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The Life of Socrates

  • Lived in Athens (circa 468-397 B.C.) in a critical time of Greek civilization
  • “The unexamined life is not worth living” 
  • In Socrates’ life, Sparta defeated Athens, leaving Athens weakened economically and philosophically. They were disillusioned with religion and ready to  accept skepticism as the best option 
  • He analyzed and challenged the presuppositions of his culture by engaging the people in dialogue and by asking them questions, called “The Socratic Method” 
  • Plato’s records of Socrates demonstrate this method of Socrates’ moving  people from their superficial sophism to truth
  • Socrates was killed because he was charged with atheism and the intellectual seduction of the youth of Athens 

The Environment of Socrates

Sophists and their Impact

  • With the decline of Greek culture, the sophists, with whom Plato did combat, grew less and less sage-like and more superficial. The sophists were itinerant teachers, who, for a fee, would give you their  ideas and education.
  • Their goal was to develop artful rhetoric which would  persuade—whether it was true or not. The society was just beginning to use the jury system of conviction, so the  place of professional oration was growing more important 

Protagoras and Gorgias

  • Homo mensura: Man is the measure of all things.
  • Gorgias was an early skeptic who said that “good” is what advances your  own self-interest 

Key ideas of Socrates

  • True knowledge comes through the admission of ignorance 
  • His key moral concern was virtue and the basis of it