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Socrates’ Method and Philosophical Ideas

The paper’s aim is to study the main ideas of Socrates, the outstanding Greek philosopher. In the work the author studies the Socratic Method, sheds light on Socrates’ ideas of soul, virtue and knowledge.

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It would be hard to find a more mysterious and captivating historical figure among philosophers than that of the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates. He was the man whose existence marked the period of the highest development of Greek philosophic ideas, and he is considered to be the most influential of all philosophers. At the same time he is the least known and the most elusive (Taylor 2000, 1). To make the situation clear, it is necessary to explain the reasons for his being elusive. The problem is that Socrates never wrote anything himself, and everything we know about him is taken from the works of his students and followers, such as Plato and Xenophon. It is evident that no matter how hard they tried to create an objective portrait of Socrates, it was distorted by their subjective point of view. However, the importance of Socrates’ philosophy is proved by Taylor, who said that without Socrates “Plato would probably have become a salesman rather than a philosopher” and the whole development of the philosophic idea of humanity would have followed another way of development (Taylor 2000, 1).

Speaking about Socrates’ philosophical idea, it is necessary to consider the method he used. Centuries later it acquired the name “Socratic Method”. It consisted in the following: Socrates performed a discussion in the form of “face-to-face interrogations of another person” (Craig 2000, 847). In the majority of cases the subject of these discussions was some moral value, such as, for instance, justice. Socrates asked the interlocutor to explain his idea about the subject, and then he tested those ideas “for their logical consistency” with the help of other ideas about morality, which proved to be reasonable as well, and the audience eagerly accepted them. Socrates gave the other person the opportunity to do all the taking, but always kept the talk under control (Copleston 2003, 106). In the course of discussion, Socrates managed to give evidence that the primary statement of his interlocutor was inconsistent and illogical (Craig 2000, 847). With the help of his method, the philosopher wanted to make people think more and improve their vision of virtues and morality. The originality of Socrates’ method was that he never imposed his own opinion on the audience directly, but questioned and refuted the ideas of others, thus showing his own point of view. It is necessary to mention that nowadays Socrates’ method is used in research papers, when the initial hypothesis is formulated and proved or refuted in the course of work. However, there are scholars who claim that Socrates has no single method or “no method at all” (Long 2004, 650).

Among the most valuable and influential ideas of “the patron saint of philosophy” was his conception of soul (Taylor 2000, 1). It is worth mentioning, that this idea, which was created more than two thousand years ago, has ever since dominated European thinking (Taylor 2007, 132). Socrates’ definition of soul is unique, as it is neither psychological nor vision of psycho-physics. The philosopher does not reveal what a soul is, he only says that it is something “that in us, whatever it is, in virtue of which we are denominated wise and foolish, good and evil” (Taylor 2007, 139). From Socrates’ point of view, soul gives us opportunity to lead a good life, it is something that gives makes it possible to eliminate evil and do good things. He thinks that the primary aim of every person should be to make his soul as good as possible. He wanted to teach us that we should constantly take care of our souls.

Socrates affirmed that virtues were extremely important for people’s lives, as they made our soul more perfect. “If only we could know what each of the virtues is we could then make an effort to obtain them” (Craig 2000, 847). Speaking about virtues, the philosopher’s views were rather paradoxical. The virtue, as presented by Socrates, was synonymic to knowledge. It was the knowledge of how to act to lead a good life. It is worth mentioning, that no additional factors, such as “disciplining of our feelings and desires” were taken into account in Socrates’ philosophy, as those of minor importance. Socrates asserted that the root of all evil was in human ignorance, people were not bad by nature, but they were bad, because they were deprived of some knowledge. One of the main ideas of Socrates about knowledge is that he knows that he knows nothing. Thus, a conclusion may be made that if a person gets at “wisdom, all particular virtues will follow automatically” (Craig 2000, 847).

Drawing a conclusion, it should be stated that every historical epoch has its own interpretation of Socrates’ philosophy, and that proves its being unique and multidimensional. It is evident now, that the figure of Socrates is an exemplary figure, “a figure which challenges, encourages and inspires” (Taylor 2000, 105). Probably, one of the best statements about the great philosopher will be the following: “unique personality combined with the irresistible conviction of his own words, which penetrate the soul as the bite of the snake the flesh” (Zeller 2000, 100).

Reference

Copleston, Frederick. 2003. A History of Phylosophy, Volume 1. Bodmin: Continuum International Publishing Group.

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Craig, Edward. 2000. Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. NY: Routledge.

Long, Christopher P. “Does Socrates Have a Method? Rethinking the Elenchus in Plato’s Dialogues and Beyond”. The Review of Metaphysics. 57 (2004): 650.

Taylor, C. C. W. 2000. Socrates A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Taylor, A.E. 2007. Socrates. NY: READ BOOKS.

Zeller, Eduard. 2000. Outlines of the History of Greek Philosophy, Volume 10. London: Routledge.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, October 30). Socrates’ Method and Philosophical Ideas. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/socrates-method-and-philosophical-ideas/

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StudyCorgi. (2021, October 30). Socrates’ Method and Philosophical Ideas. https://studycorgi.com/socrates-method-and-philosophical-ideas/

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StudyCorgi. "Socrates’ Method and Philosophical Ideas." October 30, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/socrates-method-and-philosophical-ideas/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Socrates’ Method and Philosophical Ideas." October 30, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/socrates-method-and-philosophical-ideas/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Socrates’ Method and Philosophical Ideas'. 30 October.

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