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Mike Bresticker

Professor Budzizs
Western thought
Socrates the life and times
The thinker Socrates is one of a few philosophers who have with stood the
test of time. His writings and ideas have survived for thousands of years longer
even then the bible. He created the Socratic Method which is still commonly used as
a teaching strategies even in modern times. He was the first great thinker his star
pupil is Plato and Plato taught Aristotle. Little is known about his early life as most
of his writings are from when he is elderly. There are no direct records written by
Socrates himself most of the writings we have about him are from his student Plato.
His most important works are the apology, the crito, phaedo, and the symposium.
The apology is Socrates explanation and defense of himself at the trial that leads to
his death. In his scripture Socrates claims that he is not corrupting the youth by
being impious. He uses his interaction with the fates who told him that he was the
wisest man as part of his defense. Saying that by questioning everything he is living
up to the gods plan for him thus making him pious. Therefore the charge of being
impious cannot apply to him as he is simply living up to the gods plan for him. It
also talks about his punishment where he suggests that he spends all his time
thinking he often forgets to eat therefore he should be given free food as his
punishment he later then says he would pay a fine but since he has no money it
would really be his friends paying the fine instead.. This doesnt go over well as his
opposition calls for death. The people vote and he is sentenced to death by drinking

hemlock. Socrates has the chance to flee the prison because his friends bribe the
guard to turn his back long enough for Socrates to escape. However Socrates
accepts his fate by claiming that as a just man he cannot abandon his morals just to
live another day and by facing his fate he is preserving his image in society. He also
believes that his place is in Athens and if he were to go anywhere else he would be
lost in a sense because he has spent most of his life in the city teaching there.
Another of Socrates major writings it the Phaedo where Socrates talks to
euyrthopro just before he is to go on to trial. Socrates is being charged with impiety
and is trying to determine if he is truly guilty of this crime by conversing with
someone who claims to be pious. Eyrthopro claims to be pious as he is bringing
charges against his own father for killing a servant. Eyrthopros father is charged
with killing a slave by leaving him out to the elements while he went to seek
counsel on how to punish said slave for killing another slave. He claims that this is
pious because he is ignoring the family ties for the pursuit of justice. He claims that
this is what the gods would want and he should know because he claims to have the
gods speak to him. Socrates has a problem with this argument because he is
charging his dad with the death of a murders slave and that the life of a slave is not
equal to that of a citizen. So Socrates asks what is pious and euthropro responds
that it is doing what the gods do. Socrates has an issue with this because there are
many different stories of the gods doing things that many would claim are impious
such as murder, excess, adultery etc. when he brings this up in their conversation
euthypro revises his answer to only what the good gods do. Again Socrates has
issue with his response. This continues for a few more times. Until euthypro finally
gives the answer along the lines of things that are pious are loved by the gods.
Socrates then questions are these things good because they are loved by the gods

or are they loved by the gods because they are good. This leads to a very complex
and confusing process of thought that eventually gets no real answer. From all this
discussion Socrates gathers that euthypro is not really pious and does not have the
knowledge that he claims. This is a key concept of Socrates that he is the wisest
because he is aware of his own ignorance. Then he can see that those who claim to
have true knowledge are few and far between. He sees it as his job to seek out
those who have this true knowledge to learn from them and gather as much
information as possible so he can pass on what he has learned to others.
The last work about Socrates is the crito that I mentioned before which is his
the brief time he has before he is put to death. It begins as Socrates awakes to find
his friend staring at him in his jail cell. Socrates asks why did he not wake him up so
they could talk one last time. His friend responds that he found it odd that Socrates
could be so peaceful when he knows the end is so very close. Most people in this
time would party like it was their last day on earth because it was. They would
drink, have sex, and do whatever they wanted. Also we must take into account that
Socrates is in his 70s and Viagra was not invented till the 1990s so all he really
could do is get extremely drunk and go out like that. However as stated before
Socrates finds that doing these things would go against his views and give a bad
impression of him. By resisting these temptations he preserves his image as well as
gives us a sense that he has a greater purpose. His friend then says that they have
bribed the guard so Socrates could escape. This was common practice in this time
period. Socrates refuses to take them up on this offer because he would have to
leave Athens the city that he loves and he would basically be banished from
interacting with all those he spent his life teaching. This would probably be a
punishment worse than death to Socrates. In the end of this passage the jailer

comes with the hemlock for Socrates to drink. He takes it without a fight and drinks
it then dies.