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Socrates

Socrates

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Published by Talha Mahmood
Here is the complete description about the most wise man of the world and history " Socrates''.
Here is the complete description about the most wise man of the world and history " Socrates''.

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Published by: Talha Mahmood on Oct 03, 2010
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02/01/2013

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Socrates
 First published Fri Sep 16, 2005; substantive revision Sat  Nov 7, 2009
 The philosopher Socrates remains, as he was in his lifetime(469±399 B.C.E.),
[1]
an enigma, an inscrutable individualwho, despite having written nothing, is considered one of thehandful of philosophers who forever changed how philosophy itself was to be conceived. All our informationabout him is second-hand and most of it vigorously disputed, but his trial and death at the hands of the Atheniandemocracy is nevertheless the founding myth of theacademic discipline of philosophy, and his influence has been felt far beyond philosophy itself, and in every age.Because his life is widely considered paradigmatic for the philosophic life and, more generally, for how anyone
ought 
 to live, Socrates has been encumbered with the admirationand emulation normally reserved for founders of religioussects²Jesus or Buddha²strange for someone who tried sohard to make others do their own thinking, and for someoneconvicted and executed on the charge of irreverence towardthe gods. Certainly he was impressive, so impressive thatmany others were moved to write about him, all of whomfound him strange by the conventions of fifth-centuryAthens: in his appearance, personality, and behavior, as wellas in his views and methods.So thorny is the difficulty of distinguishing the historicalSocrates from the Socrateses of the authors of the texts inwhich he appears and, moreover, from the Socrateses of scores of later interpreters, that the whole contested issue isgenerally referred to as
the Socratic problem
. Each age, eachintellectual turn, produces a Socrates of its own. It is no less true now that, ³The µreal¶ Socrateswe have not: what we have is a set of interpretations each of which represents a µtheoretically possible¶ Socrates,´ as Cornelia de Vogel (1955, 28) put it. In fact, de Vogel was writing as anew analytic paradigm for interpreting Socrates was about to become standard²GregoryVlastos' model (§2.2), which would hold sway until the mid 1990s. Who Socrates really was isfundamental to Vlastos' interpretation of the philosophical dialogues of Plato, as it is to virtuallyany interpretation, because Socrates is the dominant figure in most of Plato's dialogues.
y
 
1. Socrates' strangeness 
y
 
2. The Socratic problem: Who was Socrates really? 
o
 
2.1 Three primary sources: Aristophanes, Xenophon, and Plato 
o
 
2.2 Contemporary interpretative strategies 
o
 
2.3 Implications for the philosophy of Socrates 
Constantin Brancusi.
Socrates
 Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art;Licensed by Scala/Art Resource, NY©2005 Artists Rights Society (ARS),New York/ADAGP, Parisreproduced with permission of the Brancusi Estate
 
 
y
 
3. A chronology of the historical Socrates in the context of Athenian history and thedramatic dates of Plato's dialogues 
y
 
4. The Socratic tradition and its reach beyond philosophy 
y
 
Bibliography 
y
 
O
ther Internet Resources 
y
 
Related Entries 
1.
Socrates' strangeness
Standards of beauty are different in different eras, and in Socrates' time beauty could easily bemeasured by the standard of the gods, stately, proportionate sculptures of whom had beenadorning the Athenian acropolis since about the time Socrates reached the age of thirty. Goodlooks and proper bearing were important to a man's political prospects, for beauty and goodnesswere linked in the popular imagination. The extant sources agree that Socrates was profoundlyugly, resembling a satyr more than a man²and resembling not at all the statues that turned uplater in ancient times and now grace Internet sites and the covers of books. He had wide-set, bulging eyes that darted sideways and enabled him, like a crab, to see not only what was straightahead, but what was beside him as well; a flat, upturned nose with flaring nostrils; and largefleshy lips like an ass. Socrates let his hair grow long, Spartan-style (even while Athens andSparta were at war), and went about barefoot and unwashed, carrying a stick and lookingarrogant. He didn't change his clothes but efficiently wore in the daytime what he coveredhimself with at night. Something was peculiar about his gait as well, sometimes described as aswagger so intimidating that enemy soldiers kept their distance. He was impervious to the effectsof alcohol and cold, but this made him an object of suspicion to his fellow soldiers on campaign.We can safely assume an average height (since no one mentions it at all), and a strong build,given the active life he appears to have led. Against the iconic tradition of a pot-belly, Socratesand his companions are described as going hungry (Aristophanes,
 B
irds
1280±83).
O
n hisappearance, see Plato's
Theaetetus
143e, and
Symposium
215a-c, 216c-d, 221d-e; Xenophon's
Symposium
4.19, 5.5±7; and Aristophanes'
Clouds
362. Brancusi's oak sculpture, standing 51.25inches including its base, captures Socrates' appearance and strangeness in the sense that it looksdifferent from every angle, including a second ³eye´ that cannot be seen if the first is in view.(See the Museum of Modern Art's page on Brancusi's
Socrates
which offers additional views.)Also true to Socrates' reputation for ugliness, but less available, are the drawings of thecontemporary Swiss artist, Hans Erni.In the late fifth century B.C.E., it was more or less taken for granted that any self-respectingAthenian male would prefer fame, wealth, honors, and political power to a life of labor.Although many citizens lived by their labor in a wide variety of occupations, they were expectedto spend much of their leisure time, if they had any, busying themselves with the affairs of thecity. Men regularly participated in the governing Assembly and in the city's many courts; andthose who could afford it prepared themselves for success at public life by studying withrhetoricians and sophists from abroad who could themselves become wealthy and famous byteaching the young men of Athens to use words to their advantage.
O
ther forms of higher education were also known in Athens: mathematics, astronomy, geometry, music, ancient
 
