Does Socrates see himself as the most important teacher in the city?

Does Socrates see himself as the most important teacher in the city?

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Does Socrates see himself as the most important teacher in the city?

In Plato’s Apology of Socrates, Socrates has to defend himself to the city of Athens. The city of Athens is at odds with Socrates’ philosophy; it contradicted several Athenian beliefs. The city believed that Socrates was an atheist, that he was responsible for corrupting the youth, and that he made the weaker argument the stronger. Socrates believed that he was the most important teacher in the city therefore he continued to defend his actions and beliefs even when his life was on the line. He saw himself as the most important teacher after his visit to the oracle. He believed it was his mission to change the Athenians viewpoints, and he was willing to die for what he believed in. Socrates forced the Athenians to think and to question how they lived their lives. He was a great philosophizer and he knew how important he was to the city.

The city did not share Socrates own view of himself as the most important teacher. They believed his philosophies were evil and they were willing to put him to death for his ideas. In Socrates’ first defense, he uses the story of the Delphic oracle. According to Socrates, the oracle once declared that no one was wiser than Socrates. At first Socrates thought the oracle to be wrong so he began to obtain evidence by conversing with wise people in order to refute the oracle:

He examined the politicians, poets, and artisans and found that they were almost completely ignorant (except for the artisans, who at least knew well their own areas of expertise), and that all thought they knew things, especially “the greatest things,” but in fact they did not know them. Since Socrates was at least aware of his own ignorance, he ranked himself above them in wisdom. (18)

Thus Socrates began to believe that he was the wisest person in the city. The oracle was a turning point in his life. Instead of focusing on astronomical and physical studies, he began to concern himself with moral and political opinions: “this turn to the examination of opinions brought Socrates into conflict with the city as such, for his doubt of the worth of generally accepted opinions was also a challenge to the most authoritative opinions, those which concern the city’s gods and the city’s laws…”(18). The fact that Socrates knew he was the wisest and that he began to concern himself with philosophies of the city shows that he saw himself as the most important teacher in the city.

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He knew that what he was teaching was in contradiction to the beliefs of Athens, but he also believed that what he taught would eventually bring about change.

Socrates was on a mission to change the city’s beliefs and outlook on life. He truly believed he was essential to changing the Athenians:

And if one of you disputes it and asserts that he does care, I will not immediately let him go, nor will I go away, but I will speak to him and examine and test him. And if he does not seem to me to possess virtue, but only says he does, I will reproach him, saying that he regards the things worth the most as the least important, and the paltrier things as more important. I will do this to whomever, younger or older, I happen to meet, both foreigner and townsmen, but more so to the townsmen, inasmuch as you are closer to me in kin. (81)

Socrates was completely against how the Athenians valued money and material possessions over ones soul: “Not from money does virtue come, but from virtue comes money and all of the other good things for human beings both privately and publicly” (81). Socrates showed his belief of his own importance as a teacher by how he relentlessly questioned and examined the beliefs of the Athenians. He taught the young because he knew that they would be able to produce change whereas the elders would not change their beliefs.
Socrates knew that what he was teaching would anger most of the people in Athens. He was in reckless pursuit of the truth and he knew that he could be put to death for what he was teaching but he went ahead and did it anyway. He wanted to make change and that is why he taught the young and not the old. He regarded himself as so important that he was willing to die in order to make change:

Probably what has occurred to me has turned out to be good, and there is no way that those of us take it correctly who suppose that being dead is bad. In my view, a great proof of this has happened. For there is no way that the accustomed sign would not have opposed me unless I were about to do something good. (94)

Socrates believed that being dead is one of two things. It is either like being nothing without any perception, or it is a change of place and a transition of the soul from one place to another place. He regarded either one to be great so he had no fear of dying. He truly felt that he had something worth dying for and he was truly convinced of his importance to the city.

Socrates truly was an amazing teacher, he was wise in many ways and he knew that he was important to the city of Athens. The oracle confirmed his wisdom and led Socrates focus his teachings on bettering the city. Socrates therefore made it his mission to teach the Athenians to examine and question their lives. Finally, Socrates knew he was so important to the city that he was willing to recklessly pursue what he believed in even if it meant death as a consequence. Even after Socrates died his teachings lived on through his student Plato, and Plato’s student Aristotle.
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