Jonathan McBride Phil 100 Essay #1 9/9/09 During the mid to late 300 b.c.e lived one of the most important and influential philosophers known as Socrates. Through the writings of his young apprentices, Plato, we learn of the thought and perspectives of the famous philosopher. Socrates was an innovative thinker and also a sophist, or a professional teacher in the art of persuasion. He was not a true Athenian but the impact of his life would reshape the minds of all. I believe that Socrates is a very admirable figure in history and that his thoughts were ahead of his time and that he was punished by death for something that in-turn was greatly beneficial to man and society. Socrates words and actions closely resemble certain aspects of Henry David Thoreau’s life and work and I believe they share common thoughts and ideals. Though there is little or maybe none of the written word of Socrates his life and events is portrayed through his apprentice Plato. There is none more famous than the “Apology” this is not actually an apology to the court of Athens but merely an explanation to the charges brought against him. The two charges brought against him were not believing in the excepted gods and corrupting the youth. Even though Socrates did not believe in the typical mythological gods of that time he did believe in Apollo or also referred to as the Oracle at Delphi. On page 44 of the “Apology” Socrates testifies that his child hood friend Chaerephon, a well respected person, went to the Oracle and asked him if there was anyone wiser than Socrates? And the Oracle said no. Socrates did not agree and went out to prove it. But first we must understand the word wisdom. Wisdom is not just how much an individual knows but also the understanding of how much he doesn’t know. So by Socrates interviewing the highly respected members of society such as poets, politicians, and craftsmen he is convinced of their ignorance to realize their limitations of intelligence. This makes Socrates wiser in the sense of he thinks outside-of-the-box and is more able to rationalize things in a relative way. This way of thinking sparks the curiosity of the youth and he starts spreading this train of thought which in-turn lands him the charge of corrupting the youth. On page 40 paragraph “c” of the “Apology” Socrates says that it’s the parents of the youth that are the most dangerous accusers of corrupting the youth for that they tell their children that there is a man Socrates that has theories about the heavens and studied the earth, who can make the weaker argument defeat the stronger. And that “those who hear these arguments suppose that anyone who inquires into such matters does not also believe in gods.” Socrates and his way of thinking most remind me of Henry David Thoreau and his thoughts and actions. Thoreau believed in living life in the present and to think rationally about the common views of society at the time. And the way that he got his message across was through civil disobedience. Thoreau disagreed with a lot of common law ideals at the time and he did not express this through violence or extreme ways much like Socrates. Instead they got their views out in a more peaceful way such as taking a stand realizing their own faults and sharing their thoughts either through spoken or written word. Even when the government imprisoned Thoreau he never gave in to giving
up what he believed in, much like when the court offered Socrates a lesser sentence he too, much to his stubbornness, didn’t back down. Even though Socrates was found guilty of his charges and put to death, his rational thinking and his approach to questioning ideas based on logic and the ability to think outside the box paved the way for many philosophers to come. Without people like Socrates to question society and life we would all lose the ability to have our own thoughts. We would halt the possibilities and wondering of “what if?” We would limit ourselves to what is known and deprive ourselves of what could have been.