history, and linguistics. What seemed strange about Socrates is that he neither labored to earn aliving, nor participated voluntarily in affairs of state. Rather, he embraced poverty and, althoughyouths of the city kept company with him and imitated him, Socrates adamantly insisted he was
not a teacher 
and refused all his life to take money for what he did. The strangeness of this behavior is mitigated by the image then current of teachers and students: teachers were viewed as pitchers pouring their contents into the empty cups that were the students. Because Socrates wasno transmitter of information that others were passively to receive, he resists the comparison toteachers. Rather, he helped others recognize on their own what is real, true, and good (Plato,
 Meno
,
Theaetetus
)²a new, and thus suspect, approach to education. He was known for confusing, stinging and stunning his conversation partners into the unpleasant experience of realizing their own ignorance, a state sometimes superseded by genuine intellectual curiosity.It did not help matters that Socrates seemed to have a higher opinion of women than most of hiscompanions had, speaking of ³men and women,´ ³priests and priestesses,´ and naming foreignwomen as his teachers: Socrates claimed to have learned rhetoric from Aspasia of Miletus, thelover of Pericles (Plato,
 Menexenus
); and to have learned erotics from the priestess Diotima of Mantinea (Plato,
Symposium
). Socrates was unconventional in a related respect. Athenian citizenmales of the upper social classes did not marry until they were at least thirty, and Athenianfemales were poorly educated and kept sequestered until puberty, when they were given inmarriage by their fathers. Thus the socialization and education of males often involved arelationship for which the English word µpederasty¶ (though often used) is misleading, in which ayouth approaching manhood, fifteen to seventeen, became the beloved of a male lover a fewyears older, under whose tutelage and through whose influence and gifts, the younger man would be guided and improved. It was assumed among Athenians that mature men would find youthssexually attractive, and such relationships were conventionally viewed as beneficial to both parties by family and friends alike. A degree of hypocrisy (or denial), however, was implied bythe arrangement: ³officially´ it did not involve sexual relations between the lovers and, if it did,then the beloved was not supposed to derive pleasure from the act²but ancient evidence(comedies, vase paintings, et al.) shows that both restrictions were often violated (Dover 1989,204). What was odd about Socrates is that, although he was no exception to the rule of findingyouths attractive (Plato,
Charmides
155d,
 Protagoras
309a-b; Xenophon,
Symposium
4.27±28),he refused the physical advances of even his favorite (Plato,
Symposium
219b-d) and kept his eyeon the improvement of their, and all the Athenians', souls (Plato,
 Apology
30a-b), a mission hesaid he had been assigned by the oracle of Apollo at Delphi, if he was interpreting his friendChaerephon's report correctly (Plato,
 Apology
20e-23b), a preposterous claim in the eyes of hisfellow citizens. Socrates also acknowledged a rather strange personal phenomenon, a
daimonion
 or internal voice that prohibited his doing certain things, some trivial and some important, oftenunrelated to matters of right and wrong (thus not to be confused with the popular notions of asuperego or a conscience); the implication that he was guided by something he regarded asdivine or semi-divine was suspect to other Athenians.Socrates was usually to be found in the marketplace and other public areas, conversing with avariety of different people²young and old, male and female, slave and free, rich and poor²thatis, with virtually anyone he could persuade to join with him in his question-and-answer mode of  probing serious matters. Socrates' lifework consisted in the examination of people's lives, hisown and others', because ³the unexamined life is not worth living for a human being,´ as he says

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