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Socrates’ Belief About the Pursuit of Truths

Socrates was a Greek Philosopher who has been credited with founding Western Philosophy. He exists in history as a mysterious figure that is only known through the accounts of other people. There are no philosophical texts written by Socrates himself. His life, knowledge, and philosophy are found in the writings of his students and colleagues. Today’s impression of him is largely created in Plato’s dialogues but works by Aristotle, Aristophanes and Xenophon also give significant insight into him. From Plato’s dialogues, we have known Socrates to be a person who contributed greatly to the field of ethics and the Socratic Critical Method of Inquiry for seeking the truth (Bruell, 1999, pp 12-13).

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Plato’s Apology gives the apology of Socrates given in form of a speech in his defense when he was charged with corrupting the mind of the young, creating new deities, and his refusal to worship the gods (Compton and Todd, 1990, p 332). In this apology, Plato reveals the belief Socrates had in pursuit of truth. This has always been an area of great debate and represents a type of pedagogy where questions are asked with an intention to gain insight into the issue under discussion and not just getting answers. The critical method of inquiry involved asking questions in a give-and-take manner that eventually led to the truth. This method is widely applied in the examination of important moral concepts such as truth and justice. The beliefs of Socrates are difficult to discern from Plato’s Apology. The length of the theories given by Plato in the apology has made some scholars think that they were Plato’s.

Analyzing the beliefs of Socrates is a difficult task since he was notorious for asking questions but never answering them (Vlastos & Gregory, 1991, p 23). He claimed that he had no knowledge of the issues he questioned others. From Plato’s Apology, we can generally identify Socrates’ beliefs. He was always at odds with his fellow citizens in moral, intellectual, and political arenas. When he was tried for deviation and corruption of the young people’s minds he used his Critical Method of inquiry to show the member of the jury that their moral values were wrong and that their stand was morally unacceptable. He gave them the reasons they were so much anxious about their families, political responsibilities, careers, and businesses when they were supposed to be concerned with the welfare of their souls. Socrates believed in the integrity of the soul. He was convinced beyond doubt that the gods had chosen him as a divine representative of the heavens that would provoke, rebuke, or annoy the people until they seek the morality of their souls. He doubted the Sophistic Doctrine that virtues can be acquired. He did not believe that a person who has no virtues can be taught to have them. Some observations concerning this interested him and he loved to study and gain insight into them. For example, he studied great men like the famous military leader Pericles and he found out that he did not raise sons who lived up to his quality (Compton and Todd, 1990, p 342). This was evidence that leadership as a virtue cannot be taught. He believed that for a child to excel morally there must be divine intervention and not just the efforts of the parents. Moral excellence is a gift from the gods, that’s what Socrates believed. It is believed that this belief made Socrates no to be concerned about the future of his children.

More often than not, Socrates always declared that his thoughts were not his own, but his educator’s (Vlastos & Gregory, 1991, p 45). He said that he was influenced by Anaxagoras the scientist and Prodicus the rhetor. His beliefs were also greatly influenced by two women apart from his own mother: Diotima a priestess and a witch who taught him all about love; the other was the mistress of Pericles, Aspasia, who taught him the art of orations recited in the funerals (Bruell, 1999, p 34). Plato’s apology lays out the beliefs of Socrates in such a distinct manner that it has drawn many readers to his side for the last two millenniums but that did not win him the acquittal. He was killed by being forced to drink hemlock. However, his beliefs still stand and many people still stand by them.

Reference List

Bruell, C. (1999). On the Socratic Education: An Introduction to the Shorter Platonic Dialogues, Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Compton and Todd. (1990. “The Trial of the Satirist: Poetic Vitae as Background for Plato’s Apology”, The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 111, No. 3 pp. 330-347, The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Vlastos and Gregory. (1991). Socrates, Ironist, and Moral Philosopher. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

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