The Socratic identification of knowledge
It is clear that knowledge and wisdom are essential ingredients of life worth living because ignorance and the lack of understanding make life similar to animals. The first of the ancient philosophers who turned to the knowledge of man, understanding his essence, studying the inner world, was Socrates. It is noteworthy that there is still no consensus among philosophers on the question of whether Socrates was a historical person, or this is a fictional character. This debate was generated by the fact that Socrates did not leave any records. However, modern readers will learn about the philosopher from the works of his students Xenophon and Plato.
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In the dialogues of Plato, Socrates appears as a wise teacher, reaching the truth in disputes with his opponents through contemplation. In the apology, the thinker appears before the Athenian court as a free citizen of Athens, defending his convictions at the cost of his own life (Diduch and Harding 166). Socrates reproached the prevailing order in Athens, designating it as anarchy, and therefore wished to drink the tincture of infusion rather than submit to worldly injustice.
The struggle of the citizen for his freedom and the freedom of his state is clearly represented here. However, at the same time, from the words of Socrates himself in the work of Plato, readers can learn that a person is simultaneously subordinate to two courts, that is, the earthly court and the heavenly court. As a true citizen of Athens, Socrates fulfills his civic duty until the last minutes of his life. He does not blame the state that issued such a harsh sentence, does not run away in search of a better life, but calmly accepts death, drinking a bowl of poison. However, not so much earthly as divine judgment prevails over the behavior of Socrates, and it seems as if a divine voice lives in him, controlling his actions.
Socrates was well-known to be an active thinker and proponent of free speech. If he observed the current situation in the United States and the suppression of free speech, he would be able to realize that there is no one true enemy. The main component of the philosophical doctrine of Socrates is not at all the topic of human freedom, but the ethical component of his life. A man should not be free from any external fetters, but honest with himself, constantly striving for truth and doing things that do not contradict generally accepted morality and his convictions – a prophetic voice or a divine eclipse.
It is certain that Socrates would become an active member of American society, who would fight for freedom and its preservation. He would realize that the United States, in comparison to other nations, is unique and exemplary with highly important postulates and values.
The Socratic identification of knowledge and virtue is closely connected with this general, initially unconscious understanding of the essence of moral concepts. It can become meaningful knowledge only when all that is false, which hinders the correct understanding of this general, is discarded. At the same time, thought, as such, appears to be some new ontological reality. This conclusion of the great sage of Antiquity is of great importance in the current time. His dialogical method of searching for the true good can contribute to the correction of the moral consciousness of modern youth. At least, one can, following the advice of Socrates, try to make his interlocutors and associates moral, changing the way they think.
The first democracy’s main strength was the fact that each citizen was actively involved in Athenian politics through discussions and debates. It was exemplary and ahead of its time, which ensured that each citizen did not possess predetermined assumptions and predispositions. Therefore, each member’s stance and point of view were based on reason and collective discourse. However, the primary weaknesses of the world’s first democracy were the fact that only a small fraction of the population had full citizenship.
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This meant that most people did not have the right to express their opinions. The father of Athenian democracy is called Pericles, who, despite his aristocratic origin, entered the battle with a group of aristocrats. He also was decisive in opposing and fighting Persian oppression and Sparta’s military threat (Gutmann 255). A citizen of Athens had a set of specific rights and obligations. The most significant of them was the right to freedom and personal independence from any other person, the right to a land plot on the territory of the policy and economic assistance from the state in case of financial difficulties.
Although Pericles made major positive changes in Athenian democracy, he was not fit to rule such an empire. There is a difference between being reformist and maintaining an already prosperous nation. Pericles had the public’s respect and admiration, but he was not seen as an active public figure who regularly engages with the people. Trump is similar to Pericles in the fact that he is considered, by his followers, to be different and reformist, who speaks the truth and goes against the political agenda of previous presidents.
However, Trump is a well-known media figure, whereas Pericles is a strict politician with a military background. The latter is more reserved and thoughtful of his words and actions, the traits which are difficult to observe in Trump.
In ancient Greece, as well as in the United States, justice was synonymous with freedom. If residents of the policies were free, then people can ascertain justice. If someone showed an attempt to establish any form of power other than democracy, then such incitement to the freedom of the Greeks was stopped immediately. If the attempt on freedom did not follow from the outside, but the inside and some prominent figure strengthened his power and influence, then the Greeks had in store the ritual of ostracism – the removal from office and the expulsion from the city of those figures who fettered the freedom of citizens and were a threat to democracy. Compared to modern democracy, there were no considerations for women’s rights because they were not perceived as equal to men.
It is certainly one of the biggest flaws of the past because half of the population was cut out from the political arena. In ancient Greece, society was strictly patriarchal, and the woman in it had no rights. Athenian democracy is a purely masculine society that has been jealously guarded. This democracy in all aspects had the problem of discrimination against slaves, foreigners, and women. The essence of Athenian democracy is that every citizen participated in the political activities of the pole. However, women were not allowed to this occupation. They never had rights on a par with men and were always under their care. Now women have an incomparably greater number of rights than in ancient Athens.
Diduch, Paul J., and Michael P. Harding. Socrates in the Cave: On the Philosopher’s Motive in Plato. Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.
Gutmann, Martin. Historians on Leadership and Strategy: Case Studies from Antiquity to Modernity. Springer, 2019.