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Socrates concept of the nature and virtue of piety

The Historical Socrates i. His family was not extremely poor, but they were by no means wealthy, and Socrates could not claim that he was of noble birth like Plato.

He grew up in the political deme or district of Alopece, and when he turned 18, began to perform the typical political duties required of Athenian males. These included compulsory military service and membership in the Assembly, the governing body responsible for determining military strategy and legislation. In a culture that worshipped male beauty, Socrates had the misfortune of being born incredibly ugly.

Many of our ancient sources attest to his rather awkward physical appearance, and Plato more than once makes reference to it Theaetetus 143e, Symposium, 215a-c; also Xenophon Symposium 4. Socrates was exophthalmic, meaning that his eyes bulged out of his head and were not straight but focused sideways. He had a snub nose, which made him resemble a pig, and many sources depict him with a potbelly.

  • This is obvious, since his response to it is to grant its central claim;
  • There, he argues that Socrates is not the ethical figure that the history of philosophy has thought him to be, but rather an ironist in all that he does;
  • Athens, for which the Aristophanic Socrates is the iconic symbol;
  • As it stands, the identity of their opposites indicates that one cannot possess wisdom without temperance and vice versa;
  • Both Socrates and Euthyphro are involved in matters of a legal nature;
  • Those with inconsistent or incoherent psychological commitments were thought to be ignorant.

Socrates did little to help his odd appearance, frequently wearing the same cloak and sandals throughout both the day and the evening. As a young man Socrates was given an education appropriate for a person of his station. By the middle of the 5th century B. Sophroniscus, however, also took pains to give his son an advanced cultural education in poetry, music, and athletics. In both Plato and Xenophon, we find a Socrates that is well versed in poetry, talented at music, and quite at-home in the gymnasium.

In accordance with Athenian custom, his father also taught him a trade, though Socrates did not labor at it on a daily basis. Rather, he spent his days in the agora the Athenian marketplaceasking questions of those who would speak with him. While he was poor, he quickly acquired a following of rich young aristocrats—one of whom was Plato—who particularly enjoyed hearing him interrogate those that were purported to be the wisest and most influential men in the city.

Socrates was married to Xanthippe, and according to some sources, had a second wife. Most suggest that he first married Xanthippe, and that she gave birth to his first son, Lamprocles. He is alleged to have married his second wife, Myrto, without dowry, and she gave birth to his other two sons, Sophroniscus and Menexenus. Various accounts attribute Sophroniscus to Xanthippe, while others even suggest that Socrates was married to both women simultaneously because of a shortage of males in Athens at the time.

In accordance with Athenian custom, Socrates was open about his physical attraction to young men, though he always subordinated his physical desire for them to his desire that they improve the condition of their souls.

2. SOCRATIC PIETY

Socrates fought valiantly during his time in the Athenian military. Just before the Peloponnesian War with Sparta began in 431 B. E, he helped the Athenians win the battle of Potidaea 432 B. He also fought as one of 7,000 hoplites aside 20,000 troops at the battle of Delium 424 B. Both battles were defeats for Athens. Despite his continued service to his city, many members of Athenian society perceived Socrates to be a threat to their democracy, and it is this suspicion that largely contributed to his conviction in court.

It is therefore imperative to understand the historical context in which his trial was set. Later Life and Trial 1. Athens fought one of its bloodiest and most protracted conflicts with neighboring Sparta, the war that we now know as the Peloponnesian War. Aside from the fact that Socrates fought in the conflict, it is important for an account of his life and trial because many of those with whom Socrates spent his time became either sympathetic to the Spartan cause at the very least or traitors to Athens at worst.

This is particularly the case with those from the more aristocratic Athenian families, who tended to favor the rigid and restricted hierarchy of power in Sparta instead of the more widespread democratic distribution of power and free speech to all citizens that obtained in Athens. Plato more than once places in the mouth of his character Socrates praise for Sparta Protagoras 342b, Crito 53a; cf. Republic 544c in which most people think the Spartan constitution is the best.

The political regime of the Republic is marked by a small group of ruling elites that preside over the citizens of the ideal city. In conjunction with these crimes, Athens witnessed the profanation of the Eleusinian mysteries, religious rituals that were to be conducted only in the presence of priests but that were in this case performed in private homes without official sanction or recognition of any kind. Rather than face prosecution for the crime, Alcibiades escaped and sought asylum in Sparta.

Socrates had by many counts been in love with Alcibiades and Plato depicts him pursuing or speaking of his love for him in many dialogues Symposium 213c-d, Protagoras 309a, Gorgias 481d, Alcibiades I 103a-104c, 131e-132a.

