Socrates was born in 470 / 469 b.c. : his father , Sofronisco , was a sculptor and his mother , Fenarete , a midwife . Perhaps originally he did the same work as his father but then he left it and dedicated his life to philosophical investigation . He often borrowed money of his friends . He married Santippe , who was a very peevish woman by tradition : it has been thought that Socrates was always in public not to philosophise , but just to stay away from his wife and her lectures . It seems that Socrates has been able to make everybody reasonable , except Santippe . They had 3 children . Socrates never moved from Athens : he only left his town to be at war . In fact in 432 he was at the military expedition against Potidea and during the battle he saved Alcibiade , who was wounded in action . In 424 he was at war with Lachete in Delio when Athenian soldiers were retreating because of Beotians . In 421 he was at war in Anfipoli . In 406 , in conformity with the law of office rotation , he took part in the Council who had to pick out the problems to be presented at the Assembly and he set himself against the illegal proposal of prosecuting all the generals who won at Arginuse islands because they didn't save shipwrecked people . Because of this taking up of a position , Socrates desagreed with the Democratic Party . In 404 , when Oligarchy was in power , he refused to arrest Leone from Salamina , a person who was hostile to oligarchy . In 403 restored democracy , even if it granted an amnesty , kept on seeing Socrates like a person hostile to new order , also because he had been Alcibiade and Crizia's friend . In 399 Meleto presented an indictment against Socrates , and Licone and Anito , one of the most important person of the restored democracy , were his accusers too . Indictment was this one : " Socrates is guilty of refusing to recognize town gods and of introducing new ones . He is guilty of depraving young men too . We make a request for death penalty . " Accusers probably expected that Socrates would be sent into exile , like it was happened for Protagora or for Anassagora , but Socrates didn't leave the town and he was tried . The most of judges voted in favour of death penalty : Socrates was killed by hemlock . We can put Socrates in sophist's time ( even if he was against sophists ) because , like sophists , he cared about moral and human problems , leaving out the search for the origin and for the cosmogony . Socrates didn't write anithing , so we can reconstruct his thought just using other authors . There are 4 important authors who wrote about him : 1) Plato 2)Senofonte 3)Aristotle 4)Aristofane . 1) Plato is certainly the most reliable author : he was Socrate's pupil and shared his opinion about philosophy : for Socrates and Plato philosophy is a continuous search . Socrates is the main character in Plato ' s dialogues and when Socrates will be killed he will be very perturbed and will leave political world . 2) Senofonte is the most boring and banal author : for Senofonte Socrates is a citizen who is faithful to tradition , he really represents the values , he is wise and he wants his fellow citizens to be fine . He honours gods and his own town . We have to give further details : Senofonte was a great general , fearless and brave , but he was no genius : his works are not very interesting : they're boring and banal . Senofonte was also at war standing by Socrates and he says that Socrates was very fearless , he stood everything ( he walked barefoot on the ice ) . Senofonte didn't care about philosophy and to Socrate he talked just about military arguments . This makes us understand that Socrates formulated the speech according to people he was talking to . He talked about philosophy to a philosopher , about war to a general . 3) Aristotle's evidence has been kept for a long time as the most reliable because Socrates is deprived of symbolical meaninghs : Aristotle gives an unbiassed opinion about Socrates . But Aristotle' s evidence has some limits : it's the less " artistic " and it's the only one of a person who was not contemporany with Socrates . In Aristotle's evidence Socrates seems to be a robot : his philosophy in Aristotle's evidence is not talking in public , but just reasoning in his hown . 4)Aristofane is the most contemporany with Socrates : he speaks about a young Socrates ( about 40 years old ) . We have to remember that Aristofane was a playwright , so the Socrates he speaks about is very full of sarcastic features . In " The Clouds " by Aristofane Socrates is a sophist who liked studying nature ( in reality he was th opposite ) and he has his head in the clouds . Aristofane is the only one to introduce a negative Socrates ( he was one of his accusers ) . In reality Aristofane didn't want to give Socrates a bad name or make fun of him from pure spite : he was a playwright and he just made his job : he made people laugh . In reality he didn't want to make fun only of Socrates , but of all the philosophers . Anyway Plato ' s evidence is the best and we use the others only as a support . Plato knew really very well Socrates and he was himself a great philosopher . The big limit of Plato ' s evidence is this : Plato was a great philosopher and he didn't confine himself to report Socrates's sentences : Plato made Socrates say things that Socrates didn't say in reality . Plato , getting old , tends to make Socrates say sentences he didn't say . Luckily Plato wrote " Apology " when he was still young , so he made Socrates say things he really sayd . In " Apology " he describes the trial that commanded death penalty for Socrates . In this work really comes out the difference between Socrates and sophists : sophist made gorgeous speeches , but absolutely deprived of truth : they only cared about well speaking and hitting the people who heard them . For Socrates the most important thing is the truth : he says he is not good at replying to sophists and to their gorgeous ( and false ) speeches . Socrates , even if he doesn't make nice speeches , says the truth : Plato will go on with the criticism against sophists . Socrates to defend himself in the lawcourt doesn't make a speech ( like sophists ) , but he draws up a dialogue based on thrust and parry : exactly from the dialogue comes out the truth . Socrates's oratorical style is meagre , arid and almost familiar and he formulates the dialogue according to people he is talking to . The beginning of Socrates's dialogue is the socalled " socratic irony " , that is himself diminution : " I