SOPHIST: Translated With Introduction and Analysis
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He overcame Socrates' objection to thought frozen in writing by using the dialogue dialogos format, never overtly stating views in his own name. His technique of inquiry used dialectic dialektos : skillfully directed questioning which elicits the knowledge presumably already residing within the participant.
He believed the world was intelligible through and governed by reason logos. I have not attempted to summarize Letters.
Woodhead: Gorgias W. Guthrie: Protagoras , Meno W. Skemp: Statesman A. Taylor: Critias , Laws Socrates at the age of 70 in BCE defends himself in his one day trial [in the court of one of the major officials of Athens, the "King Archon", who presided over court cases involving religion. He first recalls the false charges that have been made earlier against him over many years, that he "has theories about the heavens and has investigated everything below the earth, and can make the weaker argument defeat the stronger".
He denies being an atheist, and alludes to Aristophanes' play "The Clouds" which satirized him. He notes that these opponents are invisible and hard to defend against or cross-examine.
Meletus with Anytus and Lycon brought charges of "criminal meddling, in that he inquires of things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger". He compares himself to the Sophists, who unlike Socrates charge for their services--he has never charged.
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The priestess at Delphi declared to Chaerephon [a good democrat who was exiled during the oligarchy] that there was no man wiser than Socrates, and yet he confessed his own ignorance, unlike others with pretensions of wisdom sofia. As a result of the oracle, he took upon himself "a sort of pilgrimage" to interview those professing knowledge, and found most of them to be deficient: politicians, poets who were inspired with a message they often did not understand , and craftsmen.
He says "real wisdom is the property of God, and this oracle is his way of telling us that human wisdom has little or no value The wisest of you men is he who has realized, like Socrates, that in respect of wisdom he is really worthless. Yet he asks who influences the young for the better? He was unpaid for his work. He names his current accusers Meletus, Anytus and Lycon and cites their current charges: he is "guilty of corrupting the minds of the young [most notably Alcibiades c. He questions Meletus as to who influences the young for the better, and proves that Meletus has taken no interest in this in the past.
He defends his belief in gods such as the sun and the moon and in other supernatural beings for how could one believe in supernatural activities and not in supernatural beings. He states his heroic dedication to the philosophical life even in the face of criticism and hostility: "Where a man has once taken up his stand,..
He questions the fear of death, since it could be the greatest blessing that can happen to man. He refuses to disobey God: "I owe a greater obedience to God than to you. So far from pleading on my behalf, as might be supposed, I am really pleading on yours, to save you from misusing the gift of God by condemning me. He predicts they will soon slap him just like a fly and return to their complacent slumbers.
He has neglected his own affairs in helping others and lives in poverty.enter site
He has conducted himself in the pursuit of justice in private and not as a politician which would have quickly led to his losing his life. He recounts a proposed trial of 10 naval commanders in which he alone opposed trying them en bloc [they were accused of abandoning the survivors and the dead during the battle of Arguinusae in ]. Later, during the Oligarchy of 30 , he disobeyed a tyrannical order to fetch Leon for execution. He values doing good over living. He is open to all who will argue with him and answers questions of rich and poor alike.
He is entertaining. He names some of his many students: Crito, Antiphon, Plato, etc. He mentions his 3 sons but rejects making an emotional appeal or bringing in his family to appeal for mercy. He leaves his fate in the hands of the jury and God. It was a close vote to convict, out of Meletus is demanding death. He plays with the jury regarding his punishment--he should be rewarded for his actions with free maintenance by the state.
He gently chastises that his trial has been allowed only one day. He has no money for a fine and says he would be just as irritating to those in another country to which he might be exiled, since he cannot change his ways. If I say that this would be disobedience to God, and that is why I cannot 'mind my own business', you will not believe that I am serious.
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If on the other hand I tell you that to let no day pass without discussing goodness and all the other subjects about which you hear me talking and examining both myself and others is really the very best thing that a man can do, and that life without this sort of examination is not worth living, you will be even less inclined to believe me. Nevertheless that is how it is, gentlemen, as I maintain, though it is not easy to convince you of it. He is defiant. His execution will damage the reputation of Athens. It will shorten his life only slightly.
He is condemned not because of a lack of an adequate defense but because of his lack of impudence and refusal to grovel. He is resolved to uphold the law and not attempt to escape death, which would be wrong. Those who voted against him are depraved and wicked, and will be punished. His execution will not stop the criticism that has previously been suppressed. He admonishes them to make themselves as good as they can be. He speaks warmly to those who voted to acquit. He welcomes death, and notes that his execution was not divinely opposed. He reflects on death, which is either an annihilation or a change, a transmigration of souls and removal to Hades.
Socrates explores the meaning of temperance or self-control sophrosyne with a handsome youth. It is an ideal embodied in the Delphic inscriptions "Know thyself" and "Never too much. The morning of his execution, Crito tries unsuccessfully to persuade Socrates to escape, but Socrates wants "not to live but to live well.
A wrong can never be justified; a citizen must uphold the law. Socrates explores piety or holiness with a lawyer prosecuting his own father, prior to Socrates' own trial. Socrates argues with the famous rhetorician and Sophist Gorgias and his pupil Polus that rhetoric, though possibly giving power and persuasion, produces belief without knowledge. Socrates maintains that it is worse to do wrong than to suffer it.
Callicles asserts a philosophy of might is right, saying that philosophy is suitable only for youth, and that the better and wiser man should rule and have more. They that can succeed indulge their appetites, whil others are forced to praise moderation and temperance. But Socrates argues that some pleasures are not good and that pleasure and good are not the same. After the judgement at the crossroads, the man "who has led a godly and righteous life departs after death to the Isles of the Blessed and there lives in all happiness exempt from ill, but the godless and unrighteous man departs to a prison of vengeance and punishment which they call Tartarus.
And you may let anyone despise you as a fool and do you outrage, if he wishes, yes, and you may cheerfully let him strike you with that humiliating blow, for you will suffer no harm thereby This is the best way of life-- to live and die in the pursuit of righteousness and all other virtues. Socrates discusses art techne with the Homeric rhapsodist Ion. Unlike the knowledge acquired in other arts, Socrates asserts that the poetic art is not an art at all but a divine gift like magnetism.
Poets are possessed by the gods like bacchants and "it is the god himself who speaks, and through them becomes articulate to us. The Lesser Hippias is an inferior dialogue in which Socrates argues with Hippias the Sophist about voluntary vs involuntary wrongdoing. Greater Hippias is on the beautiful. The authenticity of both has been questioned. Again ask what virtue is and if it can be taught.
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Discusses immortality of the soul and its multiple rebirths and demonstrates that we have knowledge that can be recalled by questioning a slave boy about triangles etc. Virtue is not learned but is a divine dispensation, and its possessors are to others as Tiresias was to the flitting shades of the underworld. Anytus warns Socrates against slander. Phaedo recounts to Echecrates the last hours of Socrates sometime after his death, a day to which he was a witness along with Apollodorus, Menexenus, etc. The execution had been delayed awaiting the return of the ship which was sent to Delos on an annual religious mission.
Phaedo recalls how happy Socrates seemed, how cheerfully he looked forward to death. Xanthippe appears and is hysterical, and Socrates sends her away Plato seems quite unsympathetic to her. Socrates notes the similarity of pleasure and pain, and that they are often experienced together--he suggests that they are like two bodies attached to the same head, as in some imagined Aesop fable. He recalls a recurring dream he has had, in which he is exhorted: "Socrates, practice and cultivate the arts. He argues against suicide to Cebes, saying we are put in a sort of guard post and that the gods are our keepers and we their possessions, and we will be punished if we destroy ourselves.
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The senses are inaccurate. The soul finds truth, not with the senses, but through pure thought and reflection divorced from the senses. The intellect can contemplate absolute truths such as "absolute uprightness. We must separate ourselves from these urges to attain pure knowledge. Pure knowledge may only come from the purification of death. Philosophers make their occupation the freeing and separation of soul from body. The courage and self-control non-philosophers display are based merely on fear of losing pleasures.
Wisdom must be the ultimate goal of life--it makes possible true courage, self-control, and integrity.