Intro Philosophy

Spring 2004



Socrates was born in 469 B.C. and died in 399 B.C. He was a Greek philosopher of Athens and is generally considered as one of the wisest people of all times. He was the son of Sophroniscus, a sculptor, and Phaenarete, a midwife. During the early part of his life, he seems to have followed in his father's footsteps, working as a sculptor. Socrates served in the military but never wanted any important position in the army. Most of the findings of his life and philosophical thought come from the statements of others most especially, Plato. Socrates is best known today through his appearance in the Dialogues of Plato.

Socrates married a woman of his own class, named Xanthippe, at an early age; together they had three sons, Lamprocles, Sophroniscus and Menexenus. Socrates was hardly a model husband or father; he was so preoccupied with his search for wisdom that he often neglected his family and was not overly concerned with supporting them financially. Later he married a lady of


upper-class family, one Myrto, the great-granddaughter of Aristides the Just.

It is described that Socrates did not want to be viewed as a Sophist. Sophists come from the Greek word Sophos meaning wise. This term was applied in the 5th century to many earlier wise men, including Homer and Hesiod. Over time a Sophists outlook, began to be viewed as pulling the wool over someone’s eyes. The Sophists were also viewed as teaching rhetoric, the practice of persuasive speaking.

Socrates was recognized as a demoralizing tendency of sophism. He did not claim to have any god given commands. His mission was only to search in the company of men, himself a man among men, to question and expose every hiding place, to demand no faith in anything nor in him, but to demand thought, questioning, testing and so to refer man to his own self. Since man’s self resides solely in the knowledge of the true and the good, only the man who takes such thinking seriously who is determined to be guided by truth, is truly himself.


Socrates was portrayed as a very social man. He founded no party, made no propaganda, nor established no schools or intuitions. He was known to forget his own affairs to spend time discussing virtue, justice, and goodness wherever his fellow citizens assembled. He was very interested speaking with the young men of those days because; they would be the men to influence as up and coming in the political and social circles. He was interested in seeking wisdom about what was right conduct so that he might guide the moral and intellectual improvement of Athens. Using a method now known as the Socratic dialogue, or dialectic, he talked with people to try to get them to examine their own lives, morals and inner thoughts.

Socrates compared virtue with the knowledge of one's true self, holding that no one consciously does wrong. He looked upon the soul as the seat of both waking consciousness and moral character, and held the universe to be purposively mind-ordered.


Socrates wanted to help men by forcing them to think, to search to inquire and not to side step an answer so that they would understand, that truth, is what joins men together.

The substance is Socrates piety. It is made up, first of his trust, that the truth will disclose itself if one perceivers in questioning; that through a candid awareness of what one does not know, one will arrive not at nothingness but at the knowledge that is crucial for life; second, of his beliefs in the Gods and the divinity of the polis; third, of his confidence in his daimonion.

Socrates did not hand down wisdom to others but he attempted to help others, to be aware of their ignorance to help them find authentic knowledge in themselves. Each man must find knowledge in himself as like an awakening.

In Plato's early dialogues, the method of argumentation that Socrates uses is called the elenchos or examination. In these dialogues we rarely find


Socrates lecturing or directly answering the questions; instead we find him asking questions of others in an attempt to lead them indirectly to the truth.

Typically Socrates will ask someone who claims to be an expert to