You are on page 1of 6

Kelsie Smart Intro to Philosophy M/W 530-650

Socrates vs. Kierkegaard


I have decided to write about Socrates and Kierkegaard. Through this paper you will see the different aspects of each of these philosophers that I enjoy. There will also be ideas from each that I do not agree with. As I am writing and further studying these 2 philosophers I will come to a final consensus of who I believe is the better philosophizer. Lets begin

Socrates
Socrates was from 470-399B.C.E. Before Socrates came along the people of Sparta followed the norm or whatever everyone else was doing to fit into society. But, when Socrates came along he was the opposite of any norm and was a force to be reckoned with. Socrates consistent respect for justice, integrity, courage, temperance, decency, beauty, and balance was especially appealing in a cultural climate of dizzy excesses, crass materialism, and cutthroat competition for money, power, and prestige. (The Wise Man: Socrates 91) He was his own person and believed in doing what was right and sticking to the truth over fitting into the standard of society. He believed that beauty and goodness comes from within, instead of from your delights and what your outward appearances illustrate. To him happiness was also like goodness and reflected your inner self. He governed his life according to true beauty and goodness, preferring a good and beautiful soul to a pleasing body that housed a lesser self (The Wiseman: Socrates 92) I like this very much because I feel like so much in life people are judging and being judged by outward appearances. For my own part, I have found that 8 times out of

10 guys that I initially think are attractive, I end up getting to know and realize they are not so attractive. On the other hand the guys in my life that I have the best relationships with didnt seem very appealing to me on the outside when I first met them. However, they became much more attractive to me as I have gotten to know them. Socrates was not a paid teacher and never claimed to teach anyone. He asked questions and did his best to answer questions. He says the reason why people cant think clearly is because they arent clear on what their talking about. For this problem Socrates came up with the Socratic dialect or method. The Socratic method begins with the assumption that the function of education is to draw the truth out of the pupil rather than fill and empty vessel. In practice it is a series of guided questions known as the dialectal method of inquiry. Claims are continually refined, definitions required for all key terms, logical inconsistencies brought to light and resolved. (The Wise Man: Socrates 100) Socrates used this dialect throughout his whole life. It seemed to make some people upset because it showed their confusion and ignorance. Though in my opinion it was good because it proved if someone really knew what they were talking about or not. Socrates talked to many high officials of his day using this method like General Alicibiades and Sophist Thrasymachus. At the end of his life Socrates was put on trial for not worshipping the gods of his time and for corrupting the youth. He had an unfair trial and would not lose his dignity begging for his life. Socrates was found guilty and was sentenced to death by poison. He had a month in jail before the sentence was carried out and had many opportunities to escape but did not take

them. To me the fact that Socrates did not run and died for what he believed in is one of the noblest ways to die. I either want to die amidst the ones I love or for what I stand for.

Kierkegaard
Kierkegaard was from 1813-1855. Kierkegaard like Socrates believed very much in you being your own person, having authenticity. He was against being part of a group, therefore having inauthenicity. He became convinced that institutionalized Christianity suffers from the same inauthenicity as other institutions. Inauthenticity results when the nature and the needs of the individual are ignored, denied, obscured, or made less important than institutions, abstractions, or groups. Authenticity is the subjective condition of an individual living honestly and courageously in the moment without refuge in excuses and without reliance on groups or intuitions for meaning and purpose. (The Existentialist: Soren Kierkegaard 400-401) I am torn here. I believe it is important to be authentic and be yourself. I am also a returning LDS. I left the church at 13 and have returned 6 months ago just after my 26 th birthday. While I can see where Kierkegaard is coming from saying that groups and institutions can make you inauthentic, I also know that you can still be authentic and be parts of these groups. Returning to church I do see some people who might have fallen into this inauthentic category, but there are still plenty of us who are very authentic in my opinion. Kierkegaard was influenced heavily by Abraham and Isaac in the bible. He sees that Abraham had to make a crucial decision in willing to sacrifice his only child. Kierkegaard thinks any Christian should live this way, but says very few people could make the decision that Adam made. Therefore, they should have a leap of faith. In other words, Christians should have a blind commitment to God, with no assurance of any kind, no support or no reason.

Kierkegaard claimed he had offered up his love form Regina Olsen as a sacrifice to God, just as Abraham offered Isaac in the Old Testament story (Genesis 22) Kierkegaard had thought he had to choose either God or the world, and that choosing one excluded the other entirely. (The Existentialist: Soren Kierkegaard 399) This I do not agree with. I think that Kierkegaard might have misunderstood this whole analogy. I believe God tested Abraham to see how faithful he would be to him, but never had any real intention of having Isaac killed. Thus, I believe that God did not want it to come down to Kierkegaard choosing either him or Regina Olsen. Im sure if Kierkegaard was meant to be with Regina then it would have found its way to work out. Kierkegaard came up with Pascals Wager. This is a chart showing that if you believe in God and youre right you will have eternal joy, if you believe in God and youre wrong then nothing happens, if you are an atheist and you are right then nothing happens, and if you are atheist and you are wrong then you have eternal suffering. Kierkegaard says those who have religion based off of Pascals Wager are unauthentic and those who have religion based off of experiences like Abraham are authentic. I agree that this way of thinking has its truths to it. I also believe that you can have religion based on Pascals Wager in the beginning; but at some point if you really want to know that there is a god and what you are doing is right then God will show himself unto you in different ways and you will gain your own testimony of him. I believe it can work the opposite way as well.

Compare and Contrast


Putting them side by side, I can see that both of these philosophers have much in common. Socrates and Kierkegaard both seem to have a brilliant use of sarcasm and Irony.

Socrates uses irony in a way of communicating on more than one level. He uses an obvious level and a hidden level, therefore keeping his students engaged. Kierkegaards irony seemed to make him an untimely philosopher who seems more contemporary than his chronological place in history. (The Existentialist: Soren Kierkegaard 396) Both Philosophers seem to have an enduring effect on readers to this day. Socrates wisdom is still studied by many cultures. He has had a lasting power to challenge, provoke, and awaken lives. Kierkegaards philosophies are also still affecting people. Some 150 years later, Kierkegaards journals and essays have a living quality that still engages and disturbs many readers. (The Existentialist: Soren Kierkegaard 396) It is no surprise that these philosophers both had to rebel against the system of their time, sticking up for what they stood for. They both stayed true to themselves, even if it meant that they made enemies of those who surrounded them. Socrates would walk through the market philosophizing instead of the norm of trying to make money. Even when called to war he would be in his bare feet. Kierkegaard wanted nothing to do with institutions or groups of his time, which I know didnt rub a lot of people to well. These 2 philosophers are also very different. Throughout Socrates life he was known to be a happy man. Even at death he had won over the guards who were willing to look the other way so he could escape. He was quite an optimist even at death, wanting no one to cry or be sad over him. After reading about Kierkegaard I got a much different feel. He seemed to have cheated himself out of a lot of happiness just because he felt he had to choose between what he wanted and God. His death also seemed tragic. He was broke and withdraw ling the last of

his money when he fell and became paralyzed from the waist down. A little over a month later he died weak, helpless, and destitute. Through learning of both these philosophers and their philosophies, my ideal choice will have to be Socrates. Socrates seemed to have an essence about him where ever he went. He was who he was and was confident through his whole life and about what he taught. He was told by an oracle of his time that no man was wiser than him. Instead of letting this get to his head he searched for a man whom he wanted to be wiser to prove the oracle wrong. However, using his philosophies as the judge was never able to find that man. From beginning to end he always insisted I neither know nor think I know (The Wise Man: Socrates 99)