don't know , but you know " . " Apology " begins this way : Socrates asks " What is x ? " and interlocutor falls into the trap and answers , feeling better than Socrates . Socrates , like we said when we talked about Senofonte , discusses only subjects known to the interlocutors . For example , if he talks to a general , he will ask him " what's courage ? " . Interlocutor will answer : " courage is never drawing back " . Then Socrates will say that this is not courage , but madness . This criticism becomes an incitation for interlocutor and he will give him a second answer , better organised : the game can go on for a long time and sometimes it doesn't get over . This method is called " maieutics " : Socrates said that he made the same job as the mother , who was a midwife : she made women bear , he made souls bear . Like midwifes control if the children are good , Socrates controls if ideas , definitions are good . Some interlocutors were not very intelligent and they didn't recognize their own mistakes : they often liked more avoiding Socrates . An interlocutor called Socrates " torpedo " , because the meeting with Socrates can upset : Socrate is able to overturn the conceptions of the interlocutor , who was convinced to know , but who gave signs of knowing nothing . Socrates compared himself to a fly , that spurs horses : he stimulated men to reason . Socrates ( using " socratic irony " )says that he doesn't know anything , and that sophists know everything : that maybe the education he gives is useless and the real one is the sophistic education . False accusations against him started when he called himself " wise " , because the Delphian oracle told him that he was the wisest man in the world . He didn't believe the oracle in a first time : he thought it was impossible . So he became to go all over Athen looking for people wiser than him . So he visited people who considered themselves really wise : politicians , poets , artisans . Socrates realized that all the classes thought of knowing , but in reality they didn't knew anything . Politicians were the worst not because they were politicians ( Socrates himself was a kind of politician ) , but because they were not able to teach their knowledge : a real wise person has to explain his knowledge : the best politicians too ( like Pericle ) are not able to do this ( says Socrates ) . The same was for poets , who since Omero were well thought of : everybody thought they were wise and able to teach everything to the young people . Socrates reproved them because they sayd stupid things and because they're not wise : their knowledge is not a real one ; it's a kind of " inspired madness " : God talked to the people through their mouth . The artisans were still the best , because at least they were able to do something really useful to the community : their knowledge is a pratical one : they could produce something material . They were competent in their sector , but they thought they were competent in everything . They committed sin of presumption because they thought their knowledge was universal and unlimited . Moreover they operated without resoning and thinking over . Socrates understood that the Delphian oracle was right : he was the wisest one in the world , even if he knew that he didn't know . He didn't give up searching for the truth , even if he was the wisest one : the same consciousness of his knowledge incited Socrates to search for the truth . Accusers sayd that Socrates corrupted the young people and made them worse : Socrates sayd that he had no reason for doing that . Infact if he corrupted young people, he would live in a town full of silly people . We have to remember the socalled Socrates's " ethical intellectualism " : according to Socrates nobody can do harm really knowing that he is doing it : nobody can do harm voluntarily . A thief steals money thinking of doing good : it's an intellectual mistake . So Socrates gives signs of working for the good of his town . Socrates has found the modern concept of soul : in a first time soul meant " vital blow " . Then it meant " picture in the Ades " , a kind of lesser existence . According to Orphism , it meant " daemon " . Since Socrates the soul has become our own personality : we identify ourselves with our soul . According to Socrates , we can subdivide good and evil in 3 categoryes : a) of the soul 2) of the body 3) of outside . The body is a tool and a prison for the soul . Money , for example , is good from outside . Sometimes Socrates ( and Plato ) seems to refuse good for the body , the material good , liking more the good for the soul ; but sometimes he seems to accept both . Socrates , for example , didn't dislike wine . This ambiguity between goods for the body and for the soul can be explained saing that goods are all goods till they are not in contrast : the search for phisical pleasure becomes a evil when we place it before intellectual pleasure . This is not only for the goods , but for the relations between body and soul too . Socrates and Plato don't hate the body : they appreciate it because it works for the soul . It's very interesting Socrates's opinion about injustice : according to him , it doesn't damage people who suffers it , but people who does someone an injustice . Infact justice gives a sense of pleasure and who is unjust loses this pleasure ; who suffer injustice keeps feeling this sense of pleasure . The same is for Plato . Socrates says that he doesn't know what there is after death ( Plato will say that he is able to prove the existence of a life after death ) . Socrate doesn't think that if you lead a life of virtue you will be given a prize : you are already given a prize leading a life of virtue : the happiness you feel because you are just is already a kind of prize . Socrates says that there could be a life after death , but he is not able to prove it . Between the accusations against Socrates , there was also this one : atheism and impiousness . Infact Socrates had faith in daemons , that he called " sons of gods " . He proved that this is a wrong accusation : infact if they're sons of gods , it's natural that Socrates had faith in gods too : in order that there is the son ( daemon ) , there must be father and mothers too ( gods ) . But what was the daemon ? We have got two different evidences : Plato says that it was a kind of guardian angel - personal conscience that was present every time Socrates was going to make mistakes : it would be a kind of " privileged help " : only honest people have it . It's