Socratic Creed vs. Plato's Theory of Knowledge

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The Synonymy of Truths and Ideas

Allyson Hansen

Introduction to Philosophy
Mark Eleveld
13 March, 2013

Allyson Hansen
Mark Eleveld
Introduction to Philosophy
13 March, 2013
The Synonymy of Truths and Ideas
A modern philosopher studies “the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence” according to the Free Online Dictionary and many Americans. However, if you asked a philosopher to define the word ‘philosopher,’ he or she might say that a philosopher is a lover of wisdom. The word philosophy itself is derived from the Greek word φιλοσοφία, or philosophia using the English alphabet. The word philosophia translates directly to mean “love of wisdom.” Philosophers believed and continue to believe that the whole mind must be educated in every aspect. Socrates is one of the most well-known philosophers in the history of the world. His studies were based on passion; he truly did love wisdom. However, philosophy itself existed long before Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Descartes. Philosophers who studied before Socratic philosophy came about studied arché. Arché simply means “stuff.” The focus of their studies was metaphysics, or the study of the physical world. They tried to define reality by studying physical objects such as the Earth and Sun.

Socrates, on the other hand, did not concern himself with metaphysics and arché; he studied ethics. Instead of studying the physical world, Socrates strived to find life’s deeper meaning. Socrates’ ideology was different than the rest of the Athenian population. Therefore, the state saw him as a threat. The Sophists, who were the first paid teachers, did not like Socrates or his inadvertent teachings; they taught relativism, or how to win an argument. Socrates was a war hero in at least three Athenian wars. Socrates believed in that which is which eternal and unchanging, such as truths, like love, beauty, justice, and virtue, and absolutism. Socrates that there was one hierarchy of values for all human beings, and he opposed relativism.

Socrates is a very famous philosopher; however, he never actually wrote anything down or documented his studies in any way. Therefore many others wrote about him. Much of the work of which Socrates is the subject have been fragmented over time (Encyclopædia Britannica). The most complete accounts of Socrates come from Aristophanes, a playwright, Xenophon, a historian, and Plato, a philosopher. Aristophanes wrote Clouds, a play in which Socrates is mocked. Aristophanes used the character of Socrates to “represent certain intellectual trends in contemporary Athens—the study of language and nature and…the amoralism and atheism that accompany these pursuits” (Encyclopædia Britannica). Xenophon, on the other hand, was one of Socrates’ admirers. He wrote dialogues in which Socrates’ intelligence and personal beliefs were emphasized and portrayed in a positive manner. However, it has been suggested that the majority of Xenophon’s writing regarding Socrates was heavily influenced by Plato’s work, and is therefore not considered reliable or original and discredited to an extent (Encyclopædia Britannica). Like Xenophon, Plato also wrote dialogues. Plato’s depiction of Socrates is most commonly accepted as being the most accurate and original description of Socrates.

All (we think) we know about Socrates comes from Plato’s dialogues. Plato began studying philosophy when he followed Socrates around the Athenian agora. Plato was an informal student of Socrates; Socrates never taught anyone formally and was never paid by his “students.” Plato even opened his own school, the Academy, to teach philosophy religion, and numbers, among other things. However, no one can be certain that Plato’s accounts of Socrates are truthful. “In none of Plato’s dialogues is Plato himself a conversational partner or even a witness to a conversation” (Encyclopædia Britannica). Plato’s dialogues are a fictional retelling of potentially factual situations....
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