Of all confrontations in political philosophy the biggest is
"Has been a lifesaver so many times!"
- Catherine Rampell, student @ University of Washington
"Exactly the help I needed."
- Jennifer Hawes, student @ San Jose State
"The best place for brainstorming ideas."
- Michael Majchrowicz, student @ University of Kentucky
Of all confrontations in political philosophy, the biggest is
the conflict between philosophy and politics. The problem remains
making philosophy friendly to politics. The questioning of authoritative
opinions is not easily accomplished nor is that realm of philosophy - the
pursuit of wisdom. Socrates was the instigator of the conflict. While the
political element takes place within opinions about political life,
Socrates asks the question "What is the best regime and how should I live?"
Ancient thought is riddled with unknowns and can make no such statement as
"how should I live." The Socratic philosophy offers an alternative and
prepares the way for the alternative of absolutes. This alternative is not
without its faults. Socratic philosophy is plagued by a destructive
element. It reduces the authoritative opinions about political life but
replaces it with nothing. This is the vital stem from which the "Apology
of Socrates" is written. Because of the stinging attack on Athenian life,
and the opinions which they revere so highly, Socrates is placed on trial
for his life.
The question now becomes why and in what manner did Socrates refute
the gods and is he quilty? Socrates, himself, speaks out the accusers
charges by saying "Socrates does injustice and is meddlesome, by
investigating the things under the earth and the heavenly things, and by
making the weaker the stronger and by teaching others these things" (Plato,
19b;c). This is the charge of the "old" accusers. It is seen from an
example in "The Clouds". Strepsiades goes to Socrates in order to learn
how to pursuade his son by "making the weaker speech the stronger"
(Aristophanes, 112). Why does Socrates remind the assembly about the old
accusers? It appears improper for a man on trial to bring about his other
'crimes'. Aristophanes, in particular, is implicated by Socrates as an old
accuser. "For you yourselves used to see these things in the comedy of
Aristophanes" (Plato, 19c). The poets helped to shape Greek culture.
Poetry was passed on and perpetuated the city where thought constantly
Philosphy begins in debunking what the city thinks they know in
order to refute the god. It is evident that Socrates is not guided by the
gods of the city. Socrates says "it is not part of the same man to believe
in daimonian and divine things" (Plato, 27e). Socrates is subtly admitting
his guilt. Perhaps Socrates believs in gods, but if so, they are not the
gods of the city. Socrates simply denies that he has had any part in
celestial or subterranean inquiry - he simply speaks "elsewhere". Socrates
goes on to say that those who do are reported to be atheists. However,
Socrates says that "Zeus does not eveeen exist" (Aristophanes, 367).
Socrates replaces Zeus with nature, the permanent and necessary things
accessable to reason. This is an outrage to any Athenian. To deny the
gods is to deny faith and ultimately the authoritarian opinions on which
their politics is based.
Why does Socrates think that he is being unjustly punished?
Chaerophon had told Socrates that the Pythian Oracle had said that Socrates
was the wisest man. Socrates admits that "I am conscious that I am not
wise, either much or little" (Plato, 20b). Socrates wonders what the
riddle is and sets out to "refute the divination" (Plato, 20c). This is a
prime example of Socrates' impiousness as is his statement in "The Clouds"
where he states "we don't credit Gods" (Aristophanes, 248). He is
attempting to refute the god at Delphi. Socrates tries to aid his own
defense by charging that what he does is in devotion to the god. "Even now
I still go around seeking and investigating in accordance with the god"
(Plato, 23b). Socrates makes this brash statement yet it is unfounded and
untrue because it is not a devine order for Socrates to pursue this line of
investigation. In opposition, Socrates asserts that the daimonian did not
Socrates' impiety is not the only thing that resulted in histrial.
Socrates was "the gadfly" stinging the city of Athens. When Socrates
proposes that the god sent him on his quest, he set out to prove it wrong.
In the process, he questioned "the politicians and those reported to be
wise" (Plato, 21c). After finding
View Full Essay
Socratic dialogues, Dialogues of Plato, Socrates, Ancient Greek philosophers, Epistemologists, Apology, Plato, The Clouds, Trial of Socrates, Crito
More Free Essays Like This