a divine present . It's as if the god took part in human life . On the contrary Senofonte says that daemon was an entity that incited Socrates to act in certain ways . For Socrates the important is not living , but well living : when our soul is just , sane , then we feel good . A lot of people noticed that in reality Socrates's accusators didn't want to sentence him to death , but they just wanted to hiss him . But Socrates couldn't accept to be hissed : he was fated to go around Athen making people reason . Well living for Socrates meant doing that and not refusing to be guilty meant a thing : not making his life lose value . Anyway he was old and he could live only for a few years : it was better for him being killed , but not giving up his ideals . While Plato's search will be projected in an another dimension , Socrates's one is tied to the terrestrial world : his mission in life is making all the people understand what they're doing and why . Socrates refuses politics ( like Plato ) : infact he had been in trouble because of it : in a first time Oligarchicals were against him , then Democratics : his accusers , infact , who sentenced him to death , were democratics : the accusation , in part , was a political accusation : infact Socrates was aristocratic and democratics wanted to punish him . Even if he had a lot of problems because of politics , he didn't want to abolish it . Before being killed , Socrates was helped to get away from the prison , but he refused to do it : infact he really observed the laws , that must never be violated . Law can be criticized , but not violated : when a law is unjuste ( according to Socrates ) , you mustn't violate it , but you must undertake to make it change . Socrates sayd that it was his duty to make the law change and it was correct that he died because he wasn't be able to make it . People from Athens thought that they had got rid of Socrates killing him , but in reality , in order to reaaly get rid of him , they should have killed him in " philosophical way " , defeating him with their words . They wanted to hiss Socrates , but they got the opposite result : infact Plato , who was determined to become a political , was troubled by Socrates's events and devoted himself to philosophy . The end of " Apology " is very famous : Socrates talks to his pupils before being killed : " Now it's time to leave : I go to death , you go to life . Who of us walks to a superior destination is dark for everybody : not for my god " . In " Symposium " by Plato Alcibiade says that Socrates looks like no man of the past or of the present : he is a new figure . He is not interestin in politics , but he doesn't hate it , he doesn't refuse partyes , but he doesn't identify himself with them ( in " Symposium " all the guests fall asleep , except Socrates ) . Let us dwell upon Socrates' s talkative technique : confutation is the technique that shows the flimsiness of interlocutors . But to come there you must start from thrust and counterthrust method . " What's justice ? " can be the discussion beginning : asking this or another thing like this means asking the definition of justice ( in this case ) , that has to be valid for all the particular cases . In this case Socrates's search has been interpreted by Aristotle as the search for the universal , in the ambit of moral problems and concepts . Socrates's interlocutors seem to be not able to rightly answer , wheter because they undervalue Socrates ( who says he is less ) , or because they answer with particular cases , instead of universal definition . We have already instanced the case of the question : " What's courage ? " : answering " it's never drawing back " we are wrong ; but we are wrong answering " attack the enemy " too : in fact we can also be courageus overcoming a illness or a test : a right definition must cover all the possible cases . In his negative version thrust and counterthrust method is a kind of confutation , that is the demonstration of falseness or contradiction of answers given by interlocutor . Effects made by this method are like the ones of the torpedo , that makes torpid all the people it touches . We can react against confutation refusing it , like some Socrates's interlocutors . But if we accept it , it can free from false opinions that we have about various arguments and so it can be like a kind of purification . The situation , that comes out from confutation , is called " aporia " , that is a situation with no way out . It consists in understanding that what we have done to answer about a certain question , it has led us to a blind alley . But in this new situation , free from false knowledge and especially from presumption to know , we are about to search for the real knowledge , trying new ways that could lead us to it . In this case thrust and counterthrust method can have a positive function . It is compared with the maieutics function , able to make everybody bear , through questions opportunely done , the truth : infact everyone is laden with truth . Socrates keeps on making his interlocutors admit a fundamental point : to know how to well act , that is with virtue , in a determinate ambit , you have to get the knowledge that can make you able to do it . To this point he comes throught analogy with techniques : the good artisan who is good at doing his work has got a knowledge able to lead him to this outcome . The same thing has to be in ethical-political ambit : this is the heart of the famous thesys that says that virtue is science . First of all a person who knows what is good and what is good for himself can't avoid to do it . Good has a very strong attraction power . This doesn't mean that Socrates doesn't know passions and emotions importance , but it only means that in every ambit of human life the only one tool able to lead to good behaviur is the knowledge . Socrates's position must not be confused with forms of ascetic rigourism . On the countrary , it is a form of hedonism , because the fundamental objective is following up the happiness ( in Greek " eudaimonia " ) . The knowledge is able to well put the value at pleasures , measuring the good or bad consequences that they may have . This is the knowledge that Socrates says he hasn't got , but because he hasn't got it he keeps on following it up . So it's meaningless distinguishing various virtues one from the others : the virtue is one , like the knowledge where they condense themselves : to know what is good and what is bad .
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