Alcibiades is typically portrayed as a wandering soul Alcibiades I 117c-dnot committed to any one consistent way of life or definition of justice. Instead, he was a kind of cameleon-like flatterer that could change and mold himself in order to please crowds and win political favor Gorgias socrates concept of the nature and virtue of piety. Though the democrats put down the coup later that year and recalled Alcibiades to lead the Athenian fleet in the Hellespont, he aided the oligarchs by securing for them an alliance with the Persian satraps.

Alcibiades therefore did not just aid the Spartan cause but allied himself with Persian interests as well. Sparta finally defeated Athens in 404 B. Instead of a democracy, they installed as rulers a small group of Athenians who were loyal to Spartan interests.

The Thirty ruled tyrannically—executing a number of wealthy Athenians as well as confiscating their property, arbitrarily arresting those with democratic sympathies, and exiling many others—until they were overthrown in 403 B.

Both Critias and Charmides were killed and, after a Spartan-sponsored peace accord, the democracy was restored. The democrats proclaimed a general amnesty in the city and thereby prevented politically motivated legal prosecutions aimed at redressing the terrible losses incurred during the reign of the Thirty.

Their hope was to maintain unity during the reestablishment of their democracy. In the discussion, Socrates argues that if one wants to know about virtue, one should consult an expert on virtue Meno 91b-94e.

  1. Aristophanes Born in 450 B. He does have some redeeming qualities.
  2. By the end of the play, Phidippides has beaten his father, arguing that it is perfectly reasonable to do so on the grounds that, just as it is acceptable for a father to spank his son for his own good, so it is acceptable for a son to hit a father for his own good.
  3. Religion and morality, in his view, are so closely related that neither one can exist apart from the other.

The political turmoil of the city, rebuilding itself as a democracy after nearly thirty years of destruction and bloodshed, constituted a context in which many citizens were especially fearful of threats to their democracy that came not from the outside, but from within their own city. While many of his fellow citizens found considerable evidence against Socrates, there was also historical evidence in addition to his military service for the case that he was not just a passive but an active supporter of the democracy.

Additionally, when he was ordered by the Thirty to help retrieve the democratic general Leon from the island of Salamis for execution, he refused to do so. His refusal could be understood not as the defiance of a legitimately established government but rather his allegiance to the ideals of due process that were in effect under the previously instituted democracy. Notwithstanding these facts, there was profound suspicion that Socrates was a threat to the democracy in the years after the end of the Peloponnesian War.

  • Plato himself wrote dialogues or philosophical dramas, and thus cannot be understood to be presenting his readers with exact replicas or transcriptions of conversations that Socrates actually had;
  • His family was not extremely poor, but they were by no means wealthy, and Socrates could not claim that he was of noble birth like Plato;
  • Be able to present a philosophical theme Socrates develops in Plato's Apology.

But because of the amnesty, Anytus and his fellow accusers Meletus and Lycon were prevented from bringing suit against Socrates on political grounds. They opted instead for religious grounds. As recounted by Diogenes Laertius 1. Many people understood the charge about corrupting the youth to signify that Socrates taught his subversive views to others, a claim that he adamantly denies in his defense speech by claiming that he has no wisdom to teach Plato, Apology 20c and that he cannot be held responsible for the actions of those that heard him speak Plato, Apology 33a-c.

It is now customary to refer to the principal written accusation on the deposition submitted to the Athenian court as an accusation of impiety, or unholiness. Rituals, ceremonies, and sacrifices that were officially sanctioned by the city and its officials marked ancient Greek religion. The sacred was woven into the everyday experience of citizens who demonstrated their piety by correctly observing their ancestral traditions.

Interpretation of the gods at their temples was the exclusive domain of priests appointed and recognized by the city. The boundary and separation between the religious and the secular that we find in many countries today therefore did not obtain in Athens. A religious crime was consequently an offense not just against the gods, but also against the city itself.

II. The Importance of Socratic Definitions

Socrates and his contemporaries lived in a polytheistic society, a society in which the gods did not create the world but were themselves created. Socrates would have been brought up with the stories of the gods recounted in Hesiod and Homer, in which the gods were not omniscient, omnibenevolent, or eternal, but rather power-hungry super-creatures that regularly intervened in the affairs of human beings.

Human beings were to fear the gods, sacrifice to them, and honor them with festivals and prayers. Socrates instead seemed to have a conception of the divine as always benevolent, truthful, authoritative, and wise. For him, divinity always operated in accordance with the standards of rationality. This conception of divinity, however, dispenses with the traditional conception of prayer and sacrifice as motivated by hopes for material payoff. Jurors at his trial might have thought that, without the expectation of material reward or protection from the gods, Socrates was disconnecting religion from its practical roots and its connection with the civic identity of the city.

While Socrates was critical of blind acceptance of the gods and the myths we find in Hesiod and Homer, this in itself was not unheard of in Athens at the time. Solon, Xenophanes, Heraclitus, and Euripides had all spoken against the capriciousness and excesses of the gods without incurring penalty. Though it has become customary to think of a daimon as a spirit or quasi-divinity for example, Symposium 202e-203ain ancient Greek religion it was not solely a specific class of divine being but rather a mode of activity, a force that drives a person when no particular divine agent can be named Burkett, 180.

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Socrates claimed to have heard a sign or voice from his days as a child that accompanied him and forbid him to pursue certain courses of action Plato, Apology 31c-d, 40a-b, Euthydemus 272e-273a, Euthyphro 3b, Phaedrus 242b, Theages 128-131a, Theaetetus 150c-151b, Rep 496c; Xenophon, Apology 12, Memorabilia 1.

Xenophon adds that the sign also issued positive commands Memorablia 1. This sign was accessible only to Socrates, private and internal to his own mind. For all the jurors knew, the deity could have been hostile to Athenian interests. However, Socrates had no officially sanctioned religious role in the city.

As such, his attempt to assimilate himself to a seer or necromancer appointed by the city to interpret divine signs actually may have undermined his innocence, rather than help to establish it. His insistence that he had direct, personal access to the divine made him appear guilty to enough jurors that he was sentenced to death. Because he wrote nothing, what we know of his ideas and methods comes to us mainly from his contemporaries and disciples.

  • Socrates stresses that both he and actual midwives are barren, and cannot give birth to their own offspring;
  • He argues that the god gave him to the city as a gift and that his mission is to help improve the city;
  • Draw upon Platonic passages like Gorgias 492a-493b, Timaeus 86b-e, and Republic 430e-431b, 443d, 444b in efforts to explain precisely how akrasia might develop in someone;
  • It is Better to Suffer an Injustice Than to Commit One Socrates infuriates Polus with the argument that it is better to suffer an injustice than commit one Gorgias 475a-d;
  • God creates a systematically ordered universe and governs it in the way our minds govern our bodies Memorabilia 1;
  • In spite of his own emptiness of ideas, Socrates claims to be skilled at bringing forth the ideas of others and examining them.

These works are what are known as the logoi sokratikoi, or Socratic accounts. Aside from Plato and Xenophon, most of these dialogues have not survived. What we know of them comes to us from other sources. Aeschines of Sphettus wrote seven dialogues, all of which have been lost. It is possible for us to reconstruct the plots of two of them: Phaedo of Elis wrote two dialogues. His central use of Socrates is to show that philosophy can improve anyone regardless of his social class or natural talents.

Euclides of Megara wrote six dialogues, about which we know only their titles. Diogenes Laertius reports that he held that the good is one, that insight and prudence are different names for the good, and that what is opposed to the good does not exist.

All three are Socratic themes. Lastly, Aristippus of Cyrene wrote no Socratic dialogues but is alleged to have written a work entitled To Socrates. The two Socratics on whom most of our philosophical understanding of Socrates depends are Plato and Xenophon. Origin of the Socratic Problem The Socratic problem first became pronounced in the early 19th century with the influential work of Friedrich Schleiermacher.

Until this point, scholars had largely turned to Xenophon to identify what the historical Socrates thought. Schleiermacher argued that Xenophon was not a philosopher but rather a simple citizen-soldier, and that his Socrates was so dull and philosophically uninteresting that, reading Xenophon alone, it would be difficult to understand the reputation accorded Socrates by so many of his contemporaries and nearly all the schools of philosophy that followed him.

  1. Be able to present a philosophical theme Socrates develops in Plato's Apology. At this point, Euthyphro states that there are various ways in which men can minister to the gods, but he does not have the time to point them out.
  2. Morality was present as an immediate absolute, directing the lives of citizens without their having reflected upon it and deliberated about it for themselves. Amongst other things, Aristophanes was troubled by the displacement of the divine through scientific explanations of the world and the undermining of traditional morality and custom by explanations of cultural life that appealed to nature instead of the gods.
  3. He argues that self-deprecation is the opposite of boastfulness, and people that engage in this sort of irony do so to avoid pompousness and make their characters more attractive. A fuller enumeration might be.
  4. The individual virtues are different parts of a whole--the whole being virtue itself.
  5. The term is best used to refer to the group of thinkers whom Socrates did not influence and whose fundamental uniting characteristic was that they sought to explain the world in terms of its own inherent principles.

The better portrait of Socrates, Schleiermacher claimed, comes to us from Plato. Though many scholars have since jettisoned Xenophon as a legitimate source for representing the philosophical views of the historical Socrates, they remain divided over the reliability of the other three sources.