieval and Islamic scholars and played an important role in the thought of the Italian Renaissance, particularly within the humanist movement. Interest in him continued unabated, as reflected in the works of Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche. Depictions of Socrates in art, literature, and popular culture have made him a widely known figure in the Western philosophical tradition.

Socrates did not document his teachings. All that is known about him comes from the accounts of others: mainly the philosopher Plato and the historian Xenophon, who were both his pupils; the Athenian comic dramatist Aristophanes (Socrates’s contemporary); and Plato’s pupil Aristotle, who was born after Socrates’s death. The often contradictory stories from these ancient accounts only serve to complicate scholars’ ability to reconstruct Socrates’s true thoughts reliably, a predicament known as the Socratic problem. The works of Plato, Xenophon, and other authors who use the character of Socrates as an investigative tool, are written in the form of a dialogue between Socrates and his interlocutors and provide the main source of information on Socrates’s life and thought. Socratic dialogues (logos sokratikos) was a term coined by Aristotle to describe this newly formed literary genre. While the exact dates of their composition are unknown, some were probably written after Socrates’s death. As Aristotle first noted, the extent to which the dialogues portray Socrates authentically is a matter of some debate.

Read more on Wikipedia Socrates (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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