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Socrates, Life And Death Essay, Research Paper

The Life and Death of Socrates

Socrates was a Greek Philosopher who spent most of his live searching for truth. Socrates is considered philosophy s martyr because he was more concerned about righteous living then he was about winning arguments. There are no primary sources of Socrates life so all information about his life and death is based on secondary sources. A secondary source is a written account made some time after an event has taken place by a person who was not an eyewitness. (Leinwand 2) Most knowledge of Socrates comes from Plato and his dialogues.

Socrates never wrote anything, although his dialogues can be found in Plato s many writings. Socrates would question truth by questioning, answering, and additional questioning (Microsoft Encarta CD-ROM) in a dialectical manner. Meaning he would make people think about truth through a dialogue and conversation rather then stating his beliefs.

Socrates was born 469 BC was the son of a stonemason and a midwife. (Gottleib 5) He grew up in Athens at the height of its political power, when Athens was the intellectual center of the Greek World. He probably spent most of his days playing sports in the gymnasium and walking the busy streets in the marketplace. This was an ideal intellectual spot for a young boy to grow up into. In 431 BC the Peloponnesian war broke out. The Peloponnesian war was between the two city-states, Athens and Sparta. Political life centered on the Polis Another word for the Greek Polis is city-state. (Leinwand 97) Socrates was enlisted into the army and received a good name in battle for his obliviousness to harm and intimidating appearance when fighting. After the war Socrates would not discuss the war until more important topics were discussed like his friends quest for truth.

In the 420s BC the Oracle of Delphi told a friend of Socrates that he was the wisest man in all of Athens. Rather then boasting Socrates went out and questioned everyone he came upon to find one who was wiser then he. He asked everyone if they knew one thing that was truly worthwhile in life and never came up with a satisfactory answer. He came to the conclusion that he was the wisest man in all Athens.

The sophists worked to develop carefully reasoned cases so they could win political or legal arguments. (Leinwand 113) Socrates was against the sophists because they asked for payments for others to hear their insights. The sophists made Socrates a figure of ridicule and in 423 BC his activities became the subject of a famous play. Written by the comic playwright Aristophanes, ‘The Clouds’ portrayed Socrates as a master of pointless wordplay and verbal trickery. The head of an institute called ‘The Thinkery,’ he literally had his head in the clouds. (The Greeks Socrates, PBS)

In 399 BC Socrates was put on trial for impiety and corrupting the youth of Athens. He was a poor public speaker and was imprisoned. Socrates was accused of impiety because he believed all gods were good if they were not then they wouldn t be gods. This was the reverse of Greek mythology. The second charge was for corrupting the city-state s youth. A jury found this difficult to find him guilty because they were unsure whether he should be responsible for the actions of his pupils. According to Plato s Apology Socrates told the jury:

To put it bluntly I’ve been assigned to this city as if to a large horse which is inclined to be lazy and is in need of some great stinging fly and all day long I’ll

never cease to settle here, there, everywhere, rousing and reproving every one of you. (The Greeks Socrates, PBS)

This exasperated the jury who charged him guilty for both corrupting the youth and for impiety. When the day his sentencing came, instead of showing remorse to lessen his sentence he told the jury he should receive the highest honors of the city and be awarded free meals. Socrates was then sentenced to death. Socrates refused efforts to be rescued because he believed all laws were meant to be obeyed. He met his death by drinking a cup of hemlock poison and died.

Works Cited

Colliers Encyclopedia Vol. 10 1996

Gottleib, Anthony. The Great Philosophers: Socrates, Philosophy s Martyr Routledge 1999

Hooker, Richard. Greek Philosophy: Socrates 1996, updated 6-6-1999, 10 March 2001

Kemerling, Garth. Socrates 11 March 2001 Leinwand, Gerald. The Pageant of World History Prentice Hall 1994

Microsoft Encarta CD-ROM 2000 (updated)

PBS 2000 The Greeks Socrates 10 March 2001

Vlastos, Gregory. Socrates, Ironist and Moral Philosopher Cambridge University Press 1991

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