Why is philosophy so important to Socrates

Socrates: The great thinker

What is brave And what is fair? With his persistent questions, Socrates angered the Athenians 2500 years ago so much that they sentenced him to death. Socrates only wants one thing: to find the truth. Even today, philosophers all over the world emulate the ancient thinker

Wanted poster: Socrates

  • Surname: Socrates
  • Life dates: 469 BC BC to 399 BC Chr.
  • Quote: "If you want to move the world, you should move yourself first."

Socrates is supposed to have said once: "I know that I know nothing". Are you kidding me? Are you serious when you say that! Because Socrates was an outstanding philosopher of antiquity, was the teacher of Plato and thus significantly influenced the teachings of the famous thinker Aristotle.

The life and work of Socrates

No, not now! Just an hour left! At least a few minutes! Weeping, Crito throws himself on his knees in front of his friend and begs: "Socrates! The sun has not set yet! Wait!" But the philosopher pushes it aside. Again he asks for the servant who has prepared the cup with poison. "I don't gain anything if I drink later. I would feel ridiculous."

According to a judgment of the court, Socrates has to drink the poison of the hemlock plant until sunset - this is how criminals are executed in ancient Greece. One last time he says goodbye to his sons. Comforts his students, his friends. Then he calmly empties the cup.

At the age of 70, one of the greatest philosophers of antiquity dies - and arguably the most enigmatic. Socrates did not leave a single line. But he is still a role model for thinkers around the world today.

How Socrates lived

Socrates was born in Athens 470 years before our calendar. He's not exactly a dignified figure: a stocky guy with a flat nose and bulging eyes. As a profession he learned to be a stonemason, but he has little desire to work. He much prefers to stroll through the streets and squares of Athens and ask strange questions to those he comes across. For example, he wants to know from generals what courage is; of the donkey driver, how to act correctly; of merchants, what wealth is good for.

Speech duels were extremely popular in Athens at the time, a national sport. This is due to the form of government. Because the Athenians live in a democracy: Every male citizen can be elected to a high office, for example a councilor. He just has to win over his fellow citizens with skill. Men in their robes stand everywhere and have heated arguments. Ambitious fathers have their sons taught by sophists. These are language teachers who teach you how to turn the words around in other people's mouths.

How Socrates changed the world

Socrates is very different. He doesn't talk because he seeks power. He is only interested in the truth, for example what is righteousness and what is ungodly. Socrates can discuss such problems for hours! He is a true "philosopher" - a lover of wisdom.

But how do you find out the truth? Socrates does not give lectures, as is the custom with teachers. Instead, he lets the others do the talking. Then he comes up with doubts and asks critical questions.

When someone is supposed to explain what courage is, he replies: "Courageous people never give up!" - "But stubborn people never give up either. Are they brave?" Asks Socrates. A couple of times the discussion goes back and forth like this. Then men who thought they were wise stand there with red heads - and stammering to admit that they have not even understood the simplest things! The onlookers who flock to the spectacle hold their bellies with laughter.

An embarrassing situation. But for Socrates it is the first step on the way to wisdom. When people see their ignorance, they think again about a problem. They recognize lies and superstitions - and do not repeat the stupid things they have heard from their father, neighbors or the priest. Now you can form your own opinion and act correctly. Socrates does not claim that he has clever answers himself. He says of himself: "I know that I don't know anything."

Socrates became an idol for the youth of Athens

The youth of Athens followed Socrates in droves. Many become his students. Plato, the most famous of them, later wrote down the philosopher's conversations. From these "dialogues" we know today about Socrates.

However, Socrates also makes enemies. Many hate the cross driver because he publicly embarrassed them. He is often mocked or jostled in the marketplace. The comedy poet Aristophanes writes a play in which he makes fun of him: Socrates, that is a greedy word-twister. He even claims that clouds bring rain, not the god Zeus. Haha! The Athenians are having fun.

The philosopher is sentenced to death

Others even indict Socrates in court. He is godless and spoils the youth. Don't young people turn into criminals, they ask, when you put such strange ideas in their heads?

Socrates defends himself with a fiery speech: Has he not taken care of the public good? They should buy him a feast, like the winners of the Olympic Games, instead of accusing him. He would rather die than tell the truth.

The jury is outraged. With a large majority they condemn Socrates to death. But their ideas cannot kill them. They are immortal.

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