Socrates, the philosopher credited with forming the very bedrock of Western thought; whose very name is synonymous with the classical period in Greek philosophy surprisingly never actually wrote a single word. His works continue to live on in his teachings alone. He founded no school, taught in no classroom and accepted no fee, however his pursuit of truth, his intellectual methods and most importantly his incessant questions have survived the ages in the minds, and on the lips of his students. In fact, it was this very pursuit of truth through incessant questioning—the Socratic dialectic—which led to his rise as a teacher and wise man amongst Athenian society, and ultimately to his demise.
To us Socrates appears as the perfect embodiment of rationalism, one of the greatest thinkers in human history. His contemporaries, especially those amongst the prominent members of Athenian society saw him in a different light. To them Socrates was a source of great frustration and annoyance. Socrates revealed their ignorance, questioned their long-standing beliefs, and humiliated them publicly with his persistent probing and relentless pursuit of the truth (Montgomery 4). Eventually this frustration culminated in Socrates being charged criminally as a corruptor of the youth, and dishonoring the gods, however these charges were merely window dressing. The truth is the prominent citizens of Athens brought Socrates to trial because they needed to silence him. The truth is Socrates was charged, tried, and executed because his very public, and very revealing humiliation of the Athenian intellectual elite via his constant questioning was eroding their position of authority, and ultimately threatening their seat of power.
Questioning revealed to Socrates both essential truths and uncovered the hubris and folly in those claiming to be wise in all matters. Although Socrates was considered an intelligent man and a great teacher, perhaps the greatest teacher of his time,...
Cited: Mitchell, Helen Buss. Roots of Wisdom. 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Pub.,
Montgomery, John Dickey, ed. The State versus Socrates: A Case Study in Civic Freedom.
Boston, MA: Beacon, 1954. Questia. Web. 20 Jan. 2014.
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