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Socrates

Socrates uses himself as an example when he teaches that beauty does not guarantee happiness. True beauty is inner beauty, the beauty of one’s spirit and character. In conjunction with happiness, which was also a construct that Socrates discussed, he denotes that one cannot tell if a person is happy or not based on his external appearance, but happiness, like kindness, is a matter of inner qualities. His famous motto: “An unexamined life is not worth living” is a testimony to how much he values thinking and philosophy and the perennial introspection of why we exist. Constantly reflecting about one’s life and impact on others creates meaning for a person and Socrates encourages that we indulge in deep, critical thinking ourselves at all times. Socrates’ legacy is not volumes of his philosophical writings, but how he impacted the thinking of other philosophers. Plato described him as an “unambivalent” individual who stood clearly for some values and firm against others. For him, there were no gray areas2. As a sophist, or wizened people who taught valuable skills for a price, Socrates went against their practice and did not charge for his instruction3. He is considered a paradigmic individual who is known to provoke intense reactions among people – love and acceptance or rejection and exclusion of his ideas. Being so, he is very “influential as a teacher, adviser, social reformer or a significant religious figure”4. His words are powerful enough to strike one’s emotions and conscience especially with moral dilemmas that can compromise one’s integrity. He has been known for his discourses using questioning or the Socratic dialectic wherein he draws out the truth from people by asking them questions. He believes that each person possesses an inherent truth and it only takes deep questioning to let it out. In doing so, the person comes up with a clearer definition of a key concept from his own thinking. Socrates believes this as a more effective method of learning rather than filling up an empty vessel with knowledge, or spoonfeeding information. The Socratic method involves a series of questions until a contradicting view surfaces to oppose the initial assumption.5 His controversial style is unparalleled and can be considered too heavy for some people because he communicates on more than one level. With his Socratic irony, he maintains two levels of meaning – the literal or obvious level and the hidden or real level. People with deep wisdom can easily understand his thinking and realize that things are not always as they first appear. Sometimes, there is a deeper meaning that should be unearthed6. The inquisitor begins with a position of not knowing anything but leads the questioning.7 At times, though, he uses ambiguous, but well-chosen examples in his discourses. They may even be counterintuitive or poorly supported claims, but he uses them with discernment, knowing that it would bring about more thinking from his students and could be a better strategy in achieving protreptic and pedagogical goals.8 In this way, Socrates may be considered a unique kind of teacher who successfully keeps his audience at awe of his teachings, ever alert and vigilant for bits of knowledge they can gain from such a wise man. From his earlier interest in scientific theories, he moved on to thinking about the development of the moral character of a person.9 Having served as a ...Show more

Summary

The Wisdom of Socrates Introduction Ancient wisdom is often associated with philosophers who ventured out into the world sharing their thoughts and ideas to anyone who would care to listen. One of the most influential philosophers in history is Socrates, who has mentored the likes of Plato…
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