(A Profile of the Philosopher Socrates, based on the works of Plato)
Gregory Vlastos commented in his book Socrates: The Ironist and Moral Philosopher, “Such is his strangeness that you will search and search among those living now and among men of the past, and never come close to what he is himself and to the things he says.” (Vlastos). Gregory makes an important point; although studying Plato gives us a glimpse of Socrates, it only gives a glimpse of him through Plato’s eyes. We can study this text and others and never understand exactly who this man is. Even if we had writings of Socrates’s own hands it would be difficult to understand this complicated man. On the other hand the writings we do have, including the Republic, Apology, and other of Plato’s works give us powerful insights into Socrates and the way Plato saw him. Plato makes him out to be the next epic hero, similar to Achilles and Odysseus for Homer’s Epics the Iliad and Odyssey. Other aspects highlighted in Plato’s accounts are his views and ideals, and his ability to teach others. His Socratic method is important to understanding who the philosopher Socrates is. It is also important to know the background of Socrates to get a more complete idea of who this man was and how he was shaped into the man we are attempting to understand today.
In order to gain a better understanding of Socrates and who he is we have to look at his origins. Sarah Kofman gives us insight into Socrates’s beginnings in her book Socrates: Fictions of a Philosopher translated by Catherine Porter, “Socrates, whose birth occurs in the fourth year of the 77th Olympiad (469B.C.), was the son of Sophroniscus, a sculptor, and of Phaenarete, a midwife. Socrates died a sixty-ni...
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... Knowledge of the Self, “Socrates’ religiosity remains very difficult to appreciate. Our knowledge of Socrates’ religious convictions depends entirely on the information provided by Socratic literature.” (Riel).
Studying Republic and Apology, we get a very swayed and limited view of a very complicated man, but the man we do comprehend is outlined in several different ways. One is the impact his early life and environment had on his development into the man we meet in Plato’s works. Another is the way he teaches, his Socratic Method. The third is Plato’s and others’ view of Socrates, how he was perceived. All of these are developed throughout Plato’s work and other great thinkers work on what we have to study. Although we can’t sum up Socrates in easily defined characteristics, we can identify important qualities that give us a simple understanding of a complex man.
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