Who was he?
What were his key ideas?
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• Born around 470 B.C.E.
• Lived in Athens at the height if its civilisation
• Executed in 399 B.C.E.
Saw Athens was in danger of destruction
• Became critical of the government
• Described as a very ugly man, who often
walked barefoot and wore the same kind of
clothes whatever the weather
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• Excellent soldier – he had great physical
power and could endure a lot
• He was very disciplined
• He was interested in the development of
a person’s moral character
• He lived a virtuous life
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Saw that the Sophists were putting Athens in danger
• Said their theory of relativity would destroy the
people – morally corrupt
• People were not happy – likely to revolt
• He became critical of the government
• He spoke out against the sophists
○ Said there had to be a better way
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Socrates, the Philosopher
• Concerned with the question of ethics
Unlike the Sophists, he believed that there was definite
right and wrong
He believed that people could accept it and incorporate
it into their lives
He said that it was up to people (society) as a whole to
establish those things that are right and those that are
Dedicated his life to searching for standards by which
people could live a virtuous life
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How he differed from Sophists…
1. Socrates believed that the sophists view
on relativity would destroy the people of
2. His style was distinctive
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His style was distinctive
a) He questioned people through discussions / dialogues
b) Chose people who were experts in their field and fully
understood the topic being discussed.
c) He adopted the role of ignorant questioner.
Pretended he did not know and wanted to be educated
d) He asked tactful questions which would bring the
experts to a dead end – they would run out of answers
This showed them, and others that they did not have all the
answers and so were not experts.
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Universal Definition of Justice
• Socrates was concerned with justice
– He wanted life to be fair for all
– Worked to find principles and laws that all
could live by and be happy
• Universal: these truths would be
applicable for all people, at any time,
everywhere and in all cases.
• Socrates spent his life trying to establish this, but
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Through the dialogues Socrates wanted to
discover peoples’ views on living a moral and just
Socrates developed his own understanding and
philosophy through this process
Urged people to question what they are being told
as well as their beliefs
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3. The aim of these philosophical
dialogues was to discover the
truth about how one should live
a good and moral life
4. He himself learned through this
5. Encouraged others to question
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their beliefs and knowledge
Questions he asked:
• What is temperance?
• What is justice?
• What is goodness?
• These were asked during a discussion, if
someone were to present one of these
concepts as part of their answer.
• He did not answer the questions himself – said
his wisdom was limited to an awareness of
his own ignorance
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• Many of Socrates’ beliefs have been
characterized as ‘paradoxal’ (seem to conflict with
– For Example
• No one desires evil.
• No one does wrong willingly or knowingly.
• Virtue - all virtue - is knowledge.
• Virtue is sufficient for happiness
• He believed wrongdoing was a consequence of
ignorance and those who did wrong knew no
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1) The soul –His Philosophy
– Had to be nurtured and protected
2) Gaining wisdom
– It would save the soul
– Lead the person in a virtuous life
3) For Socrates ‘Knowing what is good is the
same as doing what is good.’
– Believed people would not willingly do wrong
– No body wants to be a bad person
Later philosophers disagreed with him
– They said that a person might know what is right but may not be
strong enough or disciplined enough to do
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1. Virtue (knowledge) was the most valuable of all
2. Life should be spent in search of good.
3. Truth is possible to attain
4. People should focus on self-development
rather than material wealth
5. It is the job of the philosopher to show people
how little they really know.
6. An action was right when it promoted true
happiness. Religious Education Support - SLSS 14
Socrates’ Views on Alcohol
– Drunkenness – short term pleasure.
Whatever you are drowning out will come back
– Drunkenness - long term
Leads to ill health
Can enslave the body - addicted
– It goes against reason – why would you willingly damage
– Does not produce true pleasure – the negative effects far
outweigh the temporary happiness
Socrates believed true pleasure could only be attained
through moral living.
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• Socrates was a social and moral critic
• He attempted to improve the Athenians' sense of
• His pursuit of virtue and his strict adherence to
truth clashed with Athenian society
• He claimed he was the wiser one since he was
the only person aware of his own ignorance.
• Put on trial and found guilty
– corrupting the minds of the